Abortion coverage, part I

On Monday I offered some thoughts about a New York Times piece that looked at a crisis pregnancy center that offers ultrasounds, counseling, diapers, baby clothes and adoption referrals. I had mixed feelings about the piece. It began quite well but fell prey to some of the classic problems reporters have when covering the abortion issue.

ignoringIn my view, the pregnancy center was described as trying to trick women into thinking it’s an abortion clinic. Its contention that abortion can cause problems, such as breast cancer or depression, was brazenly dismissed.

John Leland, the author of the Times piece, responded to the criticism and I thought it worth bringing out from the comment section. Here’s a portion of his response:

A lot of thoughtful commentary on the article and subject matter here.

I’m not sure why it’s controversial to describe the crisis pregnancy center as “designed to look and feel like a medical center, not a religion-based organization with an agenda.” No one would deny the Christian calling of the staff, nor their mission to reduce abortion. And no one, looking at the bland medical-style signage and waiting room, or reading the name A Woman’s Choice, would connect the center to either of these things. It would be remiss not to report this. But I did not think it was the whole story of the center, nor the most important facet, so I discussed it in the middle of the article and let readers make up their own mind how significant it was — whether it was bait-and-switch, as critics of pregnancy centers assert, or simply strategic marketing, as folks at the NRLC described it.

It’s always nice to get a reporters thoughts, and I and others responded to them in the comments thread, but by far the most illuminating comment was posted early on by some man named Terry Mattingly, who shared a memo from Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll. The memo followed a story about a proposed bill that would require abortion doctors to counsel patients that they may be risking breast cancer. Here it is, in part:

The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring “so-called counseling of patients.” I don’t think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it “so-called,” a phrase that is loaded with derision.

The story makes a strong case that the link between abortion and breast cancer is widely discounted among researchers, but I wondered as I read it whether somewhere there might exist some credible scientist who believes in it.

Such a person makes no appearance in the story’s lengthy passage about the scientific issue. We do quote one of the sponsors of the bill, noting that he “has a professional background in property management.” Seldom will you read a cheaper shot than this. Why, if this is germane, wouldn’t we point to legislators on the other side who are similarly bereft of scientific credentials?

It is not until the last three paragraphs of the story that we finally surface a professor of biology and endocrinology who believes the abortion/cancer connection is valid. But do we quote him as to why he believes this? No. We quote his political views.

Apparently the scientific argument for the anti-abortion side is so absurd that we don’t need to waste our readers’ time with it.

The memo should be read by all reporters who cover abortion. Of the many dozens of mainstream reporters I know, only about five are pro-life, to my knowledge. But many of those reporters who are not pro-life still know how to cover the issue fairly — even if they’re grumbling while writing the stories.

But it does seem difficult for some reporters to consider all sides of the debate worth discussing or giving proper coverage to. And I’m curious to see if or how this will affect the way media outlets treat Monday’s annual rally against abortion.

Print Friendly

Those media-bias ships sail on

Porthole panel21In reaction to my latest post about media bias, Dallas Morning News editorial writer Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher posted a short item on that newspaper’s editorial page blog in which he asked his colleagues for their reaction to it. The key question: Am I on to something when I insist that the key media-bias issue today is that the vast majority of mainstream journalists are sailing left on moral and cultural issues, as opposed to issues of economics, foreign policy, health care and other similar “political” issues?

Dreher thinks I’m correct about this. Thus, he wrote:

This is a big reason why so much of the public is alienated from the mass media. When people ask me what the orientation of the DMN editorial board is, I usually tell them “business Republican,” which is not the same thing as conservative. That is, we tend to be conservative on economics and foreign affairs, but liberal on social issues. Some call this “progressive conservatism,” which to me sounds like an oxymoron, but it basically means that as an editorial board (as distinct from individuals) we’re pretty libertarian. Do any of you disagree? …

I was just thinking about this, and I think I’m the only member of the editorial board who is a social conservative. Mike probably comes closest to me, but he’s more of a libertarian conservative than a social conservative. Most everybody else is a social moderate or liberal, right? Help me out here.

So far, the only editorial board member to respond is Michael Landauer, who confessed:

I’d say that’s a fair assessment. I personally, away from politics, am pretty socially conservative, I think. But when it comes to government on social issues, I probably am more libertarian or, some would say, even liberal.

The important point that Dreher makes is that the most explosive issues in media-bias research are not linked to fights between Democrats and Republicans. It may appear that way, but if you dig deeper you find lots of mainstream journalists are Republicans, but they are “business Republicans” who are pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights and take similar stances on other issues that, in this day and age, dominate the headlines about religion, politics and religion in politics. You can find evidence of this gap in a wide variety of studies, not all of them by researchers on the right.

A 2004 study over at the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism led to an infamous column by Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post in which he directly addressed this “religious” side of the media-bias wars. Here is a piece of what I wrote about that at the time:

“The survey confirmed that national journalists are to the left of the public on social issues,” wrote Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. “Nine in 10 say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral (40 percent of the public thinks this way). As might have been inferred from the upbeat coverage of gay marriage in Massachusetts, 88 percent of national journalists say society should accept homosexuality; only about half the public agrees.”

There’s more. Only 31 percent of national journalists still have confidence in the public’s election choices, as compared with 52 percent under Clinton. For Kurtz, the implication was clear that “many media people feel superior to their customers.”

Bingo. This is why GetReligion keeps returning to this topic over and over.

The main purpose of this blog is to lobby for improved coverage of serious religion news in serious American newspapers. Yes, that is not a left vs. right matter. However, it is clear that this social issues gap is an important one, especially in an era dominated by religion headlines about abortion, homosexuality, religion in public schools, euthanasia and a whole host of other hot-button topics. This gap is important in an era in which newspaper sales are on the decline. You see, your friends here at GetReligion (confession is good for the soul) are in favor of the survival of mainstream, balanced, “American model of the press,” mass-appeal newspapers.

So is Peter Brown of the Orlando Sentinel. He once provided another crucial piece of this puzzle, noting that it appears that many or most mainstream journalists simply lead radically different lives than the people that they cover. They live in different places, read different magazines, live in different kinds of homes, enjoy different movies and, yes, spend their Sunday mornings in radically different places. In fact, Brown said that the biggest gaps between journalists and readers were linked to patterns in family life, religion and the split between cities and suburbs.

In the end, the biggest clashes were linked to religious and cultural issues.

So, how many true cultural conservatives are out there in the marketplace? How many no longer read a mainstream paper? How many are poised to cancel that subscription? How many continue to hang on, avoiding certain sections of the paper because they feel like their most cherished beliefs and values are under attack in stories that they believe are biased or unbalanced or both? Is the number 10 percent? Closer to 50 percent? As Brown once told me:

Any business that doesn’t understand or respect the lives of somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of its potential customers isn’t a business that is very serious about growing or even surviving.

How many editors and publishers are thinking about this? I mean, other than those who have bravely spoken up.

Print Friendly

Race and the Catholic Church

Anacostia churchA spat between 17 parishioners and the priest at Anacostia’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish landed on the front page of The Washington Post this morning. The parish, which has about 1,500 members, is engaged in a heated dispute, and the fact that the church is a historically black Catholic congregation and “is in mutiny against the white pastor,” propels this issue to the level of “major news story,” in the Post‘s opinion.

Reporter Robert E. Pierre’s nearly 2,000-word work product, no doubt the result of weeks of back-and-forth between the two sides, is interesting and well written. Eliminate the race factor and this story has back page metro section news value.

So is race an issue so important these days that it can vault a shouting match between a small number of church members and their leaders to the front page with a prominent photo? It’s certainly a story that is unique to Catholic parishes. Protestant churches that reach this level of dispute simply split or expel (leaders or members).

Here’s the gist of the story:

The story at Our Lady is one of clashing opinions and, for [parishioner Bill] Alston and his disgruntled brethren, an attempt to regain control of what they view as their church. Their ancestors built it, and generations since have maintained it, tithed to it, sent their children to its school.

What they have learned is that butting heads with a 2,000-year-old institution is no easy task. People at every level of church hierarchy have told them the same thing: The Catholic Church is no democracy.

Some denominations choose pastors and make decisions by popular vote, but the Catholic Church is among those in which church officials decide. Popes issue decrees. Higher-ups tell pastors when to move on. Parishioners, after having had their say, comply with the decisions of their priest.

But order has broken down so thoroughly in this case that the auxiliary bishop of Washington, the Rev. Martin Holley, has sent word that the upset group should obey the pastor or find another church.

Amy Welborn over at open book found it challenging to comment on this story, largely because she feels there is more to the story than what was reported. I agree and that’s too bad, because Pierre was certainly given the space and the prominence to do some serious explaining.

More from Welborn:

But from the outside, this conflict seems, on one level, shockingly needless, which means that it probably touches on something pretty deep. The story tries to make it a huge deal, but it seems to all come down to a religious brother (who’d been at the parish for 17 years anyway), a pastoral associate, being put in charge of managing use of the parish hall. His style is not appreciated by some, and he’s tightened up access to a much-coveted church hall space. The entire parish is not up-in-arms, and there is much talk of racism, since the pastor is white, although the brother in question is black. As is the bishop who’s dealing with the situation, although the story doesn’t mention that (the bishop’s race).

A commenter at open book found the story another example of the mainstream media’s “pre-programmed Catholic story” that focuses on “dissent” or “the Post‘s interest in deliberately stirring up trouble.” I don’t think a media organization should be condemned for stirring up trouble, as long as it tried to be fair and got its facts right (and it seems that Pierre accomplished both of these). The trouble obviously lies in the relationship between the leadership of this parish and its members, not the Post‘s desire to tell an interesting story.

Sometimes a little bit of sunshine from the outside can stop the festering and allow growth. Often that means a bit of stirring the pot. Racial and cultural differences are certainly an issue in all churches, and especially in a situation such like this. Even though the controversy directly involves only a handful of people, it’s a matter that affects all of us who are involved with a church.

Print Friendly

Media bias ships headed left and right

Ship391Do you want to see a classic example of two journalists talking right past each other on issues linked to media bias and, indirectly, religion?

It seems there was a debate, of sorts, the other night at the University of California at Santa Barbara between Eric Alterman, author of “What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News” and conservative talk-show host Tucker Carlson of MSNBC. According to reporter Devon Claire Flannery’s story in the student newspaper, The Daily Nexus, most of what transpired was pretty predictable. Thus, the voice on the right says:

Carlson contended that three issues — abortion, the second amendment and gay marriage — are always presented from a left-leaning point of view in American media. On average, Carlson said, journalists tend to be white, come from liberal, coastal areas, graduate from liberal colleges, and as a result have the same culture and perspective of the world.

“Everybody in journalism is pro-choice, pro-gun control and for gay marriage,” Carlson said. “When you only have people [in the media] that all think the same, you do not have good coverage. You can’t cover America until you have a newsroom that looks like America … who thinks like America.”

Then the spotlight turns to Alterman, who says what he always says, which is that media is steered by conservative bias:

“If we had a liberal media, then 44 percent of Americans would not have believed the Sept. 11 bombers were Iraqis,” Alterman said. “We get an extremely biased version of the news.”

Alterman also contended that, even if television pundits or politicians were not overtly liberally biased, the structure of media in general allows for much more coverage of conservative interests. “Everyday I read the Business Section of the New York Times. Not the Labor Section, not the Environment Section,” Alterman said, referring to two nonexistent sections. “These are conservative assumptions.”

Ship602I, for one, would like to see the source poll for that Sept. 11 statement, but never mind. The key here is to note that Carlson is talking about media bias on religious and moral issues, for the most part, and Alterman responds by talking about issues of economics and other more strictly political concerns. Apples and oranges, in other words.

In fact, in his “What Liberal Media?” book, Alterman’s chapter on social issues admits that the MSM is, for the most part, biased on precisely these kinds of issues. At one point he hauls off and says:

I concur that the overal flavor of the elite media reporting favors gun control, campaign finance reform, gay rights and the environmental movement, but I do not find this bias as overwhelming as some conservative critics. …

Of course, he also says:

From my own perspective as an urban, East Coast liberal who is surrounded by others who hold views not unlike my own, I am perfectly prepared to believe that members of the elite media transmit liberal views in the guise of objective reporting on occasion. On some issues this bias might be called pervasive. …

Alterman then digs into the meat of the famous Los Angeles Times series by the late David Shaw (please click here) on the issue of media bias in coverage of the ultimate media-bias issue (from the point of view of moral conservatives) — abortion.

In other words, Alterman and Carlson may not, in fact, disagree with each other all that much. Or, as I put it in a post here at GetReligion last summer:

… (the) heart of the MSM is a kind of moral Libertarianism. It’s kind of Clintonian economics and morality. Leave us alone and let us make lots of money. It’s a Hollywood conservatism. It’s a corporate thing. It’s a moderate Republican thing, the brand of faith that dominates business elites.

The problem is that our age is dominated by the politics of social issues. When the first non-conservative seat on the U.S. Supreme Court bench goes open, do you expect hotter-than-hot arguments over economics or morality? Foreign policy or religion? Do the same dynamics affect the journalism wars? Absolutely.

Do you think anyone pointed this out to the talking heads on the left and right during their “debate” the other day out in California? Probably not. These journalistic ships just keep passing without contact, headed in different directions.

Print Friendly

Some sins are okay

poster1 fullI always find it interesting which movies political groups and churches choose to protest against. There have been many stories about the reaction to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain but relatively few about the #1 movie in the country this week: Hostel.

James Pinkerton’s column, which I found in Newsday, suggests that there is a larger cultural significance in its popularity. (On a side note, I never really read Pinkerton but I have been enjoying him recently. I really enjoyed his essay on Maureen Dowd’s book, in which he compared her thoughts with Hugh Hefner’s worldview.) Okay, so here’s Pinkerton on Hostel:

Variety described “Hostel” as “unhinged gruesomeness.” Director Eli Roth explained to Salon.com that he got the idea for the movie from a Thai Web site that purported to offer an online pay-for-kill experience. He said there were “guys out there who are bored with doing drugs” and bedding prostitutes. “Nothing touches them anymore, so they start looking for the ultimate high. Paying to kill someone, to torture them.”

OK, but what’s the social impact of such a movie? Will such a cinematic depiction convince some viewers that it’s “normal” to have such thoughts? Will some be encouraged to copy what they see on celluloid?

And what of the larger social impact? The Web site horrormovies.ca observes, “It is merciless with the torture, the violence, & the sex. I guarantee you will walk out of this film trusting no one.” That is, “Hostel” will make you hostile.

I just find it surprising that more religious groups haven’t protested this film which will be seen, by my rough mathematical calculations, by about a gazillion more people than will see Brokeback Mountain.

Of course, maybe the larger story is that reporters don’t think to ask religious groups what their feelings are about the movie. Perhaps they don’t even realize there might be a story there because they don’t realize how broadly religious morality extends. This review, from Catholic News Service, rates Hostel as “O” for morally offensive:

Lured off the beaten path by promises of carnal pleasures, they find their way to a hedonistic hostel in Slovakia, where they fall easy prey to a pair of temptresses and wind up in a chamber of horrors where wealthy sadists pay top dollar for the most depraved thrills.

Director Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever”) serves up a steady stream of soft-core sex and hard-core gore, as gratuitously pornographic as it is mindless.

The film’s stomach-churning factor is extreme by even the barrel-bottom standards of Quentin Tarantino, who is credited as one of the movie’s executive producers.

crashSpeaking of stomach-churning, can someone keep Paul Haggis away from a typewriter? The man doesn’t write characters so much as one-dimensional cliche vehicles with which to pound you over the head. If I were to protest movies, I’m pretty sure Crash would be my first victim.

The fact that so many critics heap praise on that silly, silly movie makes me question everything they write. Okay, sorry for veering into GetMovies territory there, but I had to get it out.

Print Friendly

Speaking in God’s name

nagin comments I’m having trouble keeping up with the Rev. Pat Robertson’s obnoxious comments. Was his last one about New Orleans and God’s wrath? Assassinating South American leaders? Or was it regarding some Pennsylvania town? Or on the health of a Middle East head of state?

I’m waiting for Robertson to say that the reason the Indianapolis Colts lost Sunday was the State Supreme Court’s ruling that prayers invoking Jesus Christ are unconstitutional.

The sad part of it all is that Robertson does represents a certain slice of American thought and, thus, I think his comments will always be news. So do his pronouncements represent the thought of that section of Americans that follow this guy, or are they merely goof-ups that few in their right minds agree with? Most likely, as with most things, it’s somewhere in between.

All apologies from Robertson aside, now it’s time to talk about another person’s coffee-spewing comments. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin managed to insult just about everyone yesterday by overgeneralizing and claiming (in jest) to converse with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Almighty, stating that last summer’s hurricanes were signals that “God is mad at America” and black communities for shooting at each other too much.

Of course comments like these this will happen when a person speaks from the heart. This is something Nagin has been praised for and one of the reasons for his (former?) popularity. Again, all apologies and excuses aside, Nagin’s comments certainly deserve press coverage. He was rightfully elected to his position and could be out soon. Meanwhile, Robertson’s position as Spokesman for Saying Idiotic Things is self-appointed. His removal could prove difficult, despite tmatt’s call for his excommunication.

mayor naginIn a solid piece of journalistic craftsmanship, Los Angeles Times writer Miguel Bustillo places the comments in context and provides some much-needed explainers on what exactly got into Nagin’s head and why he made things worse later with comments on how you make chocolate milk. Here’s Bustillo:

The remarks by the mayor, who is black, appeared to be an attempt to foster racial unity and appeal to disgruntled African American voters. Black activists and community leaders have criticized a rebuilding plan, proposed by a mayoral commission last week, that would give residents of badly flooded New Orleans neighborhoods just four months to prove the viability of their areas before possibly being forced to sell to the government.

Asked by a television reporter afterward whether his vision of a “chocolate” city might be racially divisive, Nagin explained that he hoped for a racially diverse New Orleans.

“Do you know anything about chocolate?” the mayor said. “How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That’s the chocolate I’m talking about.”

Nagin’s statements came a day after a traditional parade in the city was disrupted by gunfire that wounded three people. The parade was attended by many black evacuees who had made their way back for the occasion. Police say they do not have any suspects or motive in the shootings.

As part of his imaginary conversation with King on the state of New Orleans, Nagin called the suspected shooters “knuckleheads” and demanded an end to black-on-black violence.

CNN leads with the race comments, while the LA Times and the Associated Press stories open with the God is punishing us angle. Go figure. A casual, completely unscientific study of my own tells me that CNN likes to lead with issues regarding race.

The question for reporters is how to now treat someone such as Nagin. What about his comments criticizing the handling of the recovery efforts? Can they be taken as seriously?

Over at Christianity Today‘s blog, Ted Olsen wonders if Nagin’s recent comments will get the same level of media play as Robertson’s earlier comments on Ariel Sharon:

One might think that a government official’s declarations on the mind of God would be more newsworthy than those of a broadcaster. …

Equating the hurricanes with God’s wrath is theologically problematic. But it’s even more theologically problematic to invoke God directly in your plans to rebuild the city: “This city will be a majority African American city. It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”

Of course, saying God wants a place to be majority one race isn’t just un-Christian. It also runs directly against Martin Luther King’s dream.

The daily grind of the news will pick up stories likes these and my own personal observation tells me that the media handles them all about the same. It would take a more scientific effort to say for sure. I’m sure Jon Stewart will comment on these matters in his set tonight, but here’s hoping that journalists focus on serious stories, not on these comments by Nagin and Robertson.

Print Friendly

Religion reporter, columnist, blogger?

crozier 2 smallGetReligion readers who want insights into religion news in Great Britain need to know that veteran London Times Godbeat scribe Ruth Gledhill has started writing a blog.

I think this is interesting because many will say that it further blurs the lines between the personal and the journalistic for someone who is still the reporter of record on the newspaper’s hard-news coverage of religion. You could, of course, make a similar comment about me (as many have). However, my weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service is precisely that — a column.

In the past, some editors have expressed discomfort about having reporters on a hard-news beat, such as religion, also serve as columnists who write material that blends opinion and news. It’s part of the whole “How can you cover religion if you go to church?” question. The blogosphere takes that question and turns it up another notch — 24/7.

However, let me be the first to confess that it is interesting to read behind-the-scenes material from Gledhill that fills in some of the cracks on major stories from the news pages. For example, she recently offered this straight news lead on a report about the explosive issue of female bishops in the already splintering Church of England.

The Church of England is to press ahead with the ordination of women bishops despite warnings that the move could tear it apart.

Then, in the blog she is able to turn right around and offer some personal reflections, such as:

One of the most thrilling aspects of being a journalist is being “leaked” information, being handed a report, a document, a “secret”, perhaps passed under a table in a smoky sawdust-filled bar in Fleet Street or, as was given to me once, in a Macdonald’s in Basingstoke. It doesn’t happen often to me, maybe once a year if I’m lucky. The latest document to reach me like this is the deliberations of Bishop Christopher Hill’s Guildford Group on women bishops. …

The document, stamped “restricted” or “strictly confidential” on every page, sets out how the new proposals for TEA, or transferred episcopal arrangements, would work.

Much of the content of the blog is precisely what newspapers in the cyber age must begin offering — especially links to the real documents, transcripts and other forms of information that let the most dedicated of readers go the extra mile. This also lets readers make some of their own judgment calls about the decisions made by reporters and editors. When in doubt, more information is amost always an improvement.

church 20050713 wed4artAt the same time, you have to wonder what the leaders of a traditionalist group like Forward In Faith UK — which opposes the ordination of women as priests or as bishops (photo by ENS) — think when they read a passage such as the following from the beat reporter who covers their organization. As it turns out, the Gillian Warr praised in this passage as a pioneer worker on behalf of women’s ordination was both a friend and the godmother of — wait for it — Ruth Gledhill.

But as for the bishops of the Church of England, well some of them must be hoping the lights will be permanently on red. That way, they will not have to cope with the consequences of what Gillian’s father Percy Dearmer fought for so bravely and so long ago.

In memory of Gillian, I urge them to go crashing through that episcopal glass window. They might even find that the only criticism, in the end, is that they simply did not open the door fast enough.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to find yourself making friends with the people that you cover on your beat. I have also had many a conversation with my editors about what happens when, as a reporter, you find yourself covering your own denomination or even your own parish.

When in doubt, I believe that as a reporter you have to level with your editors and let them help you make decisions about what you cover and what you do not cover (or when you need to share a byline with another reporter). Sometimes you simply have to pull yourself off a story or take the unusual step of writing about it in the first person, so that readers know your connection to the events. In the end, the crucial thing is that the people you are covering believe that you quoted them accurately and presented their views in a manner that was as fair as possible.

Anyway, I, for one, am glad that Gledhill has started a blog. It will certainly make for more lively, and better informed, discussions of her work at the Times. It will almost certain lead to more speculation about the sources of future leaked documents.

Print Friendly

A Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde story

billboardLast week I suggested reporters cover what women go through after they have an abortion, and today the New York Times, of all papers, has a story that mentions counseling done for some women who regret their abortions. The story, by John Leland, profiles A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, which provides ultrasounds, counseling, diapers, baby clothes and adoption referrals to more than 4,000 women each year. The story says the country has 2,300 to 3,500 crisis pregnancy centers nationwide, compared with about 1,800 abortion centers.

The women in this Bible study, a postabortion recovery group, are far from the public battles over abortion laws and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. But in their quiet way, they represent a dimension of the anti-abortion movement that is just as passionate and far-reaching, consisting not of protesters or political activists but of Christian therapy groups, crisis pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, and support programs for single mothers and their children.

The first ten paragraphs or so of the story were fairly descriptive and interesting. I’ve been interested in the abortion issue for decades and I found it educational. And it’s nice to see that as abortion opponents prepare to march in Washington a week from today, papers are ramping up their coverage of the folks on that side of the issue. Unfortunately, the Times story veered off into viscerally one-sided territory, portraying crisis pregnancy centers as sneaky organizations that obtain clients by deceiving women and tricking them. It’s not news that abortion clinic personnel and supporters loathe crisis pregnancy centers, but a news story should probably try to obtain more balance:

A Woman’s Choice links the church to a national network of crisis pregnancy centers and postabortion groups that share marketing strategies, legal advice and literature emphasizing what they say are the harmful effects of abortion — including increased risk of breast cancer and a psychological condition called postabortion syndrome, which are considered scientifically unsupported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Psychological Association.

Like many crisis pregnancy centers, A Woman’s Choice is designed to look and feel like a medical center, not a religion-based organization with an agenda. Becky Edmondson, the executive director, said the center chose the look and name to reach women who were bombarded with pressures to abort and might think they had no other choice.

“A religion-based organization with an agenda.” Nice! I guess abortion clinics and the New York Times don’t have an agenda, but crisis pregnancy centers do. And what’s worse, they’re “religion-based.”

I also love how the reporter, rather than quoting recent peer-reviewed research (also ignored by the Times when it came out in December) about the increased trauma experienced by women who have abortions, invokes the American Psychological Assocation to discredit the possibility that women who have abortions might suffer from it. Now, maybe the American Psychological Assocation was too busy publishing papers saying conservatives were crazy or that paedophilia should be given a value neutral term, such as adult-child love, but I have news for the New York Times: the American Psychological Association has an agenda. Now, that’s not bad. It turns out that everybody has an agenda. But Times reporters shouldn’t just notice it when it’s the folks they disagree with. Here’s more along the same lines:
article bigpic 1

Surveys of postabortive women about their experiences have produced mixed and inconclusive results, allowing advocates on either side of the abortion issue to claim support for their view of whether abortion leaves regrets or psychological damage. Two analyses published in the same peer-reviewed medical journal, using the same data, came to opposite conclusions about whether women who have abortions suffer more depression than women who give birth after unwanted pregnancies.

I just have to mention one of my pet peeves. Now, I know it’s impossible to conceive that any Times reporter would ever make stuff up out of whole cloth, or that if that happened, the editorial process at the paper of record would quickly catch it, but if you’re going to mention studies with inconclusive and mixed results, go ahead and name the studies or at least which medical journal they appeared in. Don’t expect readers to just trust the reporter. Give readers enough information so they can check out the studies and determine whether the reporter characterized them accurately.

Print Friendly