On May 25, I tweeted out the image at the top of this post with the note “WaPo story about 12 of 16 surgical abortion clinics in MD having a variety of failures gets this headline?”
The headline was:
Md. abortion clinic lapses unrelated to patient death
The online headline might as well have been “nothing to see here, please move along, we’re covering this just so we can say we did” but was slightly better:
Md: ‘No deficiencies’ found in care of woman who died after abortion
If you did read the story, though, you learned that, like I said, 12 of 16 surgical abortion clinics in MD (aka 75%) had deficiencies. Four had been shut down. And apparently death after an abortion is something that just happens sometimes. If that’s true, I’d sure like a heck of a lot more incendiary headline than what the WashPost offered above. In a way, being told an abortion-related death is no big deal is more interesting than being told it is. Unless you’re a newspaper these days.
You might remember that the Washington Post‘s two earlier efforts at coverage of that death were, no joke, 1) multiple stories about how pro-lifers had raised awareness about the case, to their shame and 2) that her death was a “complication of childbirth.” Don’t believe me? Check out the posts “Mainstream media defense of abortion never rests” and “Water sipping and pro-life activism; a tale of media coverage.”
So the reporter just really downplays what could be written up in the more normal journalistic style. And this stuff happens so much and so frequently with coverage of a certain set of topics. Which topics? As tmatt wrote about that Bill Keller speech a few months back, social issues linked to religion:
Asked directly if the Times slants its coverage to favor “Democrats and liberals,” he added: “Aside from the liberal values, sort of social values thing that I talked about, no, I don’t think that it does.”
The bottom line: Keller insists that the newspaper he ran for eight years is playing it straight in its political coverage.
However, he admitted it has an urban, liberal bias when it comes to stories about social issues. And what are America’s hot-button social issues? Any list would include sex, salvation, abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, cloning and a few other sensitive matters that are inevitably linked to religion. That’s all.
The Post has begun speaking publicly about difficulties its staff has with this same type of coverage but I don’t think anyone would accuse them of trying to correct those problems.
Which brings us to an AP story I read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution headlined “4 Md. abortion clinics shut down, 3 docs suspended.” It begins:
WASHINGTON — Four affiliated abortion clinics in Maryland have been shut down and three doctors have had their licenses suspended after a patient died at one clinic and regulators found lax procedures at all four, according to documents filed online by two regulatory agencies.
The clinics in Baltimore, Cheverly, Frederick and Silver Spring were initially shut down in March. They were later allowed to reopen, but they were shut down again in early May after state regulators received a complaint about a patient who was given a drug used to induce abortions without a doctor present, according to documents posted online by the state Office of Health Care Quality, which regulates the clinics and ordered them to close.
The patient died following an abortion at the Baltimore clinic, regulators said in the documents. After undergoing the procedure on Feb. 13, the awake but “still very drowsy” woman was left in the care of an unlicensed medical assistant, during which time she experienced cardiopulmonary arrest.
Neither the doctor who had performed the abortion, Iris Dominy, nor the assistant used an automated external defibrillator on the patient, although Dominy attempted CPR, the regulators said. The woman died later at a hospital. A week later, regulators found that the defibrillator machine didn’t work, and the clinic employees hadn’t been trained on how to use it.
Dominy is one of the three doctors whose licenses were suspended, according to separate documents posted on the Web by the Maryland Board of Physicians.
Whoa whoa whoa!
Cheverly and Silver Spring couldn’t be closer to Washington, D.C. I wonder how the Washington Post is covering this local crime story story! Patients dying and doctors losing licenses and problems all around? This story is strongly related to the one we were discussing above.
Certainly the paper has learned its lesson in the aftermath of that one Washington Post health policy reporter saying that Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial was nothing more than “local crime” and the Post‘s editor admitting that the absence of coverage was problematic. Right?
Well, I searched for the name Iris Dominy on the Washington Post web site and you won’t believe what I found. What I found was literally not a single item of original reporting. Sure, sure, somewhere online was this very same AP story. Can you believe that? Can you imagine a similarly restrained approach about any other life-and-death story out there?
For fun, I decided to see how extensively the paper was covering Douglas Karpen, the Texas abortion doctor whose treatment of the children he delivered before snapping their necks makes Kermit Gosnell look almost baby friendly. Would you guess that I found zero stories? You’d be correct. Unbelievable. If you want to learn the news about Karpen, try here. But even for the local abortion doctors whose licenses were suspended, that’s not terribly newsworthy for the Washington Post. Gosh, it’s almost like a pattern.