Yesterday after the House of Representatives voted 228 to 196 to limit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, I was surprised to find the following headline at the New York Times:
Democrats Defend Killing of Viable Fetuses to Appease Vocal Base
Only kidding, of course. As Matthew J. Franck of First Things wrote, that’s a New York Times headline we’ll never see. The real headline used exhibits the partisan editorializing we’ve come to expect from the Old Gray Lady:
G.O.P. Pushes New Abortion Limits to Appease Vocal Base
That was the title on the web version. A note says that a version of the article appeared on page A1 of the New York print edition with this headline:
Unfazed by 2012, G.O.P. Is Seeking Abortion Limits
You’ll search in vain for a label indicating the piece is “news analysis,” the fig leaf that allows editorials to be presented as news stories. Instead, the feature by Jeremy W. Peters is one long editorial sigh of frustration that a majority of Republicans are still, despite having lost the last presidential election, sticking with their pro-life agenda.
After Republicans lost the presidential election and seats in both the House and the Senate last year, many in the party offered a stern admonishment: If we want to broaden our appeal, steer clear of divisive social and cultural issues.
Yet after the high-profile murder trial of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia this spring, many Republicans in Washington and in state capitals across the country seem eager to reopen the emotional fight over a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. …
Much of the movement in recent weeks can be linked to the outcry over the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia physician who was convicted last month of first-degree murder for cutting the spines of babies after botched abortions.
His case, coming on top of successful efforts to curtail reproductive rights in several states over the last three years, has reinvigorated the anti-abortion movement to a degree not seen in years, advocates on both sides of the issue said.
If you were still wondering why it took an epic shaming by GetReligionista Mollie Hemingway to get journalists to cover the Gosnell story, there’s a hint. You can almost hear the frustration in the New York Times newsroom: “This is the type of nonsense that comes from bringing attention to Gosnell.”
But it gets better. Check out the next paragraph:
The bill stands no chance of becoming law, with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. Republican leaders acknowledge that its purpose is to satisfy vocal elements of their base who have renewed a push for greater restrictions on reproductive rights, even if those issues harmed the party’s reputation with women in 2012.
Which Republican leaders made the claim? Peters doesn’t say. He also doesn’t explain how — or even if — the abortion issue hurt the GOP with women in 2012. But everyone at the New York Times already knows it did, and common knowledge doesn’t need to be supported with facts, right? And there is no issue here of married women vs. single women, when it comes to voting. Right? All women support abortion rights, or so Peters would have us think:
Aware of the risks inherent in abortion politics, Republican leaders have moved to insulate themselves from Democrats’ criticism that they are opening a new front in the “war on women.”
No need for Democrats to quote their talking points when Peters is happy to do it for them. But when you want to show that Republicans — or a least one Republican — believes bringing up abortion is a bad idea (forget talking to the pro-life Democrats, by the way), it’s best to quote an actual source:
Still, the re-emergence of abortion as a driving issue among the conservative base has left some moderate Republicans baffled.
“I think it’s a stupid idea to bring this up,” said Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. “The economy is on everybody’s minds. We’re seeing stagnant job numbers. Confidence in the institution, in government, is eroding. And now we’re going to have a debate on rape and abortion.”
Mr. Dent said the party risked opening itself up to another “Akin eruption,” a reference to Todd Akin, a Missouri congressman who was defeated last year in a Senate race after saying women’s bodies could block a pregnancy after “a legitimate rape.”
Six Republicans voted against the measure and six Democrats voted for the legislation. Once again, why were none of those Democrats quoted? Also, there were three times as many Republican women who voted for the measure as Republican men who voted against it. Why didn’t Peters inquire whether they thought they were “opening up a new front in the ‘war on women’?”
Perhaps because the answer is that they are supporting a measure that has broad appeal:
But most of the Republican rank and file and their leaders in Congress are solidly behind the bill, arguing that voters back home are clamoring to see something done after the Gosnell case.
“We’re hearing from a lot of people who are appalled,” Ms. Blackburn said, pointing to surveys showing that nearly two-thirds of the public opposes legal second-trimester abortions. “They feel like this is an appropriate step in this discussion.”
Unlike other major policy questions that Democrats and Republicans are fighting over this year, like same-sex marriage and background checks for gun buyers, Democrats do not find themselves with either overwhelming public opinion on their side or a favorable shift in sentiment.
After implying that Republicans were making a huge mistake in bringing up the issue, the Times now tells us that two-thirds of Americans completely opposes legal second-trimester abortions. The House passes a bill putting limitations on a procedure (second-trimester abortions) that most Americans think should be completely outlawed, and the headline is about the GOP appeasing their vocal base?
No one expects the Times to provide fair and balanced coverage of the abortion issue; that would require a greater allegiance to objective journalism than the paper can muster (especially in the post-Bill Keller era). But the least the Times can do is respect its readers enough to keep the editorials on the editorial page.