AP keeps on standing with Wendy

On the Planned Parenthood site is the headline pictured here about Rick Perry signing a new in Texas:

“Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an abortion ban that threatens to shut down dozens of health centers and deny women access to basic care.”

This is what you’d expect from Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, having killed some 300,000 unborn children last year alone. The organization is well loved by the majority of professionals in the mainstream news media and is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of half a billion dollars a year.

So how did the Associated Press announce this news? Associated Press has struggled with its coverage of the Texas legislature this summer, as you can read about here, here, here and here.

It was so journalistically indefensible that I had to assume that the entire AP Texas staff was on vacation. Remember the story that began, no exaggeration, “Republicans armed with Bible verses have given preliminary approval to some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country”? Remember the tweet announcing that the AP “Stands With Wendy,” since pulled?

Well, if you in any way doubt whether the AP #StandsWithWendy or #StandsWithJournalism, you may want to consider this tweet, barely distinguishable from Planned Parenthood’s own histrionic headline:

(You may be interested in reading how this tweet went over with followers, compiled here.)

This is undoubtedly the talking point of both Planned Parenthood and, oddly, the Associated Press. But is it more than a pro-abortion-rights talking point? Is it, dare I ask, even true?

Well, kudos to Reuters for actually doing the bizarre journalistic task of looking into the abortion rights campaign point instead of regurgitating it whole to millions of readers.

Reuters reviewed how when similar laws were passed in other states, pro-choice activists claimed it would close down almost all abortion clinics … but those claims never came to pass. In Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri and other states, the same script was followed but the reality was that the vast majority of abortion providers chose to upgrade their facilities to comply with the law rather than close. A sample of the story:

Twenty-six states have laws that require abortion clinics to meet varying levels of hospital standards, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Pennsylvania, Virginia and Missouri passed strict health and safety rules similar to Texas, it said.

In those three states, however, most clinics were able to stay open after the laws passed, some by reallocating dollars to comply with building upgrades, according to abortion providers and state health department officials interviewed by Reuters.

“It seems like an exaggeration from the other side that access is going to be cut off,” said Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony list.

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, which favors abortion rights but does research cited by both sides, said the new law will have an impact in Texas but maybe less than the worst fears.

“Clinics will close,” she said. “But I can’t say we are going to go down to six.”

Of the 24 clinics in Pennsylvania prior to a tough new law in 2011, one closed voluntarily, according to the state health department. The state closed two others for serious violations including a freezer lined with frozen blood, and stained surgical instruments in dirty drawers, according to reports by state inspectors.

I’ll simply point to three tweets (here, here and here) from John McCormack, perhaps the only reporter I know of who has actually asked questions of pro-choice activists worth modeling:

Is Reuters the first mainstream news outlet to actually do its homework and not assume this talking point was true?
Kirsten Powers noted in July 2 column that ACLU said same thing in 2011 about PA clinics. Proven false.
Then again, who has time to report whether claims of political actors are true or false when there are narratives and memes to be crafted?

Shouldn’t investigating claims be the first thing we do as journalists, not the last?

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  • wlinden

    Maybe I should “arm myself with Bible verses” next time one of the boyz from the hood jumps me.

  • Melissa

    Well, three Planned Parenthoods have announced that they will close as a result of this new law. However, they made the announcement almost immediately upon Perry’s signing the bill into law, which certainly suggests that the decision to close was made previously and PP was looking for a politically expedient moment to announce the closure. It’s not like PP doesn’t have the money to upgrade facilities in order to comply with the new standards.

    Remember that one of these Planned Parenthoods was the facility which Abby Johnson managed. She sued them for Medicaid fraud. I’m not sure where the suit is at now, but I certainly think that authorities would be far less likely to pursue the case if the business being investigated is no longer in operation.

    So I guess somebody needs to ask the question: did PP in Texas REALLY close due to the more stringent regulations, or were the more stringent regulations a convenient excuse to close?

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Someone in the journalistic community needs to raise the obvious question — if these clinics have to close because of these new standards, what does that say about how good these clinics are in the first place? Abortion is a type of surgery, plain and simple. So if they’re doing surgery and they’re not operating like an outpatient surgery center already, doesn’t that mean something’s wrong?

  • PalaceGuard

    Just FYI, I did some research on the topic of rape and pregnancy on my own. The actual number rapes in this country per year is given, depending on your source, somewhere between 100,000 (rounding up of FBI stats) and 700,000 (various rape victim advocacy groups). Of those rapes, between 3% and 5% result in a pregnancy (accuracy is difficult because women of childbearing age who were otherwise sexually active may have been in early pregnancy at the time of the rape.) Of those pregnancies, somewhere between 10% and 50% were aborted (discrepancy the apparent result of a number of factors, including the collector’s attitude towards abortion). Assuming 700,000 rapes per year, resulting in, at 3%, 21.000 conceptions, of which, at 50%, 10,500 are aborted, then less than 1% of the 1.2 million U.S. abortions per year are in response to rape. Just how, morally, does this balance out?

  • jamesofengland

    Thanks. I’ve had a couple of debates over the clinic closing numbers and the Reuters article looks like it’ll be a great help.

  • praxagora

    I know you won’t post this comment, but you, of course, realize that there is not one mention of religion in this entire column, right? I mean, I get that you don’t like PP, and hate abortion, but I thought that this website was about addressing the ways that the press doesn’t “get” religion. Or are you all just a standard-issue anti-abortion, right wing commentary site now?

    • MollieZHemingway

      Why don’t you try reading it again, and keep a focus on the media criticism and the religion.


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