None dare call it partial-birth abortion

scotusIn a 5-4 ruling earlier this week, the Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The mainstream media are known for struggling with abortion coverage.

Most reporters chose to portray the ruling in the language you might hear from those who advocate for abortion, rather than more neutral language or the language you might hear from those who oppose abortion. By that I mean that we were told the ruling was a loss of rights for women or abortionists rather than an expansion of protections for unborn children or the mothers who carry them. The write-ups also followed the lead of those who oppose abortion in shying away from the use of the term “partial-birth abortion” — although the very law the court upheld used the term.

I’m not arguing that the medical term isn’t “intact dilation and extraction” (so called because the child is removed from the womb via the cervix and then killed). Such bias against the language and rhetoric of abortion opponents is so expected these days that it’s almost become the norm, but we should remain diligent. The issue won’t stop being contentious, so reporters should redouble their efforts at neutrality.

With that, let’s look at Agence France Presse‘s write-up by Fanny Carrier:

The US Supreme Court backtracked on abortion rights for the first time in more than a generation Wednesday, upholding a federal law restricting access to a rare but controversial late-term abortion procedure.

The bellwether ruling is a major victory for conservative forces in the United States, which have battled for decades to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade law establishing a woman’s legal right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Steadfast avoidance of descriptive terms such as “partial-birth abortion”? Got it. Scare words and phrases? Got it. The language is clear.

But these paragraphs wouldn’t tell you, for instance, that a strong majority of Americans — including some of those who generally support abortion — wanted a ban on this procedure. The paragraphs don’t mention that a majority of Americans — including some of those who support abortion generally — support restrictions on abortion. The reporter also just flat out liesmisstates the truth. Here:

The controversial late-term abortion — only carried out when the fetus poses a danger to the mother’s health — was banned by the US Congress in 2003, after lawmakers concluded it was not medically necessary.

That’s simply not true. Not much else to say. There is no basis in reality for such a statement.

But let’s get to the big fish. Somehow The New York Times‘ editors permitted Linda Greenhouse to cover this decision even though it was just under a year ago that she was completely compromised — again — on abortion coverage. She may not march anymore in abortion-rights rallies as she has previously done, but she gave a speech last year at Harvard where she said:

The government supported “a sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.”

Greenhouse said such extreme rhetoric was not opinion in any way but “statements of fact” that would be allowed to appear in a Times news article. With that, let’s see how Linda “I am the Alpha and Omega of All Things Factual” Greenhouse covered an issue in which her “factual” views were disputed by none other than the majority of the United States Supreme Court she is assigned to cover.

The headline steadfastly avoided any descriptive words: “Justices Back Ban on Method of Abortion.” Thank you, copy editors, for that headline that tells readers as little as possible about what the Supreme Court did and is framed as much as possible in favor of the abortion rights perspective. Greenhouse doesn’t mention the widespread public support for a ban on the procedure but says it was a victory for George Bush and the anti-abortion movement. She says their opposition to the procedure was not based in their moral opposition to a particularly inhumane abortion procedure but, rather, a strategy for political victory. I think she undersells — by not mentioning it — the basic opposition to the procedure on human rights grounds:

By identifying the intact procedure and giving it the provocative label “partial-birth abortion,” the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses.

ginsburgNote that the procedure — in which the fetus’ brains are sucked out in order to collapse the skull — isn’t provocative. The label is. Greenhouse also gives so much time and placement — dare I call it strategic? — to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent that you would think Ginsburg had, in fact, written a winning decision:

The court did not explicitly overturn any of its precedents, although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenters, said the decision was “so at odds with our jurisprudence” that it “should not have staying power.” Justice Ginsburg called the decision “alarming” and said the majority’s “hostility” to the right to abortion was “not concealed.”

Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer signed Justice Ginsburg’s opinion, portions of which she read from the bench at a slow pace that caused every syllable to resonate.

Oh come on. Those last few words are embarrassing. Not surprising coming from a reporter who said what she did at Harvard last year but embarrassing for a professional nonetheless. In another case she gives a four-paragraph Ginsburg rebuttal to a somewhat non-representative Kennedy argument on how the ruling benefits women and upholds motherhood.

I wonder which opinion Greenhouse enjoyed more. Do Justice Antonin Scalia’s scathing and entertaining dissents get this much time in Greenhouse articles?

Finally, the Los Angeles Times‘ piece by David Savage is also worth mentioning. It suffered from some of the same problems, too, but here’s the snippet that concerned me:

Kennedy’s opinion acknowledged that some nationally recognized medical experts testified that the ban on D&X could “create significant health risks” for some women who undergo midterm abortions.

But that alone is not enough to void the law, Kennedy concluded.

Savage completely neglects to mention that other doctors disagree that the ban creates health risks. In fact, Kennedy addressed this in detail (PDF). To wit:

Whether the Act creates significant health risks for women has been a contested factual question. The evidence presented in the trial courts and before Congress demonstrates both sides have medical support for their position. . . .

There is documented medical disagreement whether the Act’s prohibition would ever impose significant health risks on women. . . .

The medical uncertainty over whether the Act’s prohibition creates significant health risks provides a sufficient basis to conclude in this facial attack that the Act does not impose an undue burden.

Savage manipulates the argument by presenting only one side of the issue and, indeed, only one side of the very opinion he was tasked to cover. And apparently this is part of a pattern.

Okay, reporters, I know it’s hard to put personal views aside, but we simply must cover this issue better.

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  • NigelP

    The reason nobody refers to the “partial birth” procedure is because there is no such medical procedure.

    The term ‘partial birth abortion’ was dreamed up by religious whackos for purely political purposes.

    If congress passed a law banning politican donations from religious groups with bill called “Invisible super hero reform bill”, would you advice all believers that they should now refer to God as an “invisible super hero”?.

    Didn’t think so.

  • Jerry

    Mollie, your position on this issue is crystal clear and about as far from neutral as you can get. To me the NY Times headline is extremely appropriate and very descriptive. Reading through that article I saw statements by various people on different sides of the debate in what appears to be rough balance. News stories are not supposed to be filled with words designed to evoke partisan emotions. This is, of course, unsatisfying to die-hard partisans.

    I doubt your reaction would have been any different had the article been titled “Setback for Women” with a subhead of “Supreme Court Imperils Women’s Health” with a lead of “Today the Supreme Court committed a terrible injustice to women…”

    But I suppose someone will be along shortly posting a count of how many people on which side were quoted, a count of words spoken on both sides and maybe even weighted by an assigned emotional content to the words along with factoring in which side was placed where in the article.

    On this topic, I doubt it’s possible to have a news story that both sides accept as balanced and dispassionate.

  • Eric G.

    I thought the Associated Press’ main story Tuesday was reasonably fair. It started out:

    The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority gave anti-abortion forces a landmark victory Wednesday in a 5-4 decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure nationwide and sets the stage for further restrictions.

    It was a long-awaited and resounding win that abortion opponents had hoped to gain from a court pushed to the right by President Bush’s appointees.

    For the first time since the court established a woman’s right to an abortion in 1973, the justices said the Constitution permits a nationwide prohibition on a specific abortion method. The court’s liberal justices, in dissent, said the ruling chipped away at abortion rights.

    The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

    Later in the story, the procedure was described like this:

    The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman’s uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion.

    Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method — dismembering the fetus in the uterus — is available and, indeed, much more common.

    This is the article that would have appeared in most daily newspapers yesterday morning, so it should be easy to find the full version of the story scattered about the ‘Net. In reading the story, I saw both sides of the argument getting a fair shake.

    The AP graphic distributed with the story used the headline “Partial-birth abortion still illegal” (without the quotes).

    If there’s any blatant bias in the AP account, it’s awfully hard to see, at least for me.

  • Robbie

    I’m not one to jump to the support of the Times, I also was surprised that they let Greenhouse write on this, and I personally tend to back yesterday’s decision. But I guess I’d take issue with your criticisms; in fact, I’d say Greenhouse did about as good or better than most of the reports on this opinion (which, considering the dismal coverage that I think the Supreme Court gets, isn’t saying much…)

    First, were I still on a copy desk, I’d have likely written just about the same hed. A common concern is that the term “partial-birth abortion” was originated by those who oppose the procedure, and so is seen as a loaded term on its face. This is expressed at http://testycopyeditors.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=6194&highlight=partialbirth+abortion (though I don’t necessarily agree with other arguments on the page).

    My bigger objection would be that “partial-birth abortion” seems rather vague, especially in a case like this where exactness of terms played such a crucial role. The Nebraska law, shot down in Carhart I (2000), was also a ban on “partial-birth abortion,” as stated by the Neb. legislature. The law was shot down because the Court felt this referred to both intact D&E and D&X procedures. Referring to just a “method of abortion” is not very specific, but at least doesn’t risk this confusion in terms.

    I’ll agree with you on the use of the term “provocative” and the reference to resonating words. Just shows why reporters shouldn’t try to be analysts unless they’re writing an analysis, marked as such.

    I’d say that some of your other criticisms are not necessarily just aboout abortion, but about how the press covers Court cases in general — often applying a purely political frame, rather than a legal frame. At least Greenhouse offers some discussion of precedents, which the AP story the paper I work for ran didn’t do any of that — it gave ONLY the political angle. By purely politicizing this story, it might be that the coverage backs those who support abortion’s legal status (i.e., “pro-choicers”) by implying that the Court acted with pro-Bush/convservative strategies, rather than sound legal reasoning (of which there was plenty in Kennedy’s opinion). But by focusing on popular support, as you seem to want, I’d say this same problem would merely be flipped — the implication would be that the Court acted based on public opinion rather than sound legal reasoning, to the favor of those opposing abortion’s legal status (i.e., “pro-lifers”).

    Lastly, I’d say Greenhouse gave fairly equal treatment to Kennedy’s and Ginsburg’s writings. I think it’s good that, in this case, the two sides got about the same space, since it was a 5-4 split (after all, it doesn’t matter where “public opinion” is when considering how to cover an opinion like this; the only people who really matter in the law are the nine at the bench).

    If Ginsburg got more quotes, it’s perhaps because, from reading the opinions, I’d have to say that she was more quotable. (It would be interesting to compare coverage of Ginsburg’s dissents with that of Scalia’s dissents. It would also be interesting to compare coverage of dissents with that of majority opinions, since dissents might often be more quotable, as the justice doesn’t have to hold together a majority…)

  • William

    I don’t think that we can completely forget the woman’s health in these situations. Things always get irrational when someone’s opinion is based on belief as opposed to fact. The media takes the brunt no matter what side you’re on. If you are conservative it is too liberal and if you are liberal it is too conservative. I think that basically this decision is a victory for Roman Catholics by Roman Catholics.

  • dave

    How would this ruling be “an expansion of protections for the mothers who carry them” even if one accepted your particular language? It’s a narrowing of options for those prospective mothers. How are they being protected when the outlawed procedure may be safer for them in certain circumstances (as the Court accepted in leaving the door open for its use where the woman’s life might otherwise be in jeopardy). Why should those who aren’t part of the anti-abortion crusade use “the language and rhetoric of abortion opponents” anyway? You seem to be demanding that others should discuss the issue only using your preferred (and widely questioned) terminology. That’s a very slippery slope to wanting to abolish free exchange or even the very ideas that you disagree with.

  • Mercey

    Fetal Homicide
    Updated January 2007

    http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/fethom.htm

    …”Currently, at least 36 states have fetal homicide laws – 31 are state statutes and three are case law. The states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. At least 15 states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy (“any state of gestation,” “conception,” “fertilization” or post-fertilization), indicated below with an asterisk (*).”…

    …”* Indicates states that have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy (“any state of gestation,” “conception,” “fertilization” or post-fertilization), indicated above with an asterisk (*).

    ** Two states, Massachusetts and South Carolina, established fetal homicide/manslaughter laws only through case law, not through legislation.

    Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2007.
    Note: List may not be comprehensive, but is representative of state laws that exist. NCSL appreciates additions and corrections.
    “…

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    The term “partial birth abortion”–who came up with that term? I keep reading/hearing that “religious zealots” came up with the term for political purposes and it has baggage. Can someone provide when and where the term originated? Could it be the media itself came up with the term because “dilation and extraction” is a term the average person wouldn’t understand?

    I’m not sure if this can ever be handled in a way pleasing to everyone. The issue has become contentious. But it is telling that in this case no one uses statistics of how Americans stand on the issue. It’s almost as if we’re being told, “It doesn’t matter what you think, we have ‘scientific evidence/support’ for our position.” Meanwhile, if a poll shows, say, 56% of Americans have some misgivings about the war in Iraq you can bet we’ll hear those stats front and center in any coverage of the issue.

    The AP and NY Times headlines and main wording make clear that the reporter(s) are framing the issue in politic terms, not scientific or moral–”victory for conservatives,” “The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority gave anti-abortion forces a landmark victory Wednesday in a 5-4 decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure nationwide and sets the stage for further restrictions,” and “It was a long-awaited and resounding win that abortion opponents had hoped to gain from a court pushed to the right by President Bush’s appointees” are political in nature, not scientific or moral.

  • http://psburton.wordpress.com P.S Burton

    My individual convictions, morality and life experience tell me Abortion is killing another, But then I doubt the souls of those who die from abortion and those who die from starvation or any of the dozens of senseless ways we waste the precious gift of life spend a great deal of eternity debating who suffered the greater tragedy.

    I also opinion those who champion the pro-life movement are simply the other side of a worthless coin. While last Novembers elections signal a decline in the influence of the evangelical right, Neoconservatives will dominate the court for some time to come and while a few children born will benefit from it they are born into a world where much of the liberty ordained of God as their birthright is aborted by those same justices.

  • E

    The NYT headline was at least accurate and tried to be unbiased. I used to be a copy editor, and writing headlines ain’t easy, especially when it’s a politically loaded topic. My guess is that the NYT copy editor sat for a long time trying to find the least “loaded” headline possible.

    And it’s far better than the headline in the Delaware News Journal in Wilmington, DE yesterday, which was: “Supreme Court deals blow to abortion rights.” Hmm, I wonder what position the article is going to advocate, given the loaded language in the hed?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Some great discussion going on how to handle the coverage of the case — let’s just remember to stay on topic. We’re not debating abortion — we’re looking at how reporters should cover issues related to it.

    I will say that I think that subtle bias is much worse than overt bias, so I would hope I’d react more strongly to the subtle variety. It’s easy to read that Agence France Presse account and just respond with a gah! It’s the more subtle bias — for instance gently framing from the headline on down in the NYT piece — that this is a rollback of women’s rights or that one-sided analysis in the LAT — that I think is more dangerous. In fact, I think some readers — of all persuasions — don’t detect it. They expect it. They think this “abortion rights=women’s rights” or “Abortion = medical good” is the default way to cover this issue.

    It’s almost like they’ve never really understood opposing arguments or different perspectives on this hugely divisive issue.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Also, I just think the headline in the NYT was funny in its blandness. I also wonder how we would we write it if the focus of the piece was more on Kennedy’s majority opinion?

  • http://wannabeanglican.blogspot.com/ WannabeAnglican

    Thanks for this piece, Mollie.

    Back in my Duke days, I wrote a rather massive paper on major media coverage of the abortion issue. I particularly focused on events I attended and was therefore able to verify the accuracy of reports on said events.

    In short, things haven’t changed much in 25 years. Major news media coverage of abortion is habitably slanted and inaccurate. And I saw it first hand.

    By the way, guess who covered one of the Marches for Life for the Washington Post? Janet Cooke. Priceless.

  • Michael

    I also wonder how we would we write it if the focus of the piece was more on Kennedy’s majority opinion?

    Just a little reality check:

    16 paragraphs about the majority decision, including Kennedy quotes.

    6 paragraphs about the dissent, including Ginsburg quotes.

    Ginsburg isn’t mentionted until the 15th paragraph.

    Exactly how much more emphasis on the Kennedy majority would have been needed to satisfy you, Mollie? I realize a story that continually used the made-up term “partial-birth abortion” and the non-existant “right of the unborn” would have been more to your liking, but then it would have been a completely different story about a completely different event.

    Whether you agree or not, there is a constitutional right to an abortion. A decision that erodes that right is a big deal. The legal question–as opposed to ths societal or religious quesiton–is about the rights of the woman.

  • Charlie

    The really amazing thing is that this HUGE news story received next to no coverage compared with the VT story, which obviously was very important- though 24/7 this last week has been typical corporate media overkill. We have this so-called “partial birth abortion” decision (not even a recognized medical term- although it sounds great for our sound bite society) and then we have Gonzales-gate and of course Iraq.
    (Not much was made of the 200 that were killed the other day in Iraq- 32 would be a slow day) It highlights the right wings manipulation of the Corporate media and how the really important stories get pushed to the back burner.

  • Matt

    There is a reason that newspapers avoid the term “partial birth abortion”. It’s the same reason that the author criticizes the NY Times’ coverage. It’s a scare tactic. The term was introduced by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in 1995, not the media.

  • Tim

    The examples quoted in your column do not appear to me to be biased. They simply do not use the inflamatory rhetoric you would prefer (“Steadfast avoidance of descriptive terms such as partial-birth abortion?”) or offer up an opposing view for every quote. Well, that’s not the reporter’s job. The job is to cover the story. This is why there are op/ed pages. If you want to sway public opinion to your cause it belongs in an editorial, not a news article.
    This liberal media myth is good propaganda but that’s all it is. I guess you figure if you can get people to distrust the press they’ll turn to political blogs and other truly biased sources for information. That’s why the right is attacking the media about the coverage of the killings in Virginia. Sadly it seems to be working. More people are going to crackpots like Limbaugh and Drudge for information and the legit media is so worried they’re afraid to report stories that will upset anyone but a centrist. My local Fox affiliate just premiered a “news” program that’s 100 percent fluff; sports, health and American Idol. People don’t want truth, they just want someone to echo their own views. Corporate media franchises will chase advertising dollars and eventually there will be no “news”, just Anna Nicole and Sanjaya.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Actually one of the terms used by pro-lifers was: “Brain-suction Abortion”

    Anyway, the federal law bans partial-birth abortion. It doesn’t mention intact dilation and extraction. And the term was used even in liberal publications like Slate until the abortion rights lobby put a stop to it a few years ago.

    Either way — I find it interesting the steadfast avoidance of the term. What specifically bothers opponents of the term? It is an abortion method, so I suppose that’s not the problem. Is it the “partial-birth” aspect then? What specifically about that description is problematic? What makes “intact extraction” preferable to “partial-birth”?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I LOVE how people are saying “those aren’t examples of bias!” and then going on to use phrases like “crackpots like Limbaugh and Drudge” etc.

    Okay, you’ve convinced me.

  • Dennis Colby

    Could we drop the “it’s not a medical term!” nonsense? Reporters aren’t supposed to write stories in technical jargon. “Heart attack” isn’t a medical term, either.

  • Tim

    All right, Mollie. In re-reading your piece I’ll agree that “portions of which she read from the bench at a slow pace that caused every syllable to resonate” is problematic and should probably have been cut from her article but if you don’t think that Limbaugh and Drudge are “crackpots” or at the very least propagandists, then we can’t have an intelligent discussion about the press.

  • Ed Mechmann

    One interesting aspect of the story that has already started to appear in the press is the anti-Catholic animus reflected in comment #5 above. Just look at the editorial cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer today.

    One of the classic tropes of anti-Catholicism has been the ugly attitude that Catholics aren’t good Americans, that they are mind-controlled adherents to a foreign state, mere sheep in thrall to the bishops, etc., etc. Remember the thinly-veiled religious tests being expressed by some of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee during the last two confirmation hearings? There’s more of the same to come, and even uglier, no doubt.

  • Ed Mechmann

    Sorry, here’s the link: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Oh, sigh. It’s the reporters’ job to avoid the terms chosen by either side. Pro-life and pro-choice for instance. “Partial birth abortion” is clearly a rhetorically loaded term because one side has made it so. As for how provocative the actual procedure is in its specific description, Mollie, have you ever read a technical description of (or seen or experienced) a Caesarian birth? The technical aspects of just about all medical procedures are inherently discomfiting to most of us.
    The DMN’s style for many years has been: “Abortion rights advocates” and “abortion rights opponents” to describe the respective sides. And I would no more use “partial birth abortion” to describe that procedure than I would “woman’s freedom surgery” or the like.
    And as for headlines: This was a blow to abortion rights. Whether or not one believes the blow was a good thing or a bad thing is a different question.(Consider a baseball metaphor: “Our batter struck a mighty blow against the opposing pitcher.” Was the blow a good thing or a bad thing?) Two days ago, the law of the land was that there was a right to a particular kind of abortion. And today the law is that there is not such a right. Should there have ever been that right? SCOTUS said “no.”

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Oh wow. So the only way we could possibly look at this is the same way NOW does? That this is a blow for abortion rights? Gee — is there any ying to that yang? Anywhere? Did this encroachment on abortion rights expand any other rights? Any?

    Maybe I should ask my 21-week old daughter inside me right now.

    This is almost funny how one-viewed some people are.

    YES, Naral would look at this as a blow to abortion rights. Yes, NOW would look at this as a blow to abortion rights.

    Do Christian churches who oppose abortion view this as a “blow to abortion rights”? Is that what they’re going around saying? What about National Right to Life? Are they trumpeting this “blow to abortion rights”?

    Their press release says: “inally, it is illegal in America to mostly deliver a premature infant before puncturing her skull and removing her brain, which is what a partial-birth abortion is.”

    Seems their focus is elsewhere — not on a “blow to abortoin rights” but on protection for some other class of people.

    That people would think this admittedly subtle bias in favor of the language used by one group — at the expense of the other — is fine says so so so much.

    What if the headlines for each ruling in favor of abortion were:

    “blow to unborn children’s rights”? I don’t seem to recall those headlines.

    If they had been, I’d be less concerned about this focus.

  • Eric G.

    It shouldn’t be surprising that many of the articles treated the decision as a political dispute more than a legal dispute. The federal law in question was passed primarily for political reasons — as far as I can tell, there’s no moral distinction to be made between an intact D&E and a nonintact one. It was passed in an attempt to embarrass abortion supporters and as part of a strategy to erode the purported right to an abortion. If Congress had been genuinely attacking the moral issues, it would have outlawed late-term abortions, period, but it chose not to do so.

    And the fact is that, in terms of both court appointments and electoral politics, abortion has become an issue that wags the dog. The court’s decision was a big story only because of its political implications; its actual impact is quite small, considering that intact D&Es are quite rare and that in most cases there are alternatives (such as a nonintact D&E or killing the fetus before extraction).

    And, by the way, while I think (as stated earlier) that the AP coverage was fair and I would agree with most of defenses given of the other coverage (including the NYT headline), as a copy editor (which is what I am), I would have excised “that caused every syllable to resonate.” That’s over the top, period.

  • Michael

    Let me understand this. SOmeone uses the term “fundamentalist”–at term once embraced by those believers and arguably used for at least a century before it became “stigmatized”–and the bloggers get apoplectic, but the use of a term invented by the pro-life movement–”partial birth abortion”–needs to be inserted into a story and the failure to do so is evidence of bias?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I don’t understand the opposition to the term “partial-birth abortion.” None who oppose it have explained what specifically bothers them about it. I understand the term was developed by pro-lifers and is not medical jargon. But I’m just curious to have the discussion.

    The ban is against “partial-birth abortion” not intact dilation and extraction or any other jargon.

    Having said that, I don’t necessarily think we must use the term partial-birth abortion.

    But replacing it with “a method of abortion” does nothing. Neither does replacing it with a “rare but controversial method” of abortion.

    The public opposition to the procedure is based on the precise method so I think that it’s worth describing better.

    I think that we could do better than “a method.”

    Doesn’t everyone?

  • Michael

    This is almost funny how one-viewed some people are.

    Says the journalism who believes pro-life talking points and a manufactured political term should be inserted into a story, and the failure to do so is evidence of bias.

    Women do have a Constitutional right to an abortion. There is no legal rights for unborn children. There is even doubt whether there is a natural law right for unborn children. So a story about the Supreme Court’s ruling on a Constitutional right should arguably focus on the legal right, not the “right” that doesn’t exist in the law and wasn’t even being considered by the court.

  • kyle

    Interesting editorial in the Philly paper, too. I loved the part about the pro-life “playbook” regarding abortionists not fully informing women.

    From direct examination of Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, in a previous partial-birth abortion trial:

    THE COURT: I want to know whether that woman knows that you are going to take a pair of scissors and insert them into the base of the skull of her baby, of her fetus. Do you tell her?

    THE WITNESS: I do not usually tell patients specific details of the operative approach. I’m completely –

    THE COURT: Do you tell her that you are going to then, ultimately, suck the brain out of the skull?

    THE WITNESS: In all of our D&Es the head is collapsed or crushed and the brains are definitely out of the skull but those are –

    THE COURT: Do you tell them that?

    THE WITNESS: Those are details that would be distressing to my patients and would not — information about that is not directly relevant to their safety.

    THE COURT: Don’t — whether it’s relative to their safety or not don’t you think it’s since they’re giving authorization to you to do this act that they should know precisely what you’re going to do?

    THE WITNESS: That’s actually not the practice I have of discussing surgical cases with patients.

    THE COURT: I didn’t ask you that. I said don’t you think they ought to know?

    THE WITNESS: No, sir, I don’t.

    Even editorial writers aren’t supposed to be entitled to their own facts. It would seem obvious to me that the question about informed consent is grounded in fact, and that it’s not the pro-lifers who are being paternalistic. But this particular judge was Catholic, too, so maybe they felt justified in ignoring the testimony in his courtroom. I wonder if their paper ran coverage of what all those abortion doctors said to Judge Casey over in New York. That would be an interesting journalism question.

    Here are some transcripts.

    http://www.priestsforlife.org/pba/index.htm

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Michael — that’s not actually true.

    I mean it is quite true that it is legal to kill any unborn child until the moment of birth but there are many legal rights for the unborn.

    Depending on the state or jurisdiction, unborn children have inheritance rights. The SCOTUS actually upheld a 1986 Missouri law preserving to unborn chidren “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.”

    And just this week Justice Kennedy wrote in that winning opinion we’ve read so little of that “whatever one’s views concerning the Casey joint opinion, it is evident a premise central to its conclusion — that the government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life — would be repudiated were the court now to affirm the judgments of the courts of appeals.”

    The feds have conflicting interests when it comes to abortion — preserving and promoting fetal life and granting women the right to end their unborn children’s lives. But it’s just shocking to see that phrase “no legal rights for unborn children.”

  • John

    “Assault,” “Battery,” and “Mayhem” are not medical terms, either, but are prohibited by law. The federal statute specifically references and defines “partial birth abortion.” How can one report on a law without using the term describing the behavior it proscribes?

    You can call it whatever you want, but what it does is expand the rights of unborn children. It used to be that Liberals claimed to champion the rights of the weak and powerless; those who have no one to speak for them.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    A child who sustains injuries in the womb can recover damages in many states. An action which causes an unborn child to lose his or her life can be the basis for a wrongful death action suit filed on behalf of the deceased child’s estate. Just for two more examples of legal rights for the unborn.

  • Dan LaHood

    This procedure is the last chance to prevent the birth of a disabled child. That fact barely enters the discussion . The Mother, the prospective parents, are terrified of the prospect of raising a handicapped child and all that it entails. I suspect more people will be willing to err on the side of caution in the future, meaning that their will be more abortions when there is the slightest indication that the fetus may be less than perfect. It’s already happening and that trend will grow. Healthy and disabled, they won’t be born and the parents will be to scared to ask for the autopsy results. The decision was correct, the women suffer greatly post abortion no matter how vociferous or persistent the denials. Life of the Mother indeed.

  • Eric G.

    I don’t have any major problem with the term “partial-birth abortion,” as intentionally loaded as it may be. We discussed it on the copy desk the other night as to whether that was an appropriate headline/label for the AP graphic accompanying the Scotus story and decided to leave it unchanged. People who follow this issue know what it means, even if it may not be entirely accurate, and it is the term used in the law. But if the term is used outside of a quote, it should be defined right away for clarity.

    Anyway, I think that the Inquirer cartoon mentioned by Ed Mechmann may be worth a topic of its own here. It really rubs me the wrong way. I know, I know, editorial cartoons are supposed to be provocative, but that appears to me to be approaching bigotry, and I’m not even Catholic. Had it been my call, I wouldn’t have run it, or at least discussed it with staffers first.

  • Michael

    “government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life”

    An interest is different from a right. The government has a legitimate and substantial interest in a lot of things–monetary poilcy, clean water–that have never been elevated to the level of a legal right.

    And the court specifically chose not to rule on the language in the Webster preamble giving unborn children expansive rights so no such right exists in federal law.

  • Jeff

    Michael,

    If there’s an issue over the lack of “pro-life talking points and manufactured political terms” perhaps that has to do with the demonstrated proliferation of pro-choice talking points and the obviously missing description of what exactly is banned (at least in Carrier’s piece).

    Greenhouse makes no pretense at objectivity and frames the entire issue as a mere political game: SCOTUS “reversed course” because Alito changed the vote mix. Greenhouse leads us to think Congress, counting on conservatives votes, simply reissued the Nebraska law, rather than the reality that it learned the lessons of Stenberg and crafted a new law which would reflected SCOTUS’ concerns.

    Ginsburg is the one who’s apoplectic because she apparently doesn’t believe there can be any limitation on abortion (if you disagree, feel free to suggest what kind limitations Ginsburg would support). As reflected by the Pew research, that puts her (and Greenhouse, I believe) well out of the mainstream of American thought. This is papered over by talk of “health exceptions,” but the Court’s own Doe ruling defined “health” so broadly as to make it literally meaningless. I think it would be relevant and useful to abortion reporting to point these things out.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I was thinking of all the advocate-developed phrases mainstream media use all the time. For instance, advocates of immigration amnesty found out that the public didn’t like the term “amnesty” so they came up with “comprehensive immigration reform.” As if other immigration proposals supporting deportation of illegal aliens or other strategies are *not* comprehensive.

    Or replacing “illegal aliens” with “undocumented workers” — a term used whether or not the illegal persons work or not.

    Or calling one side in environmental debates — those that believe increased regulation is the way to achieve their goals — environmentalists while never using the phrase for those who are environmentalist but don’t think government regulation is the way to achieve goals.

    Why does the mainstream media accept phrases designed by some advocates and not others?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Um, Michael, you’re arguing that a ruling that upheld as constitutional a protection against a certain method of death for unborn children does not represent a legal right for unborn children?

    I can’t say I’m following you . . .

  • Michael

    two more examples of legal rights for the unborn.

    Actually, it’s not clear that either of those are legal rights but instead the recognition of the unborn child as a legal person, but for the sake of clarity I will say there are no federal Constitutional rights for the uborn.

    There are–for the time being–federal Constitional rights to obtain an abortion. Thus, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that erodes those rights properly focuses on those existing rights than on some nonexistant federal Constitutional rights that were not the subject of the court case.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Michael wrote:

    “there are no federal Constitutional rights for the uborn”

    They have the right not to be partially delivered and then have their brains vacuumed out and skull crushed. Sure, they can be destroyed/killed/terminated another way — but not that way.

    They have that right now. You can’t deny that. That is a federal, constitutionally-protected right now.

  • Michael

    you’re arguing that a ruling that upheld as constitutional a protection against a certain method of death for unborn children does not represent a legal right for unborn children?

    There are rights and then there “rights.” The Constitution articulates certain rights and the Supreme Court has interpreted those rights to cover a lot of things, including a woman’s right to be free from government intervention in obtaining an abortion.

    You are speaking of “rights” which are not articulated in the Constitution or in the court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Those “rights” may come from a sense of entitlement or a belief system, but they are not a Constitutionally-protected right, like Free Speech.

  • Tim

    Mollie says, “Why does the mainstream media accept phrases designed by some advocates and not others?”

    I agree, Mollie. Why do they continue to refer to our illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq as a “war”?

  • Jerry

    THE COURT: Do you tell her that you are going to then, ultimately, suck the brain out of the skull?

    When I had my last operation, the doctor did not tell me he was going to “slit me up a treat” (extra points for identifying where that came from), stick long tubes into my gut, wiggle them around a bit, push bits of me away from other bits and then sew up the torn bits. He said he was doing to do laproscopic surgery on my hernia. Browbeating and terrifying women with deliberately emotionally laden terminology is the action of people who should not practice medicine.

    Someone upstream mentioned polls. There are many polls on abortion. Here’s one I found in two minutes with google: A much smaller majority, 54 percent, supports legal abortion if there’s evidence the baby will be physically impaired. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/abortion_poll030122.html

    And here’s another that reports the opposite: The January 2003 Gallup poll found that 70% favoured and 25% opposed “a law that would make it illegal to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy known as ‘partial birth abortion,’ except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother.” http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2003/feb/03021705.html

    And here’s another that tracks opinion over time and more closely reflects the first one: http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

    Confused about the polling results? I’d say it reflects the unhappiness Americans have with both extremes. I suspect most Americans don’t like abortion but also don’t like government getting involved the debate. If I had time, I’ll bet I could find at least one poll that supports my assertion.

    And I suspect that this decision will help make the 08 election much more one sided than it already is. By this I mean that some will try to focus the election on this and gay marriage ignoring all the much larger amount of death, destruction, terror and misery in the world.

  • http://altreligion.about.com Jennifer Emick

    “Partial birth” is not a “descriptive” term. It is an emotionally loaded phrase created intentionally to provoke an emotional reaction. There is no “birth” in this procedure and it should not be described this way.

    “Oh wow. So the only way we could possibly look at this is the same way NOW does? That this is a blow for abortion rights? Gee — is there any ying to that yang?”

    I think you very deliberately missed the point here. The poster very clearly articulated his point, and whether you believe abortion is a right or not is irrelevant, because that right legally exists, and any legal restriction necessarily cuts into that right. Now you can applaud that restriction based on your personal beliefs, but you can’t excoriate someone for acknowledging the dominant legal viewpoint. In other words, the “yin” is already included.

    The clear message I get from this post, Mollie, is that you feel the reporter’s lack of neutrality on the debate makes her less than ideal to cover it, fair enough- but would you apply that same standard to yourself, and your own biases? The feeling I get reading this is that it’s the reporter’s personal beliefs, not her coverage, that offend you. Frankly, I think neither this reporter nor yourself able to cover this subject with any objectivity.

  • Paul Barnes

    Jeffrey Weiss,

    In your post #24, you offer explanations on what terms you use for abortions. However, once something is described in rights language, it is no longer a neutral description. Rights are the new foundation of morality, and the language associated with rights are how we frame moral debates. Therefore, when you describe someone as being “pro-rights”, the assumption that will be made is that the self-identified right is a good thing.

    Perhaps this comment is a greater critique of rights talk generally. Basically, if you look at Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue you can get a sense of the problem with explaining morality through right. Further, one of the drafters of the UN declaration on human rights, Fr. John Courtney Murray, admitted that there was no consensus as to where rights come from. However, this is largely besides the point.

    What is important is that when rights are invoked, there needs to be acknowledgment that a moral claim is being made. Ergo, journalists have to be aware of the problems of human rights moral theory.

  • J-Money

    Michael said:

    There are rights and then there are “rights.”

    I have no idea what this means. The Supreme Court just articulated very clearly that the unborn have a right, and “right” to not have their heads delivered from the womb, stabbed at the base of the skull with a pair of scissors, and their brains sucked out. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a constitutionally protected right, “right” and even “write” if spelling and correct usage isn’t how you roll.

    Michael also said:

    The Constitution articulates certain rights and the Supreme Court has interpreted those rights to cover a lot of things, including a woman’s right to be free from government intervention in obtaining an abortion.

    Yeah, they also articulated the right of an unborn child not to be killed via “partial birth abortion”, “dilation and extraction” or whatever else we’re calling the killing of full term children. It’s a right. Five justices said so. Live with the pain.

    Also, pardon me for noticing the irony in a pro-abortion advocate trying to denigrate the Court’s ruling in finding a right for the unborn by saying that it doesn’t reflect a right in the sense that it’s not originally in the Constitution as written by the Founders. And yet, Michael would argue all day long about a woman’s right to privacy that STILL hasn’t been found in the Constitution, and is nearly universally seen by scholars both liberal and conservative as being very bad law. Funny how liberals always morph into strict constructionists whenever things don’t go their way.

    Anyway, I don’t really know why we’re even arguing about what the SCOTUS just defined, since this isn’t a legal blog, but I couldn’t let that pass without commenting.

    In light of all the outrage at the perfectly appropriate use of the term for this form of abortion, I think we would have been better served if the headline for this post had been “The abortion that dare not speak its name.”

  • Andy

    What would call an operation involving tens of thousands of troops actively involved in combat Tim, a friendly dust up?

    And drop the “illegal” nonsense, will you? Your personal feelings against something do not Federal law make.

  • Dawn

    It seems to me that people are so blinded by their own ideology that they fail to consider why this procedure is performed. A women can’t just walk into Planned Parenthood 8 months pregnant and proclaim she doesn’t want to have a baby and get this procedure. The ONLY time this procedure is performed is when something is SERIOUSLY wrong.
    I am a 30 year old female with no children yet and this ruling has frightened me to the core. I am anti-abortion as a method of birth control but as a matter of my health I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO for it.
    If I reach 7 months of a pregnancy and the doctor says the fetus is missing part of its face and it’s spinal column is on the outside of it’s body I am now expected to carry that fetus to term, give birth, watch it live a few hours and die???
    Luckily I am a responsible female and smart enough to realize now I need to save up for genetic screening prior to fertilization and have all possible tests ran before the legal time remaining for abortion runs out.
    If you manage to make all abortions illegal guess what everyone like me with money will do? We will go to Europe when the procedure is necessary. Your crusade only hurts the poor.

  • Eric G.

    Mollie said:

    They have the right not to be partially delivered and then have their brains vacuumed out and skull crushed. Sure, they can be destroyed/killed/terminated another way — but not that way.

    They have that right now. You can’t deny that. That is a federal, constitutionally-protected right now.

    J-Money said:

    The Supreme Court just articulated very clearly that the unborn have a right, and “right” to not have their heads delivered from the womb, stabbed at the base of the skull with a pair of scissors, and their brains sucked out. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a constitutionally protected right

    No, that’s not correct at all. If there were a such a constitutional right against such an abortion, the partial-birth abortion law would have been superfluous.

    What the court said was that Congress has the authority to enact such a restruction. That’s not the same thing at all as recognizing a constitutional right. Whatever rights this decision gave second-trimester fetuses are rights granted by statute, not the Constitution.

    This may seem like a technicality, but understanding it is important to understanding what the court said and did not say.

    One more comment: One thing I found interesting about the decision, although I never saw it mentioned in news coverage, is that the court didn’t consider whether Congress had the authority to enact such a law under the Commerce Clause. Bringing the Commerce Clause into such a case would have all sorts of interesting implications.

  • danr

    “And as for headlines: This was a blow to abortion rights. Whether or not one believes the blow was a good thing or a bad thing is a different question. (Consider a baseball metaphor: “Our batter struck a mighty blow against the opposing pitcher.” Was the blow a good thing or a bad thing?)”

    Well, if all the major papers headlined “Losing Team X Struck Crushing Blow, Loses Title” (even in Y’s hometown paper), instead of ever headlining “Winning Team Y Captures Pennant”, some of us might suspect a bit of bias towards X. Consistently reporting only from one side’s perspective, whether that side “wins” or “loses”, implies bias.

    “We will go to Europe when the procedure is necessary.”

    Because drugs are (more) legal in Europe, we should make them legal here because illegality only raises prices and discriminates against poor addicts?
    Because prostitution is (more) legal in Europe, we should make it legal here because illegality only raises hookers’ rates here and discriminates against poor johns?
    Your moral logic is sorely lacking, albeit increasingly popular in some progressive American circles. If something is morally wrong, let us legislate against it even if some will always have the means to circumvent said legislation.

  • Dawn

    “Your moral logic is sorely lacking, albeit increasingly popular in some progressive American circles. If something is morally wrong, let us legislate against it even if some will always have the means to circumvent said legislation.”

    You “moral” argument may work when it comes to abortions being used as method of birth control but as a matter of my health you have no right to legislate anything. I have never been pro-choice NEVER until this ruling. You can’t force me to give birth instead of receiving raditation or medication my Doctor prescribes to me while pregnant to save my life and that’s what you are saying. Or are you saying such treatment should be administered with a child in the womb????????????????????? How moral is that?
    This ruling will only increase genetic engineering and abortions and turn otherwise pro-lifers like me against the cause.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    The first NYT story covering the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1995″ started by saying that “The House today passed legislation banning an entire class of abortions” — but said nothing — NOTHING — telling us WHAT this “class of abortions” was. Zip. Nada. I read the story three times to make sure I was not the one who was crazy. I had to run a search of THOMAS to find out what it was talking about. Does being bothered by this make me a “religious whacko”?
    Furthermore, the story did not even refer to the bill by its short title.
    Nigel, I await your defense of this piece of journalism. (And I do not mean “What have they written LATELY?”) Do you find ANYTHING about it which goes over the line?
    What would you say about a story covering the “PATRIOT Act” which refused to use that title, “a phrase made up by rightwing securocrats”?
    What do you think of the Times habit, now that it is being enforced by a Republican administration, of referring to the Clinton-signed “terrorism” law (“The Prevention of Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act”) solely as “a controversial 1996 law”?
    (Pause for shrieks of “That’s DIFFERENT!”)

  • Jeff

    A women can’t just walk into Planned Parenthood 8 months pregnant and proclaim she doesn’t want to have a baby and get this procedure. The ONLY time this procedure is performed is when something is SERIOUSLY wrong.

    That is simply factually untrue according to testimony given by abortion providers themselves. The majority of abortions (including late-term) are for contraceptive and not health reasons.

    Your statement has been disproven, yet it still comes up in reporting and discussion on abortion.

  • Tim

    Andy writes, “And drop the “illegal” nonsense, will you? Your personal feelings against something do not Federal law make”

    Not federal law Andy, international law, and it’s not my personal feelings but the failed, stated reason for the invasion. But the point I was trying to make is that just because you or I or Mollie don’t like a phrase used in reporting a story doesn’t neccessarily mean it’s biased. Plenty of people on both the left and right wish that the press would slant stories in their favor, and more and more, people are willing to substitute opinion for news just because they don’t like what they read.

  • Dawn

    “That is simply factually untrue according to testimony given by abortion providers themselves. The majority of abortions (including late-term) are for contraceptive and not health reasons.

    Your statement has been disproven, yet it still comes up in reporting and discussion on abortion.”

    Jeff,
    Then a simple health exception to save the life of the mother in the ruling would have prevented those types of abortions BUT IT ISN’T. My point stands that MY RIGHTS and health as a future mother have been put in jeopardy by this ruling.
    Before I would never even have given any thought to all of the things that could go wrong in the last trimester of a pregnancy but because of this ruling it has become all to clear to me (and I am sure MANY other pro-lifers)
    This ruling crosses a line that personally jeopardized ME, my life, my family, my future. I will not get pregnant without genetic screening and testing throughout my pregnancy.
    This is the WORST way the Pro-Life movement could have gone. Not only will it energize pro-choicers but you will lose the support of every female of childbearing age that contemplates what this means to her personally.

  • kyle

    Dawn,

    1) There are other procedures available, unfortunately, so it probably won’t stop a single abortion.

    2) It does include an exception for a mother’s life.

    3) Disabled unborn babies are people, too, and don’t deserve any more than any other baby to have scissors jabbed in the back of their heads.

    4) How pro-life could a person possibly be and fly into all-caps rage at this overwhelming popular, very small victory for life, banning something so obviously, gratuitously barbaric, being an infringement on “MY RIGHTS”?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Michael:

    Did you address MZ’s point about some created language being accepted by the media on one side whole similar phrases are forbidden on the other?

    Also, What happens if the phrase Partial-Birth Abortion is actually in the name of the legislation? Do you boycott usage of the name of the actual bill?

  • Jeff

    Then a simple health exception to save the life of the mother in the ruling would have prevented those types of abortions BUT IT ISN’T

    Dawn, I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. The Doe ruling gutted the “health” exception by defining it so broadly as to make it meaningless. “Health” legally includes the mother’s psychological health. So if carrying to term would be mentally distressing, then the state can’t do anything. This ban does, though, provide a health exception to save the life of the mother.

    I sincerely wish there could be broad, legitimate health exceptions, but unfortunately SCOTUS has made that impossible. That’s another part of the abortion story that doesn’t get reported in stories like this.

  • Jerry

    overwhelming popular

    That is not the case as surveys show unless you discount the large number and the apparent majority of Americans.

  • Adam Greenwood

    Extremely shabby coverage.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Has anyone seen a sign of a Democrat hailing the decision?

    Has a Democrats for Life statement received any attention?

    I have to admit that I was very disappointed in the Barack Obama statement. I thought there was a chance that he might reach out to the majority — of his own party.

    http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/2006/08/16/

  • Michael

    TMatt, since I write about immigration, I will comment on what we came up with in using these terms in our newsroom.

    For instance, advocates of immigration amnesty found out that the public didn’t like the term “amnesty” so they came up with “comprehensive immigration reform.”

    “Amnesty” is the loaded-agenda driven term here.

    The last time we used the term was in 1986, when illegal immigrants were given almost instantaneous legal status. The current proposals aren’t even close to that situation, since they include time-periods, fines, and maybe even requiring illegal immigrants to return to their home country before applying. There’s no definition of “amnesty” in common usage that would include such requirements.

    As if other immigration proposals supporting deportation of illegal aliens or other strategies are *not* comprehensive.

    There’s nothing comprehensive about deportation, since it fails to respond to border security or how to deal with new illegal immigrants. The comprehensive reform proposals deal with border security, workplace enforcement, etc. I tend not to use the word “comprehensive” unless I’m describing the current bipartisan proposal–which is comprehensive,

    Or replacing “illegal aliens” with “undocumented workers” — a term used whether or not the illegal persons work or not.

    I concede this one is more politically correct than anything else. In that way, it’s like “fundamentalist” which has taken on such a stigma that even those who it apply to reject it. Since I write about employment, I use “undocumented worker” but use “illegal” in headlines.

    Also, What happens if the phrase Partial-Birth Abortion is actually in the name of the legislation? Do you boycott usage of the name of the actual bill?

    If it’s the name of the bill, you use when talking about the bill. Beyond that, it’s inside quotes, just like “death tax.”

  • Scott

    Would this even be an issue, if all of the procedures done like this were in fact to save the mothers life? I have found out that an astonishing number of these procedures are for other reasons. If that is the case, do it LONG BEFORE six months of pregnancy….no issue.

  • Dawn

    “How pro-life could a person possibly be and fly into all-caps rage at this overwhelming popular, very small victory for life, banning something so obviously, gratuitously barbaric, being an infringement on “MY RIGHTS”?”

    My rights are being violated by being told that if I need chemo or dangerous drugs during a pregnancy I have to either NOT get treatment or get treatment with a baby in my womb. My rights are being violated by telling my that if my baby is affected by a horrible disorder that will prevent any quality of life and be so expensive it will bankrupt me and my family that I cannot terminate the preganancy and try again for a healthy baby or adopt.

    What kind of Pro-Lifer am I??? I am a moderate one YOU KNOW THE MAJORITY ONE whose support you need. Don’t judge me because I will not kill myself during a pregnancy to further your cause. Do not judge me because I refuse to give birth to a child growing in my womb which has no spine and cannot survive outside of me.

    There are thousands of legitimate reasons a women who would never consider having an abortion for birth control would choose one to save her life, prevent financial ruin, and have healthy children.

    Save your judgement for yourself.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    stay on topic folks — discuss abortion coverage. Not abortion.

  • Robbie

    I mentioned this in my first post way back when the post were in the single digits, but a quick repeptition of my problem with “partial-birth abortion”:

    This was a case where the ambiguity of a term meant everything. When the Nebraska legislature passed a “partial-birth abortion ban” — and they also used that term, the Court in 2000 interpreted it to include both intact D&E and D&X procedures. It ruled that this was too vague and broad. One can agree or disagree with that — as a working journalist, I won’t say anything either way on that.

    Now, the Court upheld this “partial-birth abortion ban” because the Court ruled that the procedure only covers intact D&E. Even if the government didn’t specifically say that, that’s how the Court interprets the law, which means that’s how lower courts will have to interpret it.

    So by using “partial-birth abortion ban,” one could interpret that as saying the Court overruled its 2000 decision, which it (ostensibly, at least) did not.

    “A method of abortion” is vague and bland, but it’s also accurate — all this decision did on its face was allow a ban on a single, specific type of abortion. Yes, the decision might have larger implications, and I think it does. But the onl;y material effect is that this one method of abortion can be banned by the federal government (pending future case-based appeals or federalism appeals, as noted in Kennedy’s opinion and Thomas’ concurrence).

    I’d also perhaps suggest that “birth” can be an ambiguous term. When I hear “birth,” I tend to think of someone being born for the purpose of living, often naturally but sometimes by C-section or the like. In this case, that’s not the case, and I’m wary of a newspaper leading readers to that assumption.

  • kyle

    Terminate your baby, you mean, Dawn.

    As for judgment, you have no idea what experience I might have with “terrible disorders” and babies, so perhaps you are the one who should withhold judgment. Disabled people are people too.

    Nobody who thinks partial-birth abortion should be legal is a moderate anything.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Michael wrote that amnesty was justified in 1986 — but not now because back then they got “almost instantaneous legal status” as opposed the the steps they have to take now.

    In fact, they had to fill out an application and pay a fee within 18 months; then they had to go to an INS office and submit fingerprints for a background check; they got “temporary resident status” and a work permit; they had to maintain that status for 18 months; then then had one year to apply for permanent residence for which they had to submit another application, undergo another background check, and demonstrate a basic knowledge of English and Civics, which required an interview. Others were required to provide proof of previous work.

    My point stands — amnesty was an okay term to use until advocates stopped using it and fought it because it didn’t poll well.

    The media was responding to advocates. Why is that okay sometimes and not others?

  • Dale

    Michael said:

    Exactly how much more emphasis on the Kennedy majority would have been needed to satisfy you, Mollie?

    It’s pretty clear that Greenhouse used the Ginsburg dissent and its criticism of the majority to frame an interpretation of the Kennedy opinion. Paragraph counting is a crude–and not very effective– way of determining balance.

    For example, Greenhouse’s opening paragraph announces:

    The Supreme Court reversed course on abortion on Wednesday, upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in a 5-to-4 decision that promises to reframe the abortion debate

    Whatever it did, the SCOTUS did not “reverse course”. It did not reverse or overrule any of its previous decisions. The majority opinion very carefully states that it is staying with the framework of the previous abortion rights case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. To state that it somehow “reversed course” is misleading; it assumes that the Supreme Court has always adopted the positions of abortion rights advocates, and that any decision that doesn’t do that “reverses course”. There is no 180 degree turn involved in this decision. There is a slight but significant change of course. It is Ginsburg’s opinion that the majority decision is an important departure from previous precedent, but I doubt that even she would say the court has “reversed course” on abortion.

    Then Greenhouse immediately goes on to say:

    The most important vote was that of the newest justice, Samuel A. Alito Jr. In another 5-to-4 decision seven years ago, his predecessor, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, voted to strike down a similar state law.

    This again shows her bias: the Court’s opinion is explainable by a change in the liberal/conservative head count. She characterizes the Nebraska statute at issue in a previous SCOTUS case as “similar”, whereas the majority opinion saw enough dissimilarities between the state statute and the Partial Birth Abortion Act that it came to a different holding. By making a change in court composition the decisive issue, Greenhouse assumes, along with Ginsburg, that the outcome of the prior case should have applied to the case before the Court. Thus, Greenhouse discounts the reasoning of the majority opinion in favor of seeing a mere change in court composition.

    Most notable was the emphasis in the majority opinion, by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, on the implication of abortion’s “ethical and moral concerns.”

    While it’s notable, it’s nothing new to consider “ethical and moral concerns” in abortion legislation. Even in Roe v. Wade the Court recognized those concerns in allowing the regulation of third trimester abortions.

    It was also a vindication for the strategic choice the anti-abortion movement made 15 years ago, when the prospect of persuading the Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion seemed a distant dream. By identifying the intact procedure and giving it the provocative label “partial-birth abortion,” the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses.

    There is nothing in this opinion that indicates that right to abortion is in any more danger than it was 15 years ago, unless you assume, as apparently Greenhouse does, that Ginsburg’s dissent is right and the court is surreptitiously reversing prior precedent. That’s a tendentious reading of the majority opinion. As Mollie says, she also assumes that the term “partial birth abortion” was a decisive factor, which ignores the extremely unpleasant nature of the procedure, whatever you call it.

    Much further down the article, Greenhouse finally admits:

    The court did not explicitly overturn any of its precedents

    Wait a minute, didn’t you say that it “reversed course”? Then she goes on to clarify:

    although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenters, said the decision was “so at odds with our jurisprudence” that it “should not have staying power.”

    Oh, so they’re only pretending to follow precedent.

    Justice Kennedy took pains to describe the decision as faithful to the court’s earlier rulings, including the one in the Nebraska case.

    Using the phrase “took pains” makes it sound as if the court was doing something extraordinary by distinguishing the case before the court from precedent, including the case involving the Nebraska statute. It’s nothing extraordinary; it’s part of any decent court decision. Greenhouse communicates her opinion regarding the court’s distinction: it’s pained, forced. That’s bias.

    He said that pregnant women or their doctors could assert an individual need for a health exception by going to court to challenge the law as it applied to them.
    Justice Ginsburg said that this approach was unrealistic and “gravely mistaken.” She said that requiring “piecemeal” litigation “jeopardizes women’s health and places doctors in an untenable position.”

    The case before the Court began as a complaint asking the district court for injunctive relief: a ruling that the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was unconstitutional before it came into effect. The majority opinion decides that the statute is not so defective as to be unconstitutional on its face, but leaves open a possibility that the Court will find it defective and unconstitutional if and when the Act is challenged in a case with specific facts. If a subsequent case can show that an exception is actually required to protect a mother’s health, the Court may, and presumably would, come to a different decision. That doesn’t necessarily mean that court decisions will be “piecemeal”, as Ginsburg claims. It’s possible that the Court will decide that the Act is unworkable as applied, and throw the whole Act out as unconstitutional. Roe v. Wade decided a case involving a specific dispute over specific women’s access to abortion, not a general request for injunctive relief against abortion laws, but the effect of that decision surely can’t be described as “piecemeal”. Greenhouse doesn’t explain any of this to the reader. She repeats Ginsburg’s criticism without any clarification.

    In his discussion of the court’s precedents, Justice Kennedy went so far as to suggest that the new ruling was in fact compelled by the court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that reaffirmed the basic holding of Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to abortion.

    Using the phrase “went so far as” is evaluative; it implies that Kennedy’s reference to Casey is a questionable interpretation. Justice Kennedy obviously did not think he was going very far at all by referencing Casey; otherwise, he wouldn’t have done it. Unless Greenhouse is trying to insert her opinion about Kennedy’s reasoning, “went so far as” is unnecessary and inappropriate.

    Finally, Greenhouse dwells on Kennedy’s justification of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as a protection for women, which Ginsburg strongly criticizes as patriarchal. Greenhouse doesn’t mention that this is not Kennedy’s primary justification for upholding the Act, and that this justification doesn’t appear necessary to the court’s decision. The opinion focuses primarily on the brutal nature of the procedure, and its uncomfortable similarity to infanticide, and holds that this is a valid reason to regulate certain abortion procedures. The state’s interest in protecting women is mentioned secondarily.

    So Greenhouse’s abortion rights bias is definitely present in the story. Although it could have been worse, it also could have been better.

    Michael said:

    Whether you agree or not, there is a constitutional right to an abortion.

    Only so far as that constitutional right is defined by the Supreme Court. This decision states that the constitutional right to abortion does not necessarily include a right to a specifically defined procedure.

    A decision that erodes that right is a big deal. The legal question—as opposed to ths societal or religious quesiton—is about the rights of the woman.

    There isn’t any independent standard of a woman’s right to abortion that can be said to have eroded. The textual basis in the Constitution for Roe v. Wade is extremely attenuated, so abortion rights advocates can hardly argue that Kennedy has ignored the clear meaning of the Constitution. Basically, a woman’s right to abortion is what the Supreme Court says it is. That’s what happens when you depend upon the Supreme Court to create new constitutional rights, rather than following the constitutionally provided process of amendment.

  • Bluesdaddy

    Aren’t the majority of the comments on this post violating the whole “don’t debate the issue, comment on the reporting” policy?

    Some of the hyperbole in the comments are truly astounding coming, as one presumes, from fairly literate and rational human beings.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I keep seeing comments that the media can’t “please both sides” as if the MSM media’s track record is one normally of “down-the-middle” reporting on abortion. What horsecrap. I have yet to see–in a lot of media reading– a specific news article or story in the MSM cited and analyzed by pro-abortionists as being tilted toward the pro-life side. On the other hand you could fill Yankee Stadium with the – tons of individual news stories devoted to pro-abortion slanted news coverage in the MSM (including the biased scripts for TV and radio news.)
    And most objective literate people can clearly sense how the NY TIMES is smogging up this story in its own unique Greenhouse Effect polluted coverage. The NY TIMES seems determined to make itself into a national joke with so much liberal propaganda in its coverage masquerading as news.

  • Michael

    Under the current proposal, Mollie, none of what you mention would happen for 11 years and not without paying fines and penalties. There’s nothing instantaneous about that and therefore it isn’t amnesty. That’s not forgiveness or a pardon, which is the definition of amnesty.

    I don’t doubt that the media takes on the terms of advocates, but we should be avoiding it at all costs and especially when it comes to an issue like abortion where allegations of media bias are tossed around like frisbees.

    I again go back to the contortions that this blog gets into over the use of “fundamentalist” and how it demonstrates bias. I can’t fathom a logical or ethical argument that suggests it is wrong to use “fundamentalist” as a general descriptor in good journalism, but it’s perfectly fine to use a made-up term by the pro-life movement like “partial birth abortion.”

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Note–I didn’t see anywhere the background of Judge Ginsburg. Didn’t she used to be a lawyer for some pro-abortion group-like Planned Parenthood? How come this hasn’t come up in the coverage? But I’ve seen many commenta already about the 5 RCs on the Supreme Court.

  • http://irishlaw.blogspot.com Kimberly

    Mollie wondered if Greenhouse framed her articles the same way when it involves issues she is more sympathetic to. I dug up her article the day after Lawrence v. Texas was handed down, and found some differences (and some similarities). First, the Carhart article allows Justice Ginsberg and other opponents of the partial-birth abortion ban multiple “rebuttals,” as it were, in the description of the decision itself, by quoting her dissent several times. In the Lawrence article, Justice Scalia’s dissent is only directly quoted once, and paraphrased later, with both quotes, rather than serving as rebuttals to the majority’s opinion, rebutted themselves. For example, see how each article concludes. For Carhart:

    Justice Ginsburg objected vehemently that “this way of thinking reflects ancient notions of women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

    She cited century-old Supreme Court cases that upheld a paternalistic view of women’s place in society and contrasted those with more recent cases, including one she successfully argued to the court in 1977 and one in which she wrote the majority opinion in 1996, that rejected “archaic and overbroad generalizations” and assumptions about women’s inherent dependency.

    One law professor, Martin S. Lederman of Georgetown University, commented after reading Justice Ginsburg’s response on this point that Justice Kennedy’s opinion “was an attack on her entire life’s work.”

    In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg said the majority had provided only “flimsy and transparent justifications” for upholding the law, which she noted “saves not a single fetus from destruction” by banning a single method of abortion. “One wonders how long a line that saves no fetus from destruction will hold in face of the court’s ‘moral concerns,’ ” she said.

    She gives the last four paragraphs over to the dissenting side, and the last word to Justice Ginsberg. By contrast, in the Lawrence article, see how it concludes:

    Earlier, as Justice Kennedy was reading excerpts from his decision, the mood in the courtroom went from enormous tension and then — on the part of the numerous gay and lesbian lawyers seated in the bar section — to visible relief. By the time he referred to the dignity and respect to which he said gays were entitled, several were weeping, silently but openly.

    The majority opinion was notable in many respects: its critical dissection of a recent precedent; its use of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, supporting gay rights, to show that the court under Bowers v. Hardwick was out of step with other Western countries; and its many citations to the court’s privacy precedents, including the abortion rights cases.

    The citations to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey appeared particularly to inflame Justice Scalia. If Bowers v. Hardwick merited overruling, he said, so too did Roe v. Wade. He also said that laws against bigamy, adultery, prostitution, bestiality and obscenity were now susceptible to challenges.

    The majority opinion did not precisely respond to that prediction, noting instead that the right claimed by Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Garner did not involve prostitution, public behavior, coercion or minors.

    The fundamental debate on the court was over the meaning of the Constitution’s due process guarantee, which Justice Kennedy said was sufficiently expansive so that “persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”

    Just as Justice Ginsberg’s syllables resonated in the courtroom, here we have people weeping silently and openly and a conclusion with sweeping words about freedom.

    The dissenters are similarly described: Ginsberg is “vehement,” Scalia “scathing,” “accusing” and “inflamed.” But I think just reading the different tone of each article shows the differences. The Lawrence article is full of quotes in support of the “sweeping declaration of constitutional liberty for gay men and lesbians,” while a single sentence notes that social conservatives “reacted to the decision with alarm and fury.” The Carhart article gives more prominence to Justice Ginberg’s objections to the majority and, as Mollie pointed out, very carefully avoids describing what the entire opinion was about:

    The banned procedure, known medically as “intact dilation and extraction,” involves removing the fetus in an intact condition rather than dismembering it in the uterus. Both methods are used to terminate pregnancies beginning at about 12 weeks, after the fetus has grown too big to be removed by the suction method commonly used in the first trimester, when 85 percent to 90 percent of all abortions take place.

    Of course, ordinarily, removing a fetus intact from its mother’s womb means it has been born, which might cause one to wonder how exactly the abortion actually happens and why it was banned. No mention of scissors or skulls or even “cranial contents.” Anyway. Sorry for the long excerpts. Greenhouse is usually very good about letting Court opinions speak for themselves, and I’m glad she often offers extensive quotes from both sides so you can see the actual language used in opinions and dissents. Still there is a definite difference in tone regarding an outcome Greenhouse sympathized with and one to which she clearly had objections.

  • kyle

    You know what would be a really great story angle? “What is meant by the term ‘partial-birth abortion’?” And, gosh, lo and behold there’s a ton of testimony on that question, from abortion providers themselves, under oath, in court, with regard to this very law. (Link is posted above.) Who knew? (Probably not readers.) Hey, here’s an idea: a newspaper could even show a picture of it! I hear some abortion providers have even shown abortion-rights groups videos of the procedure, to thunderous applause. Perhaps they’d be willing to share a clip or two for the evening news.

    So that way, you know, nobody would be confused by those nasty pro-lifers and their made-up, non-medical terms, and everyone could know exactly what we’re talking about. Literally 100 percent of the information could come from abortion providers. Just run raw footage and scroll the description right from the trial transcripts.

    What do you think, secular media reporters? Any takers? Wouldn’t that be bravery at least akin to showing a mass murder’s video manifesto over coffee?

    Oh, here’s another great story idea. Why do people have this D&X/partial birth procedure? There’s actual data. Perhaps it would be informative for readers/viewers in helping them to understand the context of this decision of a story focused on that question, how many of them had it for the health reasons everyone is so worked up about. And when we get to the part about prenatal testing, we can have a debate about terms. Whose health are we worried about then? Can a blob of tissue (much like a hernia, as Jerry suggested above) have a skeletal deformity? The media pat themselves on the back for putting quotation marks around “surge” or “partial-birth abortion” or for bravely deciding to call the civil war raging in Iraq a civil war. So how about “eugenics” – is that one of those off-limits, made-up words or one of those brave words? It’s so hard to keep track.

  • http://irishlaw.blogspot.com Kimberly

    Sorry for the misspellings on Justice Ginsburg’s name.

    To answer Deacon Bresnahan, yes, Justice Ginsburg was an ACLU lawyer noted for work on feminist issues.

  • kyle

    Heck, since no persons’ lives are taken by partial-birth abortion according to opponents of this decision and since crushing skulls and tearing off arms and legs is really the same as ripping apart a hernia according to one advocate in here, it would actually be much less brave than showing the Cho video. What a perfect solution to this naming problem! I’m sure we pro-lifers would be made to look fools for attaching such a terrible name to this wonderful clinical procedure with the long name.

  • Jerry

    I thought there was a chance that he might reach out to the majority — of his own party.

    Yet another unsubstantiated statement of true belief in what the majority really believes. We’re clearly in “Alice in Wonderland” territory where words (and statistics) mean what the speaker says they mean.

    Dawn, I’m with you. May God grant that you never have to face having a pregnancy which will end in the death of the fetus no matter what choice you make.

  • kyle

    Jerry, even your own links, including the ABC poll and the first several pew polls, shows opposition to partial birth abortion. On the ABC one, it’s down at the bottom of the page: 69 percent overall think it should be illegal, and 60 percent of Obama’s party does. That is in line with other polls I’ve ever seen on the subject. I would be very, very interested to see a poll that said otherwise.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Thanks Kimberly–By the way have you seen her ACLU membership mentioned anywhere?? It probably has, but I must have missed it. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if most reporters subconsciously left out this tidbit of VERY relevant information.

  • kyle

    Deacon John, a quick Google News search turns up 37 hits for “alito catholic” and seven hits for “ginsburg aclu” (including a press release from the ACLU.

  • ganzimal

    Michael,

    There was nothing instantaneous about the the ’86 amnesty, either, but where are you getting 11 years? STRIVE is the only “comprehensive” bill that has been introduced this Congress, but I’ve not heard 11 years being in it. Even if it is, does that mean that illegal aliens sit around in the U.S. without penalty until the 11-year mark? If so, what do you call that? A stay of deportation?

    There is much quibbling over what constitutes amnesty in the immigration debate, but what about the term “comprehensive?” Why can’t an enforcement-only bill be called “comprehensive” if it deals, among other things, with illegal immigrants – both present and future – by requiring deportation?

    The whole point, though, is that terms are made up by those representing a particular side of an issue all the time. I think “comprehensive immigration reform” is one of those terms. But the big difference with “partial birth abortion” is that we all know what it means. We can argue all day long about the finer points of what constitutes an “amnesty” or “comprehensive immigration reform.” But I think the definition for “partial birth abortion” is pretty well established. As much as I may not like it, I can see how “pro-life” is not as accurate as “anti-abortion” or “pro-choice” as “pro-abortion.” However, I do think that it’s not so much who came up with the term or who likes it, even, it’s more a matter of how accurate and clear it is to the reader. So it would seem a bias to avoid the phrase just because of who originated it rather than how accurate it is.

  • kyle

    Dawn, I’m with you. May God grant that you never have to face having a pregnancy which will end in the death of the fetus no matter what choice you make.

    After a baby is born, you can’t call him or her a fetus anymore – truth in labeling, remember. If a fetus dies naturally before birth, it’s not an abortion. What you wrote doesn’t make sense.

  • http://altreligion.about.com Jennifer Emick

    “If a fetus dies naturally before birth, it’s not an abortion. ”

    Actually, in the case of a miscarriage, it is.

    “What specifically about that description is problematic? What makes “intact extraction” preferable to “partial-birth”? ”

    The first is a slang term created for the sole purpose of creating an emotional reation. It’s not neutral, and it’s not accurate.

  • Dale

    The first is a slang term created for the sole purpose of creating an emotional reation. It’s not neutral, and it’s not accurate.

    Sometimes a clinically correct description devoid of emotional impact is not truthful or accurate. For example, think of the term “collateral damage”: it is correct, insofar as someone collateral to armed conflict is damaged. However, it robs an emotion-laden event, the death of unarmed civillians, of its real emotional impact. Abortion opponents would argue that much of the terminology used by abortion rights advocates does the same thing.

    I’m all for describing the procedure accurately–but “dilation and extraction” isn’t it, anymore that “inaccurate aiming of firearms” is an accurate description of the death of unarmed civillians.

  • http://altreligion.about.com Jennifer Emick

    Sorry, meant to split that into twop posts.

  • kyle

    Spontaneous abortion, not induced abortion, Jennifer. But you knew that.

    “Intact abortion”? Get serious. That would suggest the baby, you know, remains intact. If only.

    So, why don’t reporters just show instead of tell? Still waiting for an answer to that one.

  • http://altreligion.about.com Jennifer Emick

    “I’m all for describing the procedure accurately—but “dilation and extraction” isn’t it, anymore that “inaccurate aiming of firearms” is an accurate description of the death of unarmed civillians. ”

    Bad analogy, Dale. The former doesn’t leave too much to the imagination, while the latter is a misstatement of fact.

    It is clear that a fetus is killed during any abortion procedure, there is no need to inject an innaccurate emotional trigger to it. That’s why we say “civillian deaths,” not “civillian massacre,” and so on. (Or why we say “pork” and not “dead pig,” even if someone out there believes wee should be emotional about the death of livestock.) It is not a reporter’s place to play up “emotional impact” through loaded words- that kind of thing belongs on the opinion pages.

    BTW- the term is technically not ‘dilation and extraction,’(of which there are several methods) it’s ‘intact dilation and extraction,’and if that’s not descriptive enough, there is “intrauterine cranial decompression.”

    Of course the real omission in these stories is that the procedure that is banned will be replaced by the older, much more gruesome variety.

  • http://irishlaw.blogspot.com Kimberly

    People can say “partial birth abortion” is a non-medical, more emotional label, but they can’t object to it as being inaccurate, as some have here. It’s absolutely accurate – the fetus is partially born — with the cervix dilated and the fetus delivered breech until it is almost entirely outside of the body with only the head inside the vaginal canal. Then it’s aborted, by collapsing the head so that it won’t be alive when it emerges completely (in which case it would be all the way born). Partial-birth abortion is absolutely accurate.

    Furthermore, while “amnesty/comprehensive immigration reform” is proving more controversial on this comment thread, Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out a few more examples in his book — the press routinely says “heart attack” instead of the clinical “myocardial infarction,” and people know what it means even though it’s non-technical. When Congress banned “assault weapons,” the media used the term even though it was emotionally loaded (no pun intended) and non-specific as to what exact weapons were being banned. The insistence on using clinical specific terms only arises when it comes to this curious “method of abortion” that the majority of reporters find disadvantageous to the cause to define.

    Also, kyle — I suspect the main objection to showing the procedure in lieu of naming it anything in particular (from the media, the dissenting justices’ and pro-choicers’ perspective) it that disgust is not a rationale for opposing this procedure, since after all other surgical procedures may also look gruesome but be morally neutral. But Discovery Health shows surgeries all the time. People intuitively know what they’re seeing if small body parts are being pulled out of a womb or a skull is deflated; it’s different than breast reduction or hernia surgery or C-sections.

  • Dale

    It is clear that a fetus is killed during any abortion procedure

    Then there is no problem making that clear in our language. Otherwise, we’re obfuscating.

    intact dilation and extraction,’and if that’s not descriptive enough, there is “intrauterine cranial decompression

    Now put it into common English: “dilation, crushing of the fetal head in the uterus, and removal”. That’s accurate.

    Of course the real omission in these stories is that the procedure that is banned will be replaced by the older, much more gruesome variety.

    If you mean other forms of dilation and extraction (or more correctly, dilation, dismemberment and extraction), you’re right; that is, if you consider puncturing a skull and pulling out the brains less gruesome than pulling the fetus out of uterus piece by piece. Personally, I consider it a toss-up, but I can see why Justice Kennedy might see the presence of the fetus outside the uterus as symbolically significant.

    If you mean that women will have to resort to illegal abortions, the court’s decision was predicated on other forms of abortion being available; thus the “partial birth” abortion procedure was not necessary. One of the ways this opinion could be subject to challenge is from a plaintiff who can show that the “partial birth” abortion procedure is the only one safely available.

    So, despite the spin being thrown by all sides, the decision really doesn’t affect the availability of abortion per se; it just limits certain types of abortion procedures.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Those who want immigration restricted more also call their position “immigration reform”. Everybody is for “reform” – and it offers a nice handy rhetorical club to use on anyone who presumes to disagree with you.
    Remember, it used to be “abortion reform”, not “abortion legalization”. And of course, who could be so depraved as to oppose “campaign finance reform”?
    It was this sort of emotional blackmail which convinced me that Roscoe Conkling was right: “When Johnson called patriotism ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’, he overlooked the possibilities of the word ‘reform’.”

  • Gregor

    I agree with the media’s bias against the rights of children. No headline will say “Right to live for children are restricted” when a court ruling promotes the cause of abortion. There is absolutely no medical reason to abort the life of a child in the later stages of pregnancy, when the child can live outside of the womb.

  • Andy

    Since we have come to a point in this country where few are really aware of what is going on – other than ‘work, eat, spend, sleep, screw’ …I think the term ‘Partial Birth Abortion’ …even though not THE medical term, is quite right. Else wise how would the dumbed down masses have any inklings about the horror of the procedure?
    Amazing how words can be configured to keep the uninformed …uninformed!

  • Mikearno

    Perhaps post natal abortion would be the more accurate term.

  • kyle

    Speaking of post-natal abortions, from the testimony in previous courts, it seems that sometimes this procedure results in a live birth. Live birth “abortion,” aka infanticide, is illegal under federal law. Anyone seen any coverage on this?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I had to delete a comment because it was mostly off topic and launched an ad hominem attack. The commenter took the unwise approach of launching that ad hominem attack against me — and I have deletion privileges.

    Stay on topic as so many of you brilliantly have and stay away from the ad hominem. Even when dealing with such a life and death issue as presented here, we can and should be civil.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Miketoreno –

    I have now deleted two additional comments from you. Mostly because they repeated your ad hominem attacks and also misquoted me.

    I have a suggestion for you. Directly quote who you are responding to so that you don’t misquote.

    And don’t impugn motivations. For instance your claim that I don’t care about women’s health is not an okay statement to make.

    And it’s particularly silly given that I am not only a woman but a pregnant woman.

    Try again and let’s get your comments up here.

    Try putting the best construction on your opponents’ motivation.

  • kyle

    Also, kyle — I suspect the main objection to showing the procedure in lieu of naming it anything in particular (from the media, the dissenting justices’ and pro-choicers’ perspective) it that disgust is not a rationale for opposing this procedure, since after all other surgical procedures may also look gruesome but be morally neutral. But Discovery Health shows surgeries all the time. People intuitively know what they’re seeing if small body parts are being pulled out of a womb or a skull is deflated; it’s different than breast reduction or hernia surgery or C-sections.

    Kimberly, yes, I know, but we both know it’s a bogus argument, for the reason you identify. The Today Show could show Katie’s colon a million times and there would be exactly zero calls to ban colonoscopies, although plenty of us might want to ban such footage on the Today Show. But show an abortion and everyone will know that it’s, well, not a mere “surgical procedure,” it’s a homicide.

    It’s odd, isn’t it, that media outlets will go to the mat defending a decision to show the innocent dead victims of a massacre or a war or will scream at the top of their lungs for access to flag-draped coffins of war dead. The people have a right to know, they say. You can’t convey the violence of war, or the violence of a shooting spree, without showing it, they say. But they steadfastly refuse to show Americans what is being talked about in the most controversial issue in American politics, an issue in which Supreme Court rulings and advocates for those rulings claim there is no dead victim at all.

    But there is absolutely no media bias in reporting abortion. Keep repeating this until you convince yourself it’s true.

    Yes, Jennifer, please enlighten us on the even more gruesome procedure this decision will spread. Please, please, please tell every American exactly what is done in the name of “choice.” Because the media won’t.

  • Tim

    I know this post isn’t about news coverage but with all the angry comments from you and Dawn and Kyle and the Deacon about abortion I thought it might be a welcome observation.
    There are people on the left who are concerned that a repeal of Roe v Wade would be the first, tumbling domino in a string of civil rights laws. They want to protect individual rights at all costs. As such they aren’t really concerned with finding solutions to the problem of abortion.
    There are people on the right who want to use abortion law to force their religious beliefs on American society. They rail against education, contraception and streamlined adoption laws as being immoral. Their only solution is abstinence. They aren’t really concerned with finding solutions to the problem of abortion either.
    There are plenty of people, like myself, in the middle of the debate. We recognize abortion as being a serious problem and respect those who wish to honestly address it. Sensible abortion laws that protect the health of the mother and the rights of the unborn are possible, but only with compromise. It’s evident from the posts here that this is an emotionally charged issue, but it can only be solved if people are willing to check their emotions at the door. If we can agree that abortion is a symptom of greater societal ills, that would be a good first step. The right would likely blame a decline in morality and the left would blame substandard education and economic inequality. There are good arguments to be made for both views. Perhaps a more effective way to reduce the number of abortions in this country would be to address the root causes. Trying to legislate a solution may turn out to be as ineffective as it is divisive.

  • kyle

    Tim, it’s much easier to write off the points of someone you disagree with as angry or religious or emotional. But not more reasonable.

  • http://cephalis.blogspot.com Charles Francis

    Any media coverage that words this topic in a way that values a fetus higher than the woman carrying it is distorting reality in my opinion.

  • Steve

    Write this down. This half-step forward will be offset by two-steps backward. Observe how the debate has essentially spiralled downward from the point where the issue was about the right of the unborn human to live, to where we are now: arguing about at what POINT this pre-born soul will be permitted it’s God-given right to live.

    Anyone who goes fishing will at times, upon setting a hook, choose to exhaust a fish by reeling it in some, letting out some line (ahh, the fish now has a false hope of escape), reeling it in yet further, and ultimately the fish ends up as a main dish. We are being played like a fish.

    Any righteous who hope for a real long-term victory in this issue, forget about it. America has LONG had a love affair with infanticide, but this well-timed (18 months before the 2008 election)’victory’ DOES serve a purpose. Watch now as ‘conservatives’ portray this as a harbinger of victory, thereby energizing their (campaign funds contributing) base. Fund extraction will be facilitated,no doubt, by the fact that we now perceive the threat of a shift in the majority-status of the (12 years of do-nothing)House Of Representatives ( I see a phonetic acronym there; do you?).

  • Herb Brasher

    Uh Mollie, Mike Toreno is a regular on other blogs, and also goes under the name of Mary Rosh or Carol Hathaway, and probably others. He/she has also been banned from these for the same behavior.

  • Rene Mathis

    I think we need an Amnesty bill for children in the womb. Or, maybe a right to citizenship after the first tri-mester.

    It seems to me that our unborn children deserve as many rights under the constitution as do immigrants whether they are legal or not.

    Maybe we can issue temporary visas to these most helpless and innocent lives.

    Then again, to get everyone’s attention, perhaps Abortion Holocaust musems could be built in every city, after all everyone reading this is an Abortion Holocaust Survivor.

    We should be sensitive to the diversity of humans everywhere (even in the womb) no matter how small. So, let’s have federal funding and mandated school teachings regarding the civil rights of the unborn child. And while we are at it, the teacher’s unions should expand their scope beyond pre-pre-school, but into pre-birth schooling.

    It all makes sense to me.

  • Mike Toreno

    Herb, I don’t have the slightest idea who these people are that you’re talking about. I do know that Mollie’s post sees bias where none exists. She sees “bias” in the failure of various press outlets to describe phenomena in the same emotion-laden terms the anti-abortion industry uses to describe them. That isn’t bias. She sees bias in pointing out the medical evidence of the increase risk of death and permanent injury to women, while failing to give equal weight to the specious claims, of some dermatologist somewhere whose opinion was solicited by the anti-abortion industry. That isn’t bias. Objective reporting doesn’t consist of simply reciting both “sides” of an issue. Objective reporting is finding out the truth and reporting the truth.

    The truth is that there is no such medical term as “partial birth abortion”, that the term was invented for political reasons, that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposes the prohibition on the grounds that it endangers the lives and health of women, and that any medical opinion to the contrary comes from persons who are not experts in the field, and whose opinions were solicited by the anti-abortion industry for political reasons. That’s the truth, and it is the right and the duty of the press to report it. The failure of the press to give equal weight to every opinion, true or false, isn’t bias, it’s simply competent reporting.

  • Byron Canfield

    There is no way to obtain any degree of reason from one who insists that a book is the absolute truth solely because the book, itself, lays claim to being the abosolute truth.

  • Jennifer

    I was reading your article. Although the incessant ignorance, self righteous hypocrisy that comprise its content are often frustrating, this article was particularly infuriating. Propaganda is a part of politics and I recognize that really, all you are is lobbyists for your own personal opinions regarding the reproductive choices of others.

    The use of the term “advocate abortion” is comical. Very few people are “pro-abortion” or “advocate” abortion. Naturally, there are crazy people out there who are pro-death in a while kaleidoscope of ways: serial killers, hunters, death penalty advocates, etc. No one advocates women to have an abortion. Pro-choice advocates, like myself, ask for the choice to be available. Maybe you would not make that choice. It is a personal issue and everyone has his or her way of approaching the question.

    And you implying that American are more pro-life than ever. This conculsory allegation is unsupported by any sort of proof or poll of any kind. Polls can be twisted and are generally unreliable as sources of information on what “the people” of a country the size of the United States may be thinking. But you really cannot have it both ways, you cannot claim that abortion is a growing threat, a veritable “holocaust” that needs to be stopped, and then turn around and say that Americans are more pro-life than ever. If so many Americans are gung ho “pro-lifers” they wouldn’t be having abortions at the rate that they are. As the old adage goes, “If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one.” If you article is any indication, people like abortions and are having them – regularly. And in so doing, are sparing untold numbers of miserable existences for the fetuses they prevent from being brought into the lives of women and men who do not want them.

  • Paul Barnes

    My question is: should the medical field be subject to political regulation?

    Because there are many elected officials who are doctors, so stating that regulating abortion is done “because of politics” is a non sequitur. The state has every right to regulate human affairs for the common good, in the broadest sense possible.

    In other words, both pro-choice and pro-life advocates are attempting to implement public policy. Therefore, it will be subject to the political process (or not, as some argue Roe v. Wade did). Unfortunately, this aspect is often overlooked by the media, mainly because of the large amount of information and knowledge that is required to be able to explain public policy reasonably well.

    However, it seems like that the MSM has drawn the conclusion that abortion is a moral good. Since it is a moral good, if you oppose it, you are morally evil (these terms are used for lack of anything better). I think that this latter point is precisely what Mollie is criticizing. Mostly because the position is perceived as “granted” amongst journalists. In some ways, its lamentable that the most vocal opponents quoted and visible is the “religious right.”

    This is because the religious right is easily an object of hysteria, although no one can really define what the religious right is or what it believes. Yet, the demarcation between sides and the arguing past the other side occurs because of the nature of the opponents. Essentially, it is believed that opposition to abortion rests solely on religious grounds.

    Hence, pro-choice advocates argue that limiting abortion is imposing both morality and religion on other people. Unfortunately, that does not have to be the case (I will not go into the various secular arguments against abortion because of the policy of this website). The argument should be about public policy.

  • Pingback: Ubi re vera » PBA part II

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    “Stroke” is not a medical term. Let’s ascribe sinister motives to anyone who does not say “cerebrovascular incident” or “ischemic attack”.

    Seriously, this ranting about “Made-up phrase” implies that “Real” “medical terms” are not made up by anyone, but appear by some sort of spontaneous generation, or perhaps are handed down by Aesculapius.

  • Michael

    Terms created by neutral medical groups or a profession are different from terms created by politically-motivated interest groups as part of a strategic, political decision. The use of such terms in journalism about the most politically- and socially-charged issue of our day should be avoided at all costs, it would seem.

  • Ashley

    Wow! Can you believe what this world is coming to! What once was a peaceful planet has now erupted into nothing but violence and hate! Are there any decent people left in the world today! I just can’t believe how selfish and deflected people are. I am only at the age of 19 and I fear what may be in store for my future! To me it seems like madness and unorganized confusion has definitely spread throughout our government,including the supreme court. When the supreme court holds trials the defendant and the prosecuter each have to place there hand on a bible and swear! This evidence proves that our government system and this nation are based on religion (no matter what people say about the seperation of church and state)- which leaves me to ponder on why the government is having such a complicated time with the decision of the Ban! Your document is correct! Most reporters tend to be distant from the conflicts of partial birth abortion and tend to make abortion advocates sound as if they are fighting for an improbable cause! These reporters have used up every medical term known to man. Reporters tend to phrase the word “partial birth abortion” to sound as if it were created by some looney abortion advocate! Reporters fear the criticism that may follow behind freely using the term “partial birth abortion” but they do not think about the criticism that follows from not using the term in an accurate correct, well rounded phrase! Reporters are afraid of offending an abortionist, well whatever happened to freedom of speech! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion! I just don’t agree with someone telling me a story that is only one sided, I want to hear the conflict of both sides!


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