Mainstream media defense of abortion never rests

I once served on a jury that convicted a man of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. We all thought he did it, but we weren’t sure the government had made its case. The evidence was strong but his defense attorney had done such a good job of explaining it away or striking various aspects from the record that we almost let him off.

It didn’t work, but it almost did. His attorney did such a fantastic job that I remember thinking, “If I ever am accused of a crime, I want this man to represent me.”

And that’s how I feel about this Washington Post write-up we’ll look at shortly. My thought is, “If I ever kill someone, I sure hope the Washington Post covers for me.” Only problem with this plan (other than my fervent hope I never commit such an act) is that I think they may only provide this exculpatory service for abortionists.

Let’s first look at the story as written up by the Journal News, a Gannett publication most recently known for publishing the home addresses of legal gun owners. The piece, “Coroner: Jennifer Morbelli bled to death following abortion,” begins:

A New Rochelle woman died of complications from a late-term abortion at a Maryland clinic, the Montgomery County, Md., coroner confirmed Wednesday.

Jennifer Morbelli, 29, a schoolteacher in White Plains, bled to death after amniotic fluid in her womb spilled into her bloodstream, said Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Medical Examiner’s Office.

That newspaper also has a feature about how the doctor who performed the abortion was profiled in a documentary film praising late-term abortionists.

Now, Newsday‘s piece is headlined, lengthily, “Jennifer Morbelli, New Rochelle teacher, died of complications after abortion, medical examiner says.”

The Washington Post piece, which took surprisingly long to go online (I had previously been writing about how there was no story there even many hours after it was appearing at other sites) went up late last night.

See, it takes time — and, I guess, many phone calls with abortion rights groups to get it just right — to write the story this way. Headline, of course, is “Md. medical examiner cites rare complication in death of woman after abortion.” Then we get many, many words about how this was just a freak accident and that legalized abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy had absolutely nothing meaningful to do with the death of this young woman (never mind the dead child, of course):

A 29-year-old woman died of natural causes after visiting an abortion clinic in Montgomery County and suffering a rare complication related to childbirth, according to an initial finding by the Maryland medical examiner’s office.

Are you freaking kidding me, Washington Post? Are you freaking kidding me? CHILDBIRTH? CHILDBIRTH?

Um, pardon me. It goes on like that for another 700 words or so.

I don’t quite have the heart — or the stomach — to fisk it. I don’t know if it was actually ghostwritten by the abortion doctor involved in the death or if it just seems to have come from the press offices of an abortion-rights group. But however it came about, it is not journalism about a woman who is dead in the ground after an abortion so much as a vigorous defense of the abortionist. Why, really he’s a hero of sorts and this was just something that happened to occur at the same time as a 33-week old unborn baby was untimely ripped from her mother’s womb. All a misunderstanding. And did we mention the doc involved is “devastated”?

Journalism? Hard-hitting? Tough-questions? Accountability? Not so much.

In this case, all of the journalism being done on this story is being done by writers with pro-life groups — from the very news of this woman’s tragic death to the news that abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart tells patients that they should not call an Emergency Room if they need help (see the image above).

But if you want the kindest, most generous explanation of how a young woman in your care ended up dead after you performed an abortion on her, hire these people. They’re really good.

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  • Kim Whelan

    I am sick!

  • Martha

    So, the “Washington Post” didn’t do a headline like it did in the case of Savita Halappanavar?

    From the Irish Times roundup of the coverage: “The Washington Post carrying AP copy reports “Abortion debate flares in Ireland over death of critically ill woman denied quick termination”.

    Their “She The People” online section headlined it “Irish abortion debate after woman’s death resonates in U.S.”

    So – we won’t get to see “Abortion debate after woman’s death resonates in U.S.” for this particular case, hmmm? Where the perfectly legal, perfectly safe, not-a-backstreet-clinic, not-a-coathanger abortion killed this woman.

    Isn’t it lucky the only zealots are religious ones who are abortion foes!

    • mollie

      And to think they say the media aren’t religious. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such piety and devotion to any dogma like we get to see here.

    • sg

      Late term abortion is not a quick termination. It takes days. Quick terminations are cesareans.

  • sari

    I thought the WaPo article quite good, actually, and more neutral than you imply; it laid out the current evidence , noted that the coroner had yet to make a final determination, and explained why a late term abortion was allowed in this particular instance.

    A quick search showed that amniotic fluid embolism can occur in a variety of situations, including but not limited to natural childbirth (or simply being pregnant). Science is science, and no one should skew it in *either* direction. Correlation does not imply causation, always good to remember. Since the issue of fetal abnormality was also cited, I would have liked a more complete description of how Maryland law defines it.

    I am curious as to what questions you think the media should have asked, mollie, and to whom, that would have presented a completely unbiased picture. If anything was missing, it was experts on the unknown fetal abnormality and what challenges it would have presented to the unborn child and parent. It would also have explained how a schoolteacher who had already named her unborn baby felt compelled to terminate her pregnancy.

    • Martha

      Sari, the unfortunate case in my country of Savita’s death was one of “natural causes after… a rare complication related to childbirth” but the world’s media (including the “Washington Post”) didn’t treat it that way; the great majority of the headlines on the ‘plain’ news stories, never mind the opinion and thinkpieces, were all in the vein of “Abortion ban kills woman” and never mind waiting for the full coroner’s report, the inquiry, or any timeline of what exactly happened.

      Never mind that the principle of double effect would allow for a termination of pregnancy where the mother’s life was in danger and the pregnancy was non-viable – the allegation by the husband that a hospital employee told him the reason his wife couldn’t have an abortion was “This is a Catholic country” was used as a headline in one story.

      But come this unfortunate case, and we’re seeing “Oh, well, this was a freak rare occurrence, it had to do with her pregnancy, it was nothing to do with the termination”: in other words, move along folks, nothing to see here and certainly no reason to talk about what kinds of safeguards are in place in clinics or the recent cases of hideous breaches of regulations and criminal ignoring of medical standards where clinics were abortion mills and certainly no safer than the legendary ‘back alley abortionists’ we are told will all spring forth from the shadows if any limitation is placed on access to abortion during the full term of pregnancy.

      Why write a story looking at the risks involved in abortion, if there are risks? Oh yes, it might be taken up as propaganda fodder for the abortion foes cause! It’s not like the media coverage of the Savita Halappanavar case was taken up as propaganda fodder for the abortion rights cause in Ireland, so that’s all right to write those kinds of stories!

  • tmatt

    The key, here, is that this is a story with very strong voices on both sides. A non-public relations approach to the issue would stress that and quote the authoritative voices on both sides of that issue. I would also like to stress that there are left-wing pro-life groups in the picture, too.

    So, let’s call Feminists For Life and see if they have any comments on the details of this case. How about Sojourners, even?

    • sari

      I disagree, tmatt. Interviewing advocacy groups on either side of the fence gets in the way of actual news. I no more trust the data coming from pro-choice groups than I do that coming from pro-life groups. Both bend the truth to buttress their claims.

      The facts of this case are:

      1) A woman who was thirty-three weeks pregnant died of a rare complication, one that could have been brought on by pregnancy, natural or induced labor, or c-section, and which could not have been foreseen.

      2) The woman was carrying a child with an unknown to the public fetal abnormality severe enough to allow exception to the Maryland ban on late-term fetuses. It would have been nice if the article specified exactly which abnormalities merit an exception to an otherwise stringent law. The only one I know of, and only because it was a close friend’s (very religious) daughter, is anencephaly.

      3) The woman was 29 years old, which meant that she probably did not undergo the recommended battery of genetic testing recommended for women thirty-five and over.

      4) The only family member to go on record was her MIL, who assigned no blame and proclaimed the unborn baby “wanted and named”.

      5) The preliminary coroner’s report lists the death not as accidental or murder, either of which would have implicated the medical staff, but natural, which suggests a predisposition or underlying but undiagnosed medical problems. Until the M.E. states otherwise, abortion should not be presumed or presented as the cause of death by the media, whose job it is to report *news*, not opinions.

      6) My biggest problem with articles such as these is that most stray from the data. The WaPo article stayed pretty close to the facts. A different article could and should address the fallout; that’s where I think your prospective interviewees should be placed.

  • Darren Blair

    To me, the fact that the article said that it was “childbirth-related” is what blows everything out of the water.

    Had the article just stated “suffering a rare complication”, then it would have been more neutral; they could have explained the details later.

    So even if it *wasn’t* meant to be one-sided, the way it was presently phrased made it sound so.

  • Julia

    I just read the entire article and agree with Sari – it was rather even-handed and factual. Since this rare condition can happen in a normal delivery, a section or an abortion through no fault of the medical staff, the abortion debate is irrelevant to this sad, sad story. BTW I’m very pro-life, but can understand how someone under great stress can opt for an abortion. Most pro-life people I know have great compassion for such stressed mothers. Even the legal system recognizes mitigating circumstances that lessen the charge against a person under great stress.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Is it any wonder that the giants of the mainstream media are collapsing. There are too many alternative sources of news today for people to be willing to pay to be propagandized–even many people who agree with the mainstream’s ideologyaren’t too keen on not getting a true or fair telling of the news.
    Here in the liberal la la land of Boston everyone is atwitter over the foundering NY Times wanting to get rid of the imoploding Boston Globe. And news stories of this impending mediaquake describe other Big Media
    financial agonies like that apparently afflicting the Washington Post.

  • Ashley

    The Post article was well-written and quite factual. It’s GetReligion that’s off the rails here. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was natural and did not implicate the medical people who performed the abortion. Perhaps this blog could show some compassion for this poor woman and her family instead of punting her around in your daily whinefest.

    • Martha

      Ashley, I am perfectly willing to bet – no, more than bet, state outright with complete conviction – suppose this unfortunate woman had gone ahead with the pregnancy to term, and had died of the same complication in delivery.

      What I will say is this: someone, somewhere (and possibly more than one someone) would have written a piece about this case is why abortion rights are so important, why we can’t give in the fight for abortion during the whole duration of pregnancy, why we must support the struggle against states making laws restricting the availability of abortion and putting limits to the terms when abortion is legal; why doctors and medical staff should be encouraged to train as abortion providers; why ‘late-term abortion’ providers are so vitally necessary; if only this woman had not been terrorised by the zealots and bigots into going ahead with this pregnancy, if only she had been able to abort during the third semester, she would be alive now!

      But that wouldn’t have been “punting her around in your daily whinefest”, would it? Just like the world-wide media coverage of the woman who died in my country wasn’t using a natural death to further their cause, demanding abortion now in Ireland!

      • sari

        Martha,

        Speculation as to whether or not she would have survived a normal delivery is pointless, either here or by the media. In fact, anything *but* a normal delivery would have upped the odds, which means that the bazillions of women who have induced labors, C-sections, therapeutic D&Cs, and so on share exactly the same risk to themselves and to their unborn children. And since unborn children who require immediate care are often delivered by C-section to spare them the trauma of birth, there’s a large probability that she would have evidenced the same problems.

        Your post suggested yet another journalistic angle: Mrs. Morbelli might still be alive had the procedure been done locally, where she was familiar with the existing infrastructure and her doctor was a permanent part of the community. I’ve made the trip from White Plains, NY to Bethesda, MD and then further past D.C. into N. Virginia; it’s a long drive through several states.

        Another angle would involve interviews with the clergy at her church. She was Roman Catholic. Surely counseling is available in such situations, which makes one wonder if she asked for and received guidance or if she made the decision on her own.

  • mollie

    As far as a defense of Carhart goes, this piece couldn’t be better. And if someone in my care ever happens to die, this is exactly the kind of defense I’d pay very good money for. As far as skeptical journalism goes, it’s a long way off. There are just so many avenues of exploration that are left … unexplored.

    Or As David Harsanyi wrote here (http://www.humanevents.com/2013/02/21/how-we-cover-abortion/#.USZqgqtpR-4.twitter):

    Well, I have no medical training, so it’s not my place to chime in on amniotic fluid embolisms (which are apparently rare and not-very-well understood), but it would have been helpful as a matter of professionalism if reporters, Dan Morse and Lena Sun, had pressed a few more qualified medical experts on whether the late-term abortion itself might have been the cause of death. It’s impossible to tell. Was this inevitable? If the woman would have gone to term would her chances of survival been better? What, pray tell, does a procedure terminating a 33-week baby look like? We don’t know because most reporters never want to ask questions about abortions that might be answered.

    It’s all about journalistic priorities. Here’s what we do know about LeRoy Carhart, a late-abortionist who travels from his home in Nebraska to Germantown, Md. to induce labor and stick forceps into viable babies: according to his friends, Carhart is “devastated by the woman’s death.”

    The threshold for abortion in Maryland is a viable fetus, but the state allows the procedure in instances when the unborn baby develops a “fetal abnormality.” One assumes (though, we don’t know for sure, of course) that so-called abnormality was the reason a 33-week-old baby was terminated by Carhart. Who, let’s face it, practices eugenics.

    There are around 18,000 elective late-term abortions performed every year in the United States. Few if any mainstream pieces dealing with the debate describe the procedure in any detail. The New York Times, for instance, recently reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will be advocating for more state-sanctioned nihilism when he presents a plan to reduce New York’s restrictions on late-term abortions, allowing procedures to be performed when the woman’s health is at stake not only when her life is in danger. Not a paragraph was wasted by the the author explaining what a late-term abortion entails.

    The list goes on and on. Why not dig into that item that illustrates the piece above, for instance? Why does Carhart tell women in distress to avoid the Emergency Room? Did that have anything to do with her untimely demise? Do we care at all? What is an abortion like on a 33-week-old? I’ve had friends who have given birth to babies that age (Harsanyi’s wife did, too) and it’s of course horrifying to think about them being killed at that same age. Why the lack of curiosity about it? Is it because of a eugenics mindset by all reporters, too? Or what? It’s just … weird.

    It would be one thing if we saw the same type of fealty toward medical examiners or hospitals or other doctors or police reports in other deaths, be they Savita Halappanavar or Treyvon Martin or any of the other tragic deaths we’ve sadly observed in recent years. But what we see is a curious double standard — sometimes the media are skeptical about authority and will do anything in their power to chip at the official reports … and sometimes they bend over backwards to provide exculpatory evidence. Why they do that is known only to them, but the difference is at the very least worth noting.

  • http://www.pilgrimage.subcreators.com Lori Pieper

    I would encourage everyone to read Jill Stanek’s blog to get details that the MSM stories are leaving out, and so they will have a better grasp on how this is being spun.
    Jill, a former obstetrical nurse, goes into great detail about the amniotic fluid embolism. She stresses that it does not “just happen” naturally as a complication; in fact according to the literature, most cases are due to the cervical and uterine lacerations caused by late-term abortions, which allow amniotic fluid to leak into the mother’s bloodstream.
    In addition, Jennifer Morbelli might have been saved if she had gone directly to the emergency room, but “Doctor” Carhart discouraged his patients from going there and said that they should call his office first, and have him take care of it, because he was experienced in these things, etc. (This is on his actual handouts to patients, which Jill has and has published; he revised his earlier one that said they should by no means go to the emergency room). The family tried in vain to contact him, and much precious time was lost, because he left the state almost immediately after the abortion. In fact, he apparently does not have hospital admitting privileges anywhere in the state, so his only option would have been in clinic care, even if the patient needed the treatment only a hospital could give.
    THIS is the kind of investigative work that the press should be doing and isn’t. Jill does have a pro-life blog but her statements are verifiable.
    There is much more here.

    • sari

      Thank you for the link, Lori. Very interesting reading, but, again, the data presented misrepresents large field studies.

      http://www.uptodate.com/contents/amniotic-fluid-embolism-syndrome

      The actual incidence of amniotic fluid embolism is 12-14/100,000 women. One article noted that many OBs never see an actual case; it’s that rare. Many factors increase the risk, including induction, c-section, advanced maternal age, multiple births. I could find no scholarly article that supported Jill’s contention that “most cases are due to the cervical and uterine lacerations caused by late-term abortions”, that AFE is even remotely common, or that evidence of leaked amniotic fluid was *uncommon*. In fact, many women in large studies tested positive for fetal antigens but developed no signs of the disease. Follow the footnotes in the link above to read the study results. The bottom line is that any woman who has a procedure (amnio, c-section, forceps extraction) has a higher risk (but still an incredibly low risk overall) than someone who doesn’t , but that the risk exists for any woman who is pregnant.

      I don’t want to get into an argument, but I think it’s important, when the media reports on such cases, to stick to verifiable facts and avoid jumping to conclusions. I was the first here to see this as the flip side of the media’s coverage of Savita Halappanavar, whose death was reported with little regard to fact. One huge difference, though, is that her husband went to the press and alleged malpractice, whereas we have heard zip (so far) from Mrs. Morbelli’s husband. Most of the media has done what they should have done with Savita–keep to known facts, let the data speak for itself, and avoid editorializing. For that they should be commended.

      • http://www.pilgrimage.subcreators.com Lori Pieper

        Sari, neither Jill or I ever claimed that AFE is common. It is rare. She cited a source that cited literature on the subject. It would take some digging to find actual numbers. The prevalence of abortion-related deaths is skewed by the fact that “abortion” is scarcely ever listed on death certificates. The facts might be there, but no one would be able to tell it wasn’t just a near-full term delivery, as in this case it was. There’s a conspiracy of silence going on.

        You left off your list of the risk factors from the article “cervical lacerations,” which is a distinct possibility in the Morbelli case, along with medically induced labor, which was certainly present.

        There is good reason to suspect that this is not just some chance complication. A woman has died at Carhart’s hands before. Her name was Christin Gilbert, and it happened in 2005. I suspect in both cases it was medical malpractice. He uses assistants with no medical training, by the way, and he was been investigated for unsanitary and unsafe practices at his clinics.

        I wasn’t trying to blame the newspaper for not reporting all this right away. They got the basic facts in. But will they ever do the necessary digging to find out what’s really going on in these cases?

        Not very likely.

  • Jen

    “Childbirth”
    At the very very least, they are admitting there is a CHILD involved. They haven’t re-named CHILDbirth yet.

    • The Old Bill

      I think they meant “child-death.” Tragic story, but abortions alway are. The risk for the baby is 100%.

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