There are so many stories related to the media’s poor coverage of abortion that I couldn’t begin to catch up. I’ve wanted to write about what it means that the media always refer to abortion in “restrictive” rather than “protective” language. See, for example, here and here.
But I haven’t had time. Before we get to today’s silliness, consider that Gallup reports that 52 percent of Americans support some restrictions on abortion, and an additional 20 percent think it should be illegal in all circumstances. That’s nearly three-quarters of the population saying they support at least some restrictions on abortion. Only 25 percent share President Obama’s view that abortion should be legal for any reason at any time in the pregnancy, including sex-selection abortions and partial-birth abortions.
Now, even though the vast majority of Americans favor some protection for unborn children from abortion, consistent pro-choice positions don’t generate media interest. Only consistent pro-life positions do. What’s the journalistic defense for that double standard, I wonder?
Yesterday, a pro-life news site revealed a 2004 fundraising letter from Michelle Obama, the topic of which was support for partial-birth abortion.
Also, yesterday, Democrats for Life pulled its endorsement of Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate. Now, I live in Virginia, and based on the mailers and TV ads I’ve seen, the Obama re-election strategy is highly focused on his support for abortion rights. It’s also true that Democrat Tim Kaine’s appeal in this state is based in part on the belief that he is a moderate on social issues. Democrats for Life pulling an endorsement for someone who used to be known as a “pro-life Democrat” is a story. But it’s not news at all.
What is news? Well, a GOP Senate candidate in Indiana apparently believes that all life — without exception — is a gift from God. Stop the presses! Freak out! Or, as Chris Cillizza breathlessly tweeted: “Richard Mourdock, call your office. http://wapo.st/QEMCMQ”Call your office? Hunh? (For a comparison of political importance, I’ll just note that Cillizza did not think the Reuters story showing that the White House situation room was sent an email at 6:07 PM on, er, September 11 with the subject line “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack” meant that anyone needed to call their office.)
Here’s what happened. Apparently Mourdock was asked in a debate to explain why he’s consistently pro-life. He said:
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Now, it’s worth noting that no debates ever ask any consistent pro-choice candidates why they think there should be no protection for unborn children whose lives are ended simply because they’re female, or because they have Down syndrome, or because they’re inconveniently timed, or because of the circumstances of their conception. Nope, even though the vast majority of Americans seek some or total protection for unborn children, these questions are never asked. Not even of President Obama, whose voting habits while in the Illinois Senate were particularly extreme.
But if you’re consistently pro-life, then release the hounds. If you publicly affirm your belief that God loves every person equally, no matter what his or her origin, you’re painted as an extremist. You should call your office! And freak out! The AP headline was literally “Mourdock: God at work when rape leads to pregnancy.”
Back at the Religion Newswriters Association conference a few weeks ago, Amy Sullivan made an important point. She noted that religion reporters are good at what they do. But sometimes when folks on other beats try to cover religion, things can break down a bit. Obviously that would go double for discussions of theodicy such as Mourdock’s answer above, which is admittedly a challenge even for Godbeat pros.
Anyway, Sullivan disagrees with Mourdock but she tweeted, in response to the freak-out over his explanation of why he opposes abortion even if the circumstances of conception are tragic:
Is it really surprising that folks who believe all life is a gift from God believe that regardless of how it was conceived?
Will y’all read the Mourdock quote? He did not say God intends for pregnancy to result from every rape.
If a rape results in pregnancy, and pregnancy is a gift from God, then of course Mourdock thinks that pregnancy is from God, too.
Not sure why it’s worse to explain why you don’t support a rape exception than to simply oppose a rape exception.
Are the members of the political media so incurious as to not have thought about why consistent pro-lifers oppose all abortion? What did they think was the reason? I mean, really. Was it something terribly different than what Mourdock just said? I can’t imagine it would be, if a reporter was worth his salt or had, you know, talked to a single pro-lifer in his life.
Yes, it’s good to get politicians — whether they are so extreme as to oppose efforts to protect infants accidentally born after botched abortions or so extreme as to oppose abortion even when the baby was conceived via rape — to explain why they hold their views. Heck, it’s good to ask the politicians who are just generally pro-life or generally pro-choice to explain their positions, too.
But the inconsistency is galling here.