Guttmacher Institute

It's obvious how CBS News feels about possibility of Arkansas going down to only one abortion clinic

It's obvious how CBS News feels about possibility of Arkansas going down to only one abortion clinic

It's obvious how CBS News feels about the possibility of Arkansas going down to only one abortion clinic.

Care to hazard a guess which side CBS favors?

I caught CBS’ coverage of this story via the Pew Research Center’s daily religion headlines email. I clicked the link wondering if perhaps — just perhaps — I might find a fair, balanced news report.

Um, no.

Instead, I got the typical treatment of this subject that we have highlighted time and time again here at GetReligion. For anyone who might happen to be new to this journalism-focused website, here is the short version: Ample evidence supports the notion of rampant news media bias against abortion opponents, as noted in a classic Los Angeles Times series by the late David Shaw way back in 1990.

So, today’s critique marks the latest edition of “Here we go again …”

Here are the choppy, opening paragraphs from CBS:

Depending on the outcome of a court decision this week, Arkansas could become the seventh state in the country to have only one abortion clinic. Women in the state could also lose access to any abortions after 10 weeks into their pregnancy.

On Monday, Judge Kristine Baker, appointed by President Obama in 2012, heard challenges to three of Arkansas' recently-passed anti-abortion bills. If the laws are allowed to be implemented, it would force the closure of the state's last surgical abortion clinic, Little Rock Family Planning Services. Planned Parenthood Little Rock would be the state's last remaining abortion clinic, but would only be authorized to provide medical abortions, a method used up until 10 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

If Judge Baker doesn't block the legislation from going into effect, the new laws will begin on Wednesday.

To be clear, it’s not that the CBS report doesn’t contain a lot of helpful facts and backgrounds. It does.

It’s just that the entire story is told from the perspective of abortion-rights supporters.

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Must reads: The Atlantic offers a blunt pair of think pieces on hot late-term abortion debates

Must reads: The Atlantic offers a blunt pair of think pieces on hot late-term abortion debates

The Atlantic ran a headline the other day that really made me stop and look twice.

(Wait for it.)

I realize that The Atlantic Monthly is a journal of news and opinion. Every now and then, that means running essays by thinkers who challenge the doctrines held by the magazine’s many left-of-center readers in blue zip codes.

This was especially true during the glory years when the Atlantic was edited by the late, great Michael Kelly — an old-school Democrat who frequently made true believers in both parties nervous. Click here for a great Atlantic tribute to Kelly, who was killed while reporting in Iraq in 2003.

It really helps for journalists to read material that challenges old lines in American politics. In my own life, there have been very few articles that influenced my own political (as opposed to theological) thinking more than the classic Atlantic Monthly piece that ran in 1995 with this headline:

On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position

Principled yet pragmatic, Lincoln's stand on slavery offers a basis for a new politics of civility that is at once anti-abortion and pro-choice

This brings me to that Atlantic headline the other day that made my head spin. In this case, my shock was rooted in the fact that the headline actually affirmed my beliefs — which doesn’t happen very often these days when I’m reading elite media. Here is that headline, atop an essay by Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review:

Democrats Overplay Their Hand on Abortion

In New York and Virginia, state governments are working to loosen restrictions on late-term abortion—and giving the anti-abortion movement an opportunity.

Here are two key chunks of this piece, which includes all kinds of angles worthy of additional research. Journalists would have zero problems finding voices on left and right to debate this thesis. And there’s more to this piece than, well, Donald Trump.

So part one:

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Science meets the big questions: The Atlantic examines strategic changes in pro-life movement

Science meets the big questions: The Atlantic examines strategic changes in pro-life movement

This should have been the think piece for a week ago, timed to coincide with the March for Life and other related events that weekend. I guess that includes the March For Women, as well.

Lots to think about, when the calendar gets that crowded.

However, even a week later, readers have continued to alert me to yet another Emma Green feature at The Atlantic, this time with the headline, "Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost." I know that I often start these pieces with the actual overture from the piece, but that truly is the logical place to start this time around. So here goes.

The first time Ashley McGuire had a baby, she and her husband had to wait 20 weeks to learn its sex. By her third, they found out at 10 weeks with a blood test. Technology has defined her pregnancies, she told me, from the apps that track weekly development to the ultrasounds that show the growing child. “My generation has grown up under an entirely different world of science and technology than the Roe generation,” she said. “We’re in a culture that is science-obsessed.”
Activists like McGuire believe it makes perfect sense to be pro-science and pro-life. While she opposes abortion on moral grounds, she believes studies of fetal development, improved medical techniques, and other advances anchor the movement’s arguments in scientific fact. “The pro-life message has been, for the last 40-something years, that the fetus … is a life, and it is a human life worthy of all the rights the rest of us have,” she said. “That’s been more of an abstract concept until the last decade or so.” But, she added, “when you’re seeing a baby sucking its thumb at 18 weeks, smiling, clapping,” it becomes “harder to square the idea that that 20-week-old, that unborn baby or fetus, is discardable.”
Scientific progress is remaking the debate around abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the case that led the way to legal abortion, it pegged most fetuses’ chance of viable life outside the womb at 28 weeks; after that point, it ruled, states could reasonably restrict women’s access to the procedure. Now, with new medical techniques, doctors are debating whether that threshold should be closer to 22 weeks.

Now, this is a strong, fascinating piece -- as reader after reader has noted. However, I do have one critical observation.

 

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March for Life 2018: Washington Post wrestles with Trump's statement on late-term abortion

March for Life 2018: Washington Post wrestles with Trump's statement on late-term abortion

It's hard to have a discussion of any topic linked to abortion in the United States of America without starting debates about the basic facts -- especially when abortion is discussed in news reports by mainstream journalists.

It's hard to quote the most basic of facts -- the number of abortions in any give year -- without starting fights over the specifics. In part, this is because different kinds of statistics on this subject are released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (with its history of complex ties to Planned Parenthood) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What happens when a story focuses on an ultra-controversial topic, such as the number of abortions that take place after an unborn child has, to one degree or another, reached the point of viability outside the mother's womb? At that point, it's especially crucial to be transparent about sources of information, with the clear attribution of sources.

I bring this up because of a hot-button passage in President Donald Trump's address to the 2018 March for Life, the one that stated:

As you all know Roe versus Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world. For example, in the United States, it’s one of only seven countries to allow elective late-term abortions along with China North Korea and others. Right now, in a number of States, the laws allow a baby to be born [sic, aborted] from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month.
It is wrong. It has to change.

I mentioned that quote in my GetReligion post on the day of the march, but didn't really discuss it because I assumed these controversial words would draw quite a bit of coverage in the mainstream press.

Well, I was wrong.

It's especially amazing that Trump's reference to this issue drew little mainstream news attention because of an embarrassing verbal stumble. The president (whose history with Planned Parenthood is complex, to say the least) noted that laws in some U.S. states "allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month." He clearly meant to say "aborted," instead of "born."

This reference was addressed in a long, detailed Washington Post "Acts of Faith" feature about the march. Readers were told:

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Three simple questions re: NPR's story on women driving hundreds of miles to get abortions

Three simple questions re: NPR's story on women driving hundreds of miles to get abortions

According to NPR, a pro-choice group has released a new report indicating that many women must drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion.

This is terrible news. End of story. 

At least that's the only conclusion one can draw from NPR's one-sided coverage, which quotes four sources — all on the abortion-rights side.

The piece opens with an anecdotal lede:

There's a clinic that's right in Kelsey's town of Sioux Falls, S.D., that performs abortions, but she still drove hours away to get one.
Back in 2015, she was going through a difficult time — recently laid off, had to move suddenly, helping a close family member through some personal struggles — when she found out she was also pregnant.
"I kind of knew right away that this was just not the time or place to have a child. I mentally wasn't ready, financially wasn't ready," she says. "The whole situation really wasn't very good."
When Kelsey decided to end her pregnancy, she found herself navigating a maze of legal restrictions, in a part of the country where providers are few and far between. NPR is not using her last name to protect her privacy.
South Dakota has a 72-hour waiting period for abortions and requires women to meet with their doctor in advance of the procedure. Kelsey, a nurse, had recently started a new job and couldn't take the time off to go to two appointments at the clinic in her city.
She was just a few weeks along, and it was important to her to end the pregnancy early.

Given GetReligion's mission of advocating fair, accurate journalism, I have three questions about NPR's report. 

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Surprise! Yes, it IS possible for mainstream media to produce fair, balanced abortion news

Surprise! Yes, it IS possible for mainstream media to produce fair, balanced abortion news

Just yesterday, I critiqued a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story on abortion that — in its headline and lede — favored the pro-choice side.

In that post, I pointed readers toward the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against pro-life advocates. 

I noted that this longstanding and indisputable problem remains painfully relevant for people who run newsrooms today.

So imagine my surprise today when I read a National Public Radio report on abortion that impressed me as extremely fair and balanced. (As always, I invite you, kind GetReligion reader, to read the report yourself and challenge my assessment if you disagree.)

Let's start with NPR's headline:

U.S. Abortion Rate Falls To Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade

That's pretty straightforward, right? Just the facts, ma'am.

In case you're new to this journalism blog, that's how we like it: We promote a traditional American model of the press, with impartial reporting, fair treatment of all sides and sources of information clearly identified.

Next up, let's check out the lede:

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