Sometimes other people do such fine GetReligion-esque media criticism that we just like to point at it and then walk away. So that's precisely what I'm going to do with Melinda Henneberger's piece "Are there more abortion doctors like Kermit Gosnell? And do we want to know?" that ran online at the Washington Post. What I like about her criticism is that she puts the best construction on what her journalistic colleagues are doing while also asking hard questions -- she combines nice and tough to great effect.
She begins by noting some of the revelations in the new undercover videos released by pro-life activists this week. (Quick note: you know that the Gosnell media scandal changed media coverage even slightly since these videos received some coverage here and here.) Then she wonders why the National Abortion Federation didn't report some of what it found when it inspected Kermit Gosnell's unsanitary clinic ("If what she observed — a padlock on an emergency exit in a part of the clinic where women were left alone overnight, for example — was so far outside the norm, then why didn’t it inspire a single phone call to the state, according to the grand jury report?").
She criticizes media coverage of abortion clinics:
Even when a New York woman died after a third-trimester abortion performed in Maryland in February, the coverage questioned not the care that led to her death, but the breach of privacy she suffered when antiabortion activists publicized the case.
Henneberger notes that there is an egregious double standard:
There is certainly no shortage of outraged attention to the “personhood” movement, which would define life from the moment of conception as worthy of protection under the law. I don’t know how such a law might be enforced without the kind of humiliating monitoring China used to uphold its one-child policy, and the proof that it’s opposed even by most Americans who consider themselves pro-life is that it can’t even pass in Mississippi.
But where’s the coverage of extreme views at the other end of the spectrum? Of, for instance, the jaw-dropping testimony of Planned Parenthood official Alisa LaPolt Snow? When asked by a Florida lawmaker what kind of medical care the organization thinks a child who somehow survives a late-term abortion should get, Snow suggested that even then, the child’s fate is a woman’s right to choose.
That’s how our president voted as an Illinois state senator, too, even after his stated concerns about the “born alive” bill were addressed. Though there is a lot of room for disagreement on when life does begin, most of us think viability is a pretty clear, bright line.
Not Planned Parenthood, though, which hasn’t disavowed anything Snow said. And not the Bronx counselor caught on tape, who warns the woman sitting in front of her that no matter what happens, she mustn’t go to the hospital, where if she were to give birth to a live child, that baby might be given medical care.
It's great that the Post allows opinions such as these online. But it's time for the news coverage to improve and ask tough questions as well. These issues are far too important to be left to the opinion pages.
These news stories about abortion clinics could be hooked to some of what the pro-life activists found or they could be less related. For instance, after I wrote on the Gosnell coverage, an anesthesiologist wrote to me wrote to me, wondering why the news never shows what happens in an abortion the same way news shows look at other surgeries. It is fascinating that at a time when we can see into the womb better than ever before, there's a veil over that one particular procedure. And such an important procedure.