Houston Chronicle's latest abortion-law package feels like another NARAL brochure

Abortion is a big deal in Texas news these days, mainly because of a law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same safety standards as hospital-style surgical centers. The law also says that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

For instance, If you have a colonoscopy, or some other form of "minor" surgery, you have to show up at one of these surgical centers. The law obligates those who perform abortions to have the same safeguards used with these other procedures.

Logical, right? Not necessarily, according to its opponents, who will appear Wednesday before the Supreme Court to argue a case known as Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt

This past week, the Houston Chronicle mounted a full-court press showcasing the dangers of this law. These stories sound straight out of the public-relations playbook for NARAL, the nation's oldest abortion-rights group whose acronym used to stand for National Association Abortion Rights Action League. It's now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America. A Chronicle story released this past weekend called “150 stories take aim at abortion stigma” starts thus:

They are attorneys and administrative assistants, actresses and anthropologists, computer scientists and clergy members. Millennials and baby boomers. Married and single.
All are women who have had abortions and whose stories were gathered in four legal briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a controversial Texas law that creates stricter regulations for clinics and doctors that provide abortions.
The “friend of the court” briefs present intimate details from more than 150 women. Some worried that having a child could endanger their own lives; others that the baby would have severe birth defects. Some already had children but could not afford another. One woman, emotionally scarred from childhood molestation, found herself pregnant as a teenager.
Another was afraid that having a child would derail her career and lead to a life of poverty.
The collected stories are an attempt to remove the stigma from abortion -- and to sway the high court as it prepares to debate two key provisions in the 2013 law known as HB 2.
They also represent a growing movement to encourage women who have had abortions to step out of the shadows. The #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag urged women to post about their experiences on Twitter.

The article goes on for some time telling the stories of these women. And they are gripping stories, but none of the women named are victims of rape or incest.

As many women in these Texas debates would note, this was sexual activity that they chose to take part in, they became pregnant and they didn't want the result. And the women selected to be in the Chronicle package want as many clinics as possible available clinic to dispatch the result. The reporter never broaches the possibility that maybe these women could take responsibility for their actions and carry on with their pregnancies.

Plus, there is absolutely no voice given those who are on the other side of the story. There are no stories of women harmed by abortion (the "I regret my abortion" networks would have been a good place to find some voices), nor of abortion clinics that failed to meet medical standards. Have we totally forgotten the Kermit Gosnell trial?

In case we don’t get the message, the Chronicle stacked up a bunch of similar articles in recent days. There’s one on the Supreme Court strategy of abortionists' allies; a piece on Louisiana abortion clinics; abortion and the Supreme Court after Scalia; an editorial by a Jewish San Antonio resident against the Texas law; and if that is not enough, a piece about abortion providers who complain the Texas law is too stringent.

Not subtle folks, those Chronicle editors. That’s six articles right there and I’m sure I missed a few. As stated in previous posts, I spent 3½ years reporting for the Chronicle back in the late ‘80s and some of my articles included religion-angle news on abortion. The attitudes I encountered at work back then were consistently favorable to abortion. These days, what we are seeing is outright advocacy.

Where in this immense package is one piece built on arguments demonstrating that the Texas law might be justified? Where are the voices on that side of the debate?

Alas, it is one more example of Kellerism, a term coined by tmatt several years ago to portray an attitude emerging in many newsrooms. In this case, abortion rights is the prevailing narrative and other points of view don’t even deserve space or explaining.

There is only one legitimate point of view, that’s the view the Chronicle is flooding its pages with. And there are plenty of Texas folks around that the Chron could be talking with about this law.

One is Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. She walked out in 2009 and joined the dark side, as it were. Certainly she’d have something to say about abortion clinics. Back in 2013, a Chronicle blogger did interview Johnson about this exact topic and Johnson has appeared in other staff-written stories including one last fall that cast her in somewhat dubious light.

If not her, then, Texas has 28 million people. Surely there must be some quotable folks who can balance out the Chronicle's heavily weighted coverage. And if they could locate 150 women who want more abortion clinics, surely they could find 150 women who want fewer or no clinics?

That's assuming the newspaper wishes to be fair and cover the actual debates about this issue. These days, that is increasingly a mistaken assumption.

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