"Biased much?" asked a reader who passed along a link to a San Francisco Chronicle story on two Catholic universities limiting employees' abortion coverage.
You mean the fact that the news report is slanted — from the very top — toward the abortion-rights point of view and leans heavily in that side's favor in the amount of ink given to direct quotes?
OK, maybe you have a point, dear reader.
Pro-abortion bias seeping into mainstream media reports is not exactly breaking news, of course. But the Chronicle makes a noble effort at perfecting the craft.
The lede sets the stage:
California has some of the nation's strongest protections for abortion rights. But the recent decisions by two Catholic universities, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount, to eliminate most abortion insurance coverage for their employees were cleared in advance by state agencies.
Now Gov. Jerry Brown's administration is taking another look.
The state Department of Managed Health Care is conducting "an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding coverage for abortion services under California law," said Marta Green, the department's chief deputy director.
What the department is reconsidering, as first reported by California Lawyer magazine, is whether the universities are violating a 1975 state law that requires managed health plans to cover all "medically necessary" procedures.
Until the current controversy arose, insurers in California had treated all abortions sought by women in their health plans as medically necessary.
Insurance coverage for abortion is not mandated by the federal health care law or by the laws of many other states. But California guarantees abortion rights both by statute and by privacy protections in the state Constitution. The courts have also required Medi-Calto pay for poor women's abortions, overturning legislative attempts to cut off the funding.
Given the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, some readers may wonder if federal law gives Catholic universities the right to limit certain coverage. But the Chronicle focuses entirely on California state law.
After reporting the basic facts, the story (a follow-up to coverage that GetReligion highlighted here and here last fall) quotes sources on both sides. However, both sides do not receive equal treatment.
To give the universities' side of the story, the Chronicle provides a short quote from the president of one of the institutions (Santa Clara's Michael Engh):
Leaders of both universities said they were driven by religious principles.
"Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion in the university's health plans," Engh's office said in a statement.
The Chronicle then allots three times that much space to quoting two professors opposed to the change, including this one:
A prominent faculty member who opposes the Santa Clara cutbacks said the university told employees it was relying on a decade-old antiabortion statement by the Jesuit Order of the United States, a pronouncement that has not been followed by any Jesuit colleges except Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount.
"It's something we had not heard of before," said Stephen Diamond, a law professor who resigned from his scholar's position at Santa Clara's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics in protest of the center's support of the policy change. "I was one of hundreds of faculty members objecting," he said.
It's a shame the San Francisco newspaper couldn't find a faculty member to speak with that much passion in favor of the change. You know, someone like this Loyola Marymount professor included in a New York Times story last fall:
Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor who described himself as a “faithful Catholic,” agreed that it was potentially a turning point in the university’s history.
“Part of the university’s mission is to promote justice,” Professor Kaczor said. “And in the Catholic tradition, abortion is considered a justice issue. So to say the university supports justice and then also pay for abortions is a contradiction.”
Later in the piece, the Chronicle follows the same formula again, including 69 words of background and quotes from the anti-abortion Life Legal Defense Foundation before ending with 195 words of abortion-rights opinions from Planned Parenthood and a critical Santa Clara professor.
"Biased much?" Well, duh.