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Partisan Media Distorts Abortion Reform By: Joseph J. Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 10, 2003

Next to tax cuts, there is no issue that drives the leftist media establishment as batty as abortion. Liberals defend abortion-on-demand with incomprehensible zeal and completely incoherent logic. They simultaneously argue that abortion should be rare, that a declining number of abortions reflects oppression of women, and that abortion is nobody’s business. (It’s similar to the way Palestinians simultaneously claims that Jews are just like Nazis, that the Holocaust never happened, and that Adolf Hitler should have finished the job. Huh?) Perhaps most infuriating is that the Left’s accomplices in the media portray the actions of fringe pro-abortion lobbyists as mainstream news.

Since the election of George W. Bush in 2000, the leadership of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) has been on the warpath, attempting to portray any proposal to reform abortion law as the onset of Armageddon. This has only intensified since the Republican takeover of the United States Senate in November. In response, the mainstream media has been running wild, treating NARAL press releases as news stories.

Each of these "news" reports has had an eerily identical tone, indicating an obvious parroting of NARAL talking points. A January 2002 ABC News story declared "Abortion Foes Also Have Election Plans." On May 30, an Associated Press piece proclaimed "Abortion Foes Reveal Deceptive Tactic." A November 7 Pioneer Press headline blared "Abortion foes gain legislative majorities." On January 2, 2003 the New York Times warned that "Foes of Abortion Push for Major Bills in Congress." Not to be outdone, a Washington Post story on January 5 declared "Abortion foes plan to push for tighter restrictions." Cable news programs have also gotten into the act this week, with MSNBC’s Hardball and Donahue dedicating entire programs to the legislative agenda of "abortion foes." (A LexisNexis search found 114 mentions of "abortion foes" in major newspapers across America since October 2002 and zero mentions of "fetus friend.")

From mainstream press’ characterization, one would think that a cavalry had stormed the Senate and started imposing marital law. Will federal marshals be placed outside abortion clinics to beat women who attempt to go inside? Will women who obtain abortions be rounded up and placed in concentration camps? Will doctors who perform abortions be required to register as baby killers with their local police? Actually no. The Republican proposals being advocated include:

    1. Banning partial birth abortion.
    2. Making it a federal crime for someone other than a minor’s parent or guardian to evade parental consent laws by transporting a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion.
    3. Making it a separate crime if an attacker harms a pregnant woman’s unborn child.
    4. Allow hospitals the right to choose to not provide abortion services without fear of losing federal money.

Notwithstanding the mainstream press’ claim, these Republican proposals are not only supported by "abortion foes," but among staggering majorities of the American people, including—in many cases—majorities of those who identify themselves as pro-abortion. In an October 2000 Gallup poll, 77% of Americans supported a ban on partial-birth abortion. In other Gallup polls, this number has approached 89%. A 1998 poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News found that 78% of Americans support making it illegal for a minor to obtain an abortion without parental consent. A Gallup poll finds the proportion even higher, at 88%.

These four proposals are centrist. They represent moderate changes to current law. What normal person could argue that it should be legal for an adult to help a minor evade her parents’ will by driving a 14-year-old girl across state lines to get an abortion? Kate Michelman, the president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, is one American who believes that teen girls shouldn’t even have to notify parents if they have multiple abortions. In an appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball, she stated that any restrictions on abortions for minors constitute an attack on "the dignity of women." (At least this provides some insight into the feminist dictionary: dignity n. teen abortion.)

Michelman and her fellow leftists also think that if a thug jumps out of an alley and beats up a pregnant woman, killing her unborn child, then that thug should not be charged with a crime for causing that death. This is the extreme to which the pro-abortion lobby will go to refuse to recognize an unborn child’s rights.

How would the mainstream press react if Republicans began pushing for Supreme Court nominees who declared that abortion is murder? (Perhaps the New York Times might even take the Augusta National story off Page One for a day to express their moral outrage.) In the mainstream press, there are few reporters or editors who identify themselves as pro-life. Hence, they continue to censor the most underreported poll numbers of the last 20 years, which show that nearly half of all Americans believe that abortion is murder.

A January 1998 survey by CNN/USA Today/Gallup found that 48% of Americans believe that "abortion is an act of murder" and 45% do not feel that way. A CBS News/New York Times poll in January 1998 found that 50% of Americans believe that "abortion is the same as murdering a child" and 38% believe that it is not. Most recently, a June 2000 Los Angeles Times poll found that 57% of Americans agree with the statement that "abortion is murder."

Are these facts to suggest that a majority of Americans support prosecuting abortion doctors (and women who obtain abortions) for murder? No. But it does suggest that mainstream America is far more pro-life than the liberal press would have us believe.

Attempts to restrict minors’ access to abortion without parental consent, to allow hospitals the right to choose not to provide abortions, and to restrict the gruesome partial birth abortion procedure are hardly indicative of a right-wing juggernaut. Rather, these Republican proposals reflect that conservatives wish to reform abortion law so that it better reflects the attitudes of the great majority of Americans. The media’s distortion of this reality to serve the political ends of a fringe leftist special interest group is irresponsible and outrageous.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.

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