For lots of people, this was the story of the week — if you saw it covered anywhere.
Say what? If you were following any moral and religious conservatives on Twitter late this week, then you saw the explosion of outrage about proposed Virginia legislation that cranked up the flames under a topic that has long caused pain and fierce debate among Democrats — third-trimester abortion.
However, if you tend to follow mainstream media accounts on Twitter, or liberal evangelicals, or progressives linked to other religious traditions, then you heard — not so much. Ditto for big-TV news.
Now why would this be?
After all, the direct quotes from Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia were pretty out there, if you read them the same way as the leader of Democrats For Life, Kristen Day, who put the i-word in play — infanticide.
Once again, no one has to agree with her, but there are fierce debates about how many Democrats would welcome new restrictions on abortion, especially after 20 weeks or “viability.”
What’s the fight about? On one side are those who see Northam & Co. opening a door that leads — with a wink and a nod — to horrors that are hard to contemplate. On the other side are those who see the right to abortion under attack and want to protect every inch of the legal terrain they have held for years, and perhaps even capture new ground.
On the pro-abortion-rights left, what happened in Virginia — what Northam and others advocated — is not news. The news is the right-wing reaction — it’s the “seized” meme — to those words. And, of course, the tweeter in chief piled on.
Want to guess which wide the Acela-zone press backed?
Here’s the headline at The New York Times: “Republicans Seize on Late-Term Abortion as a Potent 2020 Issue.”
Here’s an instant media-bias study classic, care of The Washington Post: “Del. Kathy Tran was known for nursing her baby on the House floor. Now she’s getting death threats over abortion.”
Yes, that Post headline was not on the main story linked to this topic.
The main story was topped with a rare two-fer, managing to include that meme-worthy s-word, while avoiding the key a-word (“abortion”). That looked like this: “Republicans seize on liberal positions to paint Democrats as radical.”
Wait a minute. “Seize” is pretty hot. But there is this screen shot available in social media. Readers in Beltway land: Was “Pounce” the original verb in this headline? You have to love that read-out headline, as well. No sign of “fractures” inside Democratic base on the late-term abortion issue? #REALLY
Now, what about Northam’s words? The Post lede mildly stated that he “voiced support for state legislation that would reduce restrictions on late-term abortions.” That’s one way to put it.
So what is this fuss all about?
I hunted for a rather neutral headline and found this at Time: “A Late-Term Abortion Bill in Virginia Has Quickly Sparked a Heated Political Debate.” Here is a fairly mild summary of the basics:
At issue is legislation sponsored by Del. Kathy Tran that would reduce the number of doctors needed to certify late-term abortions from three to one.
The measure also would delete the requirement that doctors determine that continuing a pregnancy would “substantially and irremediably” impair a woman’s health. Instead, doctors would have to certify only that the woman’s health was impaired.
Recent video of Tran saying the bill would allow abortions up until moments before birth has been viewed millions of times. …
The governor defended the legislation in a radio interview Wednesday and noted that late-term abortions are usually done because the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth. Northam said that if a woman were to desire an abortion as she’s going into labor, the baby would be “resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue” between doctors and the mother, leaving open what would happen next.
Now, I realize that this news is not — for many mainstream journalists — as big a threat to Western Civilization as a small flock of Catholic teens chanting school cheers in response to a barrage of nasty, homophobic and racist insults by grown-ups in a truly radical religious sect.
Here is what the media-bias subtext looked like to Ross Douthat, in a mini-tweet storm linked to a New York Times podcast on a related subject:
I feel a strong urge to end this sad post with something positive.
Let’s try this 2017 video-story, care of CNN: “Baby removed from womb for surgery, then returned.”
Wait a minute. “Baby”?