This blog played a bit of a role in highlighting Gosnelling, the media practice of ignoring or downplaying politically inconvenient abortion news (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). It wasn't great prior to that incident, but the mainstream media has an even worse credibility problem when it comes to reporting on abortion news. So I'd hoped we'd see some efforts to improve it. And we are. There has been, for instance, some media coverage of the abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell's trial, which is currently in the phase of jury deliberations. Today the jury requested to have a transcript of one testimony re-read to them and while that's happening, reporters from Reuters, Fox News, the Wilmington News-Journal and CBS News are present. It's not where it should be, but it's a start.
But what about the larger picture? How is that being covered? While abortion rights advocates and many in the media have suggested that Gosnell is an extreme outlier, pro-life media keep uncovering more and more stories that suggest the mainstream media is failing to highlight. It's not that there's no coverage, again, there is. Kirsten Powers wrote in a recent USA Today column about the "drumbeat" of clinic closures and links to media coverage are provided:
Last week, Ohio officials shut down an abortion clinic after inspectors found that a medical assistant administered narcotics to five patients, that narcotics and powerful sedatives weren't properly accounted for, that pharmacy licenses had expired and that four staff members hadn't been screened for a communicable disease.
This month, a Delaware TV station reported that two Planned Parenthood nurses resigned in protest over conditions at a clinic there. One nurse, Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich, said, "It was just unsafe. I couldn't tell you how ridiculously unsafe it was."
Last month, Maryland officials shut down three abortion clinics, two for failings in their equipment and training to deal with life-threatening complications.
Last year, an Associated Press investigation found that Illinois hadn't inspected some abortion clinics for 10 to 15 years. After state health officials reinvigorated their clinic inspections in the wake of Gosnell, inspectors closed two clinics, including one fined for "failure to perform CPR on a patient who died after a procedure," according to AP.
But there's a difference between a prominent media critic connecting the dots here and a news report that does the same. You'll note the difference between how the media drumbeat is hit for a cause such as, say, gun control and a cause such as abortion clinic control. The disparity is immediately apparent and difficult to explain on journalistic grounds.
Or I pointed out a few weeks ago how no angle was too small to cover when the media obsessed over the Komen Foundation's decision to stop funding the country's largest abortion provider. Compare that with the media downplaying every fresh angle on the Gosnell coverage, this just being today's latest example.
Today, the conservative publication National Review has published a harrowing and lengthy expose of abortion clinics in Florida. It is a brutal read, but very important journalism. Here's how National Review promoted it:
Jillian Kay Melchior exposes the so-called doctors, clinics, and the women affected, at these Florida abortion clinics. This is a must-read article that details the callous lack of humane practices and a brutal alleged infanticide. In Abortion's Underside:
- Three Florida clinics with a disturbing history of criminal activity continue to operate -- and there's little the law can do to stop them, raising alarming questions of the safety and standards inside abortion clinics in America.
- The doctors employed at the clinics have shady malpractice histories, and some were not licensed to practice medicine.
- Witnesses say a baby was born alive and then murdered, but no one was ever successfully prosecuted for her death.
It's good that National Review publishes this type of journalism. But why do we see so little of this in the so-called non-ideological press?
One last example. The top of this post shows the latest in a series of undercover journalism exposes of other abortion clinics. These exposes were not done by mainstream media outlets, it hardly needs to be said, but by pro-life journalism activists. To take just one snippet of information from these videos and show how the mainstream media fails to do its job of reporting the truth about abortion, if you go to three and a half minutes in on this video, you will witness the undercover investigator say that she wants a purely elective abortion (meaning that there is nothing at all wrong with the baby or pregnancy). The late-term abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart, a media favorite, says that the pregnancy is too far along to do in one jurisdiction but that it can be done in Maryland. He confirms that there is a very good chance the baby would survive if born at this point in the pregnancy. It's all there on video, clear as day.
Compare that with how the mainstream media characterizes late-term abortions and the doctors who perform them. Here's a Newsweek piece from 2009 (and you'll note the byline is Sarah Kliff, the now-Washington Post reporter who explained she didn't cover Kermit Gosnell because it was a "local crime" story) that says:
Past viability, no doctor will terminate a pregnancy without a compelling reason.
That's clearly, demonstrably untrue in light of this journalism done by non-mainstream journalists. Will we see a correction? Will it change how the topic is covered?
If not, why not?
Wouldn't it be nice if reporters and editors committed themselves to fixing the systemic problems with how this topic is covered?