Over the years, GetReligion repeatedly has cited the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents.
Just a few examples of our critiques:
So feel free to file this latest post under the category of "Here we go again."
Among Shaw's findings a quarter-century ago were these:
* The news media consistently use language and images that frame the entire abortion debate in terms that implicitly favor abortion-rights advocates.
* Abortion-rights advocates are often quoted more frequently and characterized more favorably than are abortion opponents.
Which leads us to the above-the-fold, Page 1 story on abortion in today's Los Angeles Times:
• • •
Before we dive into this review, care to guess:
1. How many of the seven sources quoted in this front-page story support abortion rights?
2. How many abortion advocates are quoted before the Times gets around to a pro-life source?
(The answer to both questions is the same: It's six.)
From beginning to end, this piece is framed from the perspective of those who favor abortion. That's clear from the top as the Times immediately grants anonymity to a 22-year-old woman who fears "upsetting her conservative family":
When she discovered she was pregnant, the 22-year-old aspiring veterinarian started calling abortion clinics in her home state of Oklahoma. It was a short list – there are only two, and neither could get her an appointment quickly.
Unemployed, no car, and still living with her parents, Pearl thought about trying Texas, but knew the state had also recently tightened restrictions on clinics.
Finally, Pearl – who asked not to use her full name for fear of upsetting her conservative family back in Comanche County – got her boyfriend to take her to South Wind Women’s Center in Kansas, a four-hour drive north.
“It’s ridiculous that I have to travel,” Pearl said as she waited at the clinic last week to get abortion medication. “Not everyone is as strong as this. Not everyone is made of stone. It’s stressful to travel all this way.”
The National Abortion Federation hotline referred 209 Texas patients to New Mexico last year, compared with 21 in 2013, said Vicki Saporta, the group’s president and chief executive. The number of Texas patients at one Albuquerque clinic alone more than tripled, jumping from 19 to 67 last year, she said.
As more states adopt more restrictive laws and the number of clinics dwindles in the so-called “abortion desert” – an area that stretches from Florida to New Mexico and north into the Midwest – women are increasingly traveling across state lines to avoid long waits for appointments and escape the legal barriers in their home states.
From there, the L.A. newspaper quotes officials with the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, plus two abortion doctors — all concerned about the "abortion desert."
To state the obvious: A less slanted news article would give pro-life advocates — be it faith-based adoption agencies, church leaders or lawmakers — an opportunity to respond to the claims and concerns of the other side. (What tmatt has dubbed "Kellerism" appears to be at play.)
Instead — 1,000 words into the story — what passes for balance by the Times is a quick interview with a non-expert pro-life source (as opposed to the abortion supporters with fancy titles quoted throughout the piece). And yes, there's a mention of Dr. George Tiller's slaying:
Antiabortion activists say they are encouraged to see clinics close due to laws that they say protect women’s safety.
“I do think that’s a good thing. I think there should be regulations. It should be safe, like going to a hospital,” said Courtney Love, 30, a self-described “sidewalk counselor” distributing antiabortion leaflets outside the Wichita clinic. The fenced-off clinic has been a battleground in the abortion debate, drawing large crowds of protesters and closing for several years after its director, Dr. George Tiller, was fatally shot by an antiabortion extremist.
Love and other antiabortion volunteers say they have noticed more cars with out-of-state license plates arriving at the clinic. She says she doesn’t like the idea of women being forced to travel to get services, but “there’s other choices for them other than abortion.”
She pointed to a neighboring antiabortion counseling center.
“Next door there’s help, people who will help with their rent and adoption,” Love said.
What did the folks next door say? Ha ha ha. The Times didn't go next door. That certainly wasn't the story the L.A. newspaper wanted to tell.
Main image via Shutterstock.com