I'll admit it: That was my first reaction when I saw a Washington Post headline this week declaring, "Clergy gather to bless one of the only U.S. clinics performing late-term abortions."
Apparently, I wasn't the only reader taken aback by that story.
"Is this a Babylon Bee article?" asked one Twitter user, referring to a website that specializes in Christian satire news. "I can't tell."
The Babylon Bee did have a story last week on doctors discovering a "strange, baby-shaped organ" in a woman's womb:
But no, the Post story wasn't satire. It was an actual news report. And it was a well-done one at that.
Religion writer Julie Zauzmer's piece does a nice job of explaining why the clergy involved in this blessing ceremony believe what they do.
When clergy gather at an abortion clinic, it’s usually in protest, outside the building.
Rarely are they huddled inside the clinic, not to condemn but to bless the procedures that happen there.
Yet that was the Rev. Carlton Veazey’s task as he led a prayer in Bethesda on Monday. “God of grace and God of glory, in whom we move and live,” he said, as he opened a prayer for the well-being of the doctor and nurses who facilitate abortions at a clinic here and for their patients. “Keep them safe and keep them strong. And may they always know that all that they do is for Thy glory.”
Veazey was one of four Christian pastors and one rabbi who gathered to bless this Bethesda abortion clinic in an unusual interfaith ceremony. (A Hindu priest who was supposed to attend from a local temple, who has blessed an abortion clinic before, didn’t make it.)
Opinions on the morality of abortion differ drastically by faith. Catholicism and some Protestant denominations teach that life begins from the moment of conception and abortion at any stage is akin to murder. Other Protestants and teachings from several other faiths disagree with that definition of life and emphasize instead the sanctity of the health and the free will of women.
“Jewish rabbinic authorities, starting with the Middle Ages, say that a fetus is not a person,” said Rabbi Charles Feinberg, who is retired from Adas Israel synagogue, after participating in the ceremony. “Judaism has always said abortion is never murder. It may not be permitted, depending on the circumstances — how far along the pregnancy is, how seriously ill the mother-to-be is — but it is never murder. It only becomes that once the baby is born.”
Yet everyday conversation about abortion tends to cast it as a question of faith on one side — the antiabortion side — versus secular liberalism on the other. The clergy at this ceremony said that’s not the case. Many women who seek abortions are people of faith who pray about their decision, the clergy said.
On Twitter, responses to the story varied, depending largely on individual users' beliefs concerning abortion:
But regardless of one's position on abortion, give the Post credit for covering the story and quoting the clergy involved on their actual beliefs.
Here at GetReligion, we often have asked: "Why doesn't the press offer more coverage of liberal faith?" The journalist's job is to report fairly and fully. Readers can form their own judgments based on the facts.
Of course, we at GetReligion also have pointed out — once or twice or a million times — the rampant news media bias against pro-life advocates. So I couldn't help but notice that the Post story doesn't quote a single anti-abortion religious leader in response to this blessing ceremony.
Maybe that's my personal bias speaking. Maybe such a quote really isn't necessary in the story, given that it summarizes how various Christians come down on abortion.
But can you imagine the Post reporting a similar story on the other side without seeking out a critic on the abortion-rights side?