Which of these headlines — from different major Texas newspapers today — impresses you as most impartial from a journalistic standpoint?:
1. Planned Parenthood tries to close gaps
2. Provider plans fight over Medicaid
Now read the story ledes that go with those headlines and answer that same question.
AUSTIN — Now that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have been removed from the state’s Medicaid program, the group is trying to make sure thousands of low-income Texas women will still have access to health care.
The group also faces an ongoing investigation from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said Wednesday his office “stands ready to defend any challenge by Planned Parenthood to their termination.”
Texas has been working to remove Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program since October 2015 but didn’t deliver the final notice to the organization until late Tuesday. The notice from the Health and Human Services Commission said Planned Parenthood is “not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner” because of conversations officials at the group had about the use of fetal tissue in research.
AUSTIN — Planned Parenthood officials in Texas are promising a legal fight in the New Year in response to state leaders’ decision to expel the health care provider from the Medicaid program.
Saying it would continue seeing patients as it faces an impending court battle, the group will ask a federal judge in the next few weeks to halt Texas’ move before it could impact patient services.
The final termination letter came 14 months after earlier notice that Texas would boot Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program, a move that prompted the organization to seek a restraining order from a federal judge to block its expulsion. The judge, however, said the state would have to issue a final termination letter before the lawsuit could proceed.
Each paper played the story as the lead item across the top of its local and state news section. But the Houston story seems to give fairer, more equal treatment to Planned Parenthood and the state officials waging war on it.
Whereas the Dallas headline and lede — and if you read further — the Morning News' entire story all portray Planned Parenthood as the victim in its fight against the state. More on that in a moment.
But first, a bit of background (familiar background for regular GetReligion readers): In abortion-related coverage, news stories heavily favoring the pro-choice side are a longstanding and indisputable problem. If you somehow missed it previously, check out the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series – written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents. Go ahead and bookmark that, because it remains painfully relevant for people who run newsrooms.
Back to the Dallas story: For anyone needing a refresher course on the "inverted pyramid," it's an age-old journalistic structure in which the facts are presented in descending order of importance.
Care to guess how many Planned Parenthood officials lamenting the potentially detrimental effects on women's health care that the Morning News quotes before getting to any opposing viewpoints?
The correct answer would be three officials who voice concerns about the "devastation caused to Texans," the "cautionary tale for the rest of the nation" and the "lost access to affordable and effective birth control."
The newspaper also reports as fact that Medicaid funding doesn't pay for abortions:
Planned Parenthood, which received $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements in 2015, will be cut off from the funding in 30 days, the HHSC notice says. If the court does not grant the group’s request for a preliminary injunction to stall the changes from going into effect until the case is decided, women who rely on Medicaid funding would not be able to seek care from Planned Parenthood.
Certainly, that's Planned Parenthood's position. But abortion opponents challenge that perspective, arguing that "taxpayers are effectively freeing up other funds to pay for Planned Parenthood’s abortion business."
So, does the Morning News ever get around to the other side of the story? Yes, at the very end, which tells you where that newspaper ranks these sources in terms of importance:
Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, said state programs offer higher quality health care to Texas women than Planned Parenthood.
“Women will not see a doctor at Planned Parenthood unless they are there for an abortion,” Pojman said. “Planned Parenthood runs the largest chain of abortion facilities in the state. Women deserve better health care than Planned Parenthood is willing or able to offer, and now, in Texas, they will be able to receive it from thousands of other providers.”
HHSC spokesman Bryan Black said state funding for women’s health services has reached an all-time high, pointing to Healthy Texas Women, a revamped version of the state’s health care program for low-income women that launched in July.
“This program offers comprehensive health care, including birth control, pregnancy tests, health screenings and treatment for hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol,” Black said in an email. “We have expanded the provider network to the largest it has ever been, and we will continue working to make sure women all over the state can access family planning and other preventative health services.”
Your turn, GetReligion readers: Given how many one-sided stories we see on this subject, should I just be happy that the Morning News quoted those final two sources at all? Or is it reasonable to expect a more evenhanded treatment by a leading paper in red-state Texas?