Galling MSM abortion extremism double standards

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.

And I’ve wanted to write about the shameful collection of so-calledfact-checks” related to President Obama’s record on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.

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.

  • http://www.edwardwillett.com Edward Willett

    Um, I don’t think this sentence is saying what you mean it to say (third paragraph):
    “That’s nearly three-quarters of the population saying they oppose at least some restrictions on abortion.”
    Should be “saying they support at least some restrictions,” shouldn’t it?

    • mollie

      Thank you! Fixed it.

  • Darrell Turner

    I don’t see how the AP headline distorted Mourdock’s views. He later said that he didn’t mean that God “preordained rape,” although I don’t see the difference between “preordained” and “intended it to happen.” If politicians continue to make unfortunate comments on rape resulting in pregnancy, one can hardly blame the media for covering these comments accurately. If the politicians mean that life conceived out of rape or incest is still a human life, they should simply say that.

    • mollie

      I was thinking about how the AP would handle the very famous verse of Genesis 50:20, which goes
      “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive”
      Something like: “Joseph: God at work in kidnapping, torture, abandonment.”

    • Ted Seeber

      Maybe Mourdock, unlike Calvinists and Atheists, does not believe in predestination, but DOES believe in God’s ability to work through the Natural Law He Created to bring something Good out of a bad situation?

  • JoFro

    I agree with Darrell somewhat on this issue! It seems that pro-life Republicans are not exactly good with words…I mean cmon, that statement just looks bad, even within the right context.

    On the other hand, I agree with the article as to why no one seems to ask pro-choice politicians about their views, especially President Obama, whose pro-abortion views are certainly at an extreme.

    Heck, look at the way Ryan has been pounced on by the media for his pro-life views. So when is Obama going to be questioned about his extreme pro-choice views? I’m hearing crickets!

    • Ted Seeber

      It looks right on to me, but maybe that’s because my beliefs are the right context.

  • Chris

    That question, as Adm. Akbar proclaimed is “a trap”. Pro-life folks are criticized for inconsistency in their views but then are hammered if they express consistency.

    I agree that the flip side situation (concern for the disadvantaged, fatherless child of poverty but being OK with the child’s antenatal killing) is usually and acceptably passed over as a “difficult personal choice”.

    • Ted Seeber

      And why is it that none of these politicians seem to be for strengthening parental abandonment laws so that the father is a part of the child’s life and has a say in avoiding abortion?

  • Sam

    @Chris: I don’t think it’s a trap; I think it is honesty. Put yourself in their shoes. They accuse us of inconsistency when we are inconsistent and don’t fully carry through with our principles (e.g. when we propose exceptions for rape/incest etc.) But that doesn’t mean that they can’t find our positions, when fully explored, to be cruel. It’s not a trap; it’s an honest conversation.

  • suzanne

    You do concede, don’t you Mollie, that even as three quarters of Americans believe there should be some limits on abortion, just about the same percentage (a little more, actually) believe that there should be access to abortion, at least in some instances.

    You always frame this issue in the former way, and for someone who argues for a balanced approach, that seems odd.

    • mollie

      Of course, as I noted in the numbers above. I’m trying to get people to think about the galling double standards in how the media discuss this hot-button debate. It’s also true that a majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life.
      I’m the first to say this is a difficult issue to cover. But it’s just not being done in anything approaching a balanced manner.

  • The Old Bill

    Mourdock is being pilloried for his choice of words. Flatis vocis! It’s easier than examining his reasons. And can anyone seriously argue that this issue would be so contentious if the only abortions being performed were for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life?

    • Kristen inDallas

      More contenteous actually. Even though it’s the majority view, and the one that seems the more moderate and balanced is (in my view) the worst of both worlds. We’re still killing human beings without just cause, and we’re topping it off with looking into the details of a persons sex life in order to determine whether the abortion should be legal. That’s where the whole “privacy issue comes in.” A rape victim shouldn’t be scrutinized about her rape if it’s a legal procedure, and a man shouldn’t be falsely accused of rape so that someone can obtain an otherwise illegal abortion. So many problems with that. The same rules have to apply to everyone regardless of what type of sex their having. I’m pro-life myself, but I’d rather see us use gestation age strategies or heck I’d even support the system we have before I’d agree to illegal unless your baby is an X (product of rape, mentally handicapped, genetically deformed… you see where this is going right)

      As far as mother’s health issues, it’s not abortion (or it doesn’t have to be). You perform a procedure with the intent of saving the mothers life. You know it’s risky for the fetus, but if you can you save the child too. It’s not always possible and that’s unfortunate, but it’s called triage and doctors have been doing it for centuries without moral objections. It’s different than intentionally killing the child.

  • sari

    “… can anyone seriously argue that this issue would be so contentious if the only abortions being performed were for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life? ”

    Yes, TOB, since access to services for the situations you list was routinely denied until Roe v. Wade, and because a large (and vocal) segment of the pro-life lobby, in conjunction with certain major religious institutions, does not allow for these exceptions. Many, many people adhere to the fallacy, for instance, that modern medicine can treat successfully any threat pregnancy poses to a mother’s life. Untrue. And few factor in the religious freedom issues of those whose religions allow (or mandate) termination under the circumstances you describe.

    There really is no middle ground on this issue. Any attempt to limit abortion to a narrow set of criteria will be crushed under the weight of defining those criteria and ensuring that they are religiously (no pun intended) followed by all.

    • Frank

      Only 3% of all abortions are due to rape, incest or the life of the mother. Lets start talking about the 97%.

    • Ted Seeber

      “Many, many people adhere to the fallacy, for instance, that modern medicine can treat successfully any threat pregnancy poses to a mother’s life. ”

      It isn’t a fallacy anymore, though I’ll grant you that it is only since 1998 or so that this has become true.

      There are now 5 living children, with living mothers, who gestated OUTSIDE OF THE WOMB, which used to be only treatable with abortion (and sometimes, when the pregnancy was unknown, only in the emergency room after the mother had passed out from pain).

      The world has changed, you need to catch up to modern science.

  • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

    Part of the media fallacy is that abortion is really a religious question. It is a question of science and (non-religious) ethics. Many claim that science cannot guide us definitively, but many others claim just the opposite. The ethical question flows from the conclusions of science – and that question is whether it is ever permissible to intentionally and directly kill an innocent, living human individual, and if so, under what circumstances. That is a discussion the media do not want to have. Joe Biden said it well in the debate when he claimed that life beginning at conception is a “de fide” doctrine of the Catholic Church. But Biden is also wrong about that, and so are the media who perpetuate it.

    But someone said that politicians and others of the pro-life persuasion can be inept in expressing themselves. That is definitely true. But there is a “media orthodoxy” that abortion must remain legal especially in difficult situations (life of the mother, incest, and rape), and what Mourdock says is simply heresy. It cannot be an honest discussion if they treat it like heresy.

  • Chuck

    It would help if you got the numbers right about one thing. The 20% who say that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances cannot be added to the 52%. They constitute a part of it, so the say tha 3/4 of the population favors restricting abortion is dishonest to say the least.

    • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

      Chuck, take another look at the Gallup data. The way they present the question and possible responses, it sure seems like the three choices are exclusive and not subsets of each other. (Otherwise, one could say that the 25% who say it should be legal in all circumstances also constitutes part of the 52% who say it should be legal in at least some cases.)

      • sari

        That’s why one cannot state that a majority is pro-life, as has been stated repeatedly on this website. Nor can one say that a majority is pro-choice. One cannot predict what followers on any side–for, against, or somewhere in between–will do when confronted with an actual pregnancy or problems with pregnancy.

        Reporters should be required to include links to the studies under discussion, so the reader can determine the accuracy of the reporting. It’s absurd, given the ease with which people can access the Internet, that such information is rarely included.

        • mollie

          Yeah, I had the data right. Not much else to say about it. About half of Americans say they favor some — but not all — restrictions on abortion. Smaller percentages are at the extreme — 25% say they favor no restrictions, 20% say they favor full protection for unborn children. I agree, of course, that the media have done a horrible job presenting this reality.
          Anyway, Sari, we’ve written accurately about polls showing that 50% or more of Americans now identify as pro-life (emphasis on IDENTIFY). Whether that means they “are” pro-life is beyond our scope here, but in recent years, a slim majority has identified as pro-life with around 40% now identifying as pro-choice. Gallup data on that point is fairly accessible.

          • sari

            Mollie,
            A look at the questions suggests that the groups are evenly matched and that each question elicited significantly different ranges of responses. For instance, asking a person to self-label “in isolation” resulted in 47% p-c vs. 46% p-l, whereas asking the same question *after* the question on the legality of abortion skewed the percentages to 41:50. And when asked about satisfaction re: abortion laws, the breakdown of those who were dissatisfied demonstrated that only 28% of the total (satisfied and not) wanted *stricter* laws, which suggests that most people are less pro-life than they self-label.

            Any journalist who reports on this topic should refer to the study in its entirety rather than hone in on whatever statistic supports his or her personal agenda, irrespective of what that agenda is. You are correct that the MSM tends to focus more on those with whom they disagree, but the same is true for the other side. It’s almost impossible to find *news*, that is, unbiased articles on the abortion debate that examine the topic from all directions. That’s what I’d like to see.

  • Mark Baddeley

    Could you imagine a presidential debate on this issue where the questions went along the lines of:

    1. Mitt Romney, your views, and voting record, against abortion appear to be out of line with the majority of Americans who do not want restrictions on abortion as extreme as the ones your comments would appear to suggest. Why should people – the majority – who do not agree with you on this issue vote for you?

    2. President Obama, your views, and voting record, in favor of abortion appear to be out of line with the majority of Americans who do not want completely unrestricted access to abortion as extreme as your voting record would appear to suggest. Why should people – the majority – who do not agree with you on this issue vote for you?

    Something more like that would produce something more illuminating and informative. (I don’t know how much of a voting record on this issue Romney has – if he has one, then I’d replace his comments with his voting record too, and mention the specifics of that record for both people as for politicians I think it’s more informative how they have voted than what they say.)

    • Ted Seeber

      Romney’s voting record, formed when he was Governor, is unabashedly pro-choice.

      We don’t have a pro-life presidential candidate this race at all.

  • John M.

    The media treatment of pro-life politicians really is egregious. Any position that you want to take on abortion raises difficult questions. You see, the basic deal is that any position on abortion is going to be either extreme or inconsistent. Extreme views and inconsistent views both lend themselves well to difficult questions. The fact that many politicians’ views on abortion have “evolved” over the years (to borrow a phrase from the President) only makes this process easier. The media just needs to TRY to imagine what it is that might motivate those meanie fundies who oppose abortion on demand in order to come up with a few of them.

    The MSM is an important institution in this country. Its degradation into outright advocacy on this issue in particular is profoundly bad for that institution, and I’d argue, for our nation as a whole.

    -John

  • Pingback: Media embarrassingly ill-equipped to cover rape, theodicy

  • Pingback: Biased MSM bashes pro-life-no-exceptions view, ignores opposite

  • Pingback: Do Christians Support Aborting Children Conceived in Rape? – The Gospel Coalition Blog


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X