New York Times on the death of an unborn child

You might recall that the New York Times told readers Kermit Gosnell was on trial for killing fetuses rather than newborns. There was a similar problem at USA Today. We noted when a reporter for a different outlet apologized for calling a newborn child a fetus.

So the problems with journalists using “fetus” to describe children even after they born make the old debates on whether it’s appropriate to use the term in stories about children prior to their birth seem quaint. But yesterday the New York Times came in for some criticism over stilted “fetal” language to describe a tragic death of a woman and her unborn child. From “Falling Tree Shatters Lives and Dreams of a Family“:

The Dikov family keeps an album of photos that document the love story of their son, Aleksander, and his wife, Yingyi Li-Dikov. On each page, they beam, always hugging. In one, Ms. Li-Dikov kneels over a heart drawn in the sand, the initials A and Y at its center.

And on another page is a black-and-white photo: the hazy sonogram of the daughter they were expecting in the fall.

There will be no pictures of mother and child. Ms. Li-Dikov, 30, was killed on Sunday when a giant tree toppled in Kissena Park in Queens, shattering the bench she was resting on and killing her. The 6-month-old fetus did not survive.

Emphasis mine. The caption to the accompanying photo reads:

Yingyi Li-Dikov, 30, and the fetus she was carrying died.

Fetus is a Latin term meaning “young one” but most people refer to their unborn children as unborn children or babies. Tmatt had a great post recently about the tension between the language that abortion rights activists and media types use and the language that people in the real world use when talking about pregnancy:

You see, back in the days just before and just after Roe vs. Wade, journalists found themselves caught between two forms of language. On one side, on the moral left, there were people who wanted to use the term “fetus” whenever possible, in order to avoid talking about the selective termination of “babies,” “unborn children,” etc. Since surveys show that most journalists, especially in elite newsrooms, are pro-abortion rights, this can affect coverage.

Meanwhile, real people in the real world tend — when dealing with pregnancies — to use baby language. I mean, surely it is rare for someone to come home from the doctor waving an early ultrasound image and say, “Hey! Look at the first picture of our fetus (or perhaps grandfetus)!”

The New York Times‘ use of fetal language for this young victim struck observers as odd. As RealClearPolitics editor Carl Cannon wrote on Twitter:

Can’t a newspaper be pro-choice without resorting to this? “The 6-month-old fetus did not survive.” http://nyti.ms/187Qeif

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When Planned Parenthood isn’t news (fraud edition)

Is fraud a religion story? Not necessarily.

Are the actions of Planned Parenthood religion stories? Not necessarily.

But what about the larger issue of the ongoing problems that the mainstream news media have had covering abortion and other social issues related to religion? Is it worth noting here, for instance, the very odd lack of coverage of Planned Parenthood’s recent settlement over fraud allegations?

You wouldn’t probably know it from media coverage but, as one conservative think tank noted this week:

Alliance Defending Freedom’s recent analysis of state and federal audits of family planning programs suggests that in 12 states, Planned Parenthood affiliates overbilled Medicaid for more than $8 million. One federal audit of New York’s Medicaid family planning program reported that certain providers, “especially Planned Parenthoods,” had engaged in improper practices resulting in overpayment.

Despite mounting accusations of fraud, the organization that performs roughly one out of every four abortions in the U.S. has continued to ride the waves of taxpayer funding to annual surpluses. During its last reporting year alone, Planned Parenthood received over half a billion dollars in taxpayer government funding, all the while performing a record 333,964 abortions. To solidify its place as the top abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood announced that all local affiliates would have to begin providing abortion services starting in 2013.

I don’t remember what the original allegations of fraud in Texas were but Planned Parenthood there agreed to pay the state $1.4 million $4.3 million to settle the claim that it had fraudulently overbilled the state’s Medicaid program for products and services that were never actually rendered, not medically necessary, and were not covered by the Medicaid program.

No biggie. This is just a story about the mainstream news media’s very favorite organization in the whole world paying to settle legal claims. I know that usually when other organizations — say Roman Catholic archdioceses — settle lawsuits even below a million dollars, it usually gets reported pretty far and wide. Rightly so. Certainly the country’s largest abortion provider — and a taxpayer funded one at that — should get some media coverage, no?

It’s so confusing how a private breast cancer charity choosing not to give Planned Parenthood a couple hundred thousand dollars generated thousands of stories but that same abortion group paying a $1.4 million $4.3 million fraud settlement doesn’t generate hardly any.

A quick Google search for Planned + Parenthood + fraud shows that the following outlets did pay attention. See if you can detect a pattern:

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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.

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NPR misses the symbolism — and reality — of Jane Roe

NPR had a story on the Texas legislature passing what journalists usually call “sweeping abortion restrictions.” Let’s look at a big chunk of the story right at the top:

“What this does is completely reshape the abortion landscape in the state,” says Elizabeth Nash, who follows state issues at the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group. “With this legislation, Texas will become one of the most restrictive states in the country. And Texas really matters.”

First, Texas is the second most populous state in the nation, with four major cities and 5.5 million women of reproductive age. It also has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

And symbolically, Texas was home to Jane Roe, whose fight for a legal abortion went all the way to the Supreme Court — which decided in 1973 that abortion is a woman’s fundamental right under the Constitution.

Under the new law, abortion doctors must get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; abortion clinics must upgrade to surgical centers; abortion-inducing pills can only be taken when a physician is present; and abortions would be banned 20 weeks after fertilization.

Well, kudos to NPR for actually describing these “sweeping” restrictions, however briefly. But did you catch that bit about Jane Roe? Texas matters because Jane Roe came from here? And hers was the case that decided that legalized abortion is a fundamental right under the Constitution?

And then on we are to the next line without mentioning some crucial information.

I like the idea of including “Jane Roe” and her symbolism in a story about Texas’ move to change the abortion regime in that state. She might be the perfect symbol of what this battle in Texas says about our country’s messy views on abortion. But, as the reader who submitted this story put it:

What a way to spin.  How convenient to ignore that “Jane Roe” was the assumed name of Norma McCorvey, who is now outspokenly pro-life, and who has made it clear that she was used by pro-abortionists who wanted to push their agenda. Even Wikipedia notes this.

It’s amazingly convenient and misses the real, the ultimate symbolism of this Texas woman. There are even religion ghosts all over her story. Let’s go ahead and look at the portion of her Wikipedia entry dealing with her views on abortion:

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#StandWithWendy? The Associated Press does

The Associated Press has a story about the Texas Senate passing a law that would protect some unborn children who had reached five months’ gestation. Or, as journalists always and forever frame it, “sweeping new abortion restrictions.”

So, just how sweeping? Well, not as sweeping as the abortion laws in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Romania, Slovak Republic or France. Or Italy, Poland, Spain or Ireland, for that matter. But more sweeping than Canada, the UK and the Netherlands.

Anyway, the picture accompanying the story has a bunch of protesters and front and center is a woman holding a large crucifix. But it was the tweet that directed readers to the story that got my attention.

There it is above, but it says:

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, who filibustered abortion bill weeks ago, gives closing remarks: apne.ws/1aAU8VN -JM #StandWithWendy— The Associated Press (@AP) July 13, 2013

Or said, I should say. After a bunch of people (including me) reacted with abject horror, the tweet was deleted. I have no idea when the tweet was deleted (though it was at least deleted by the next day or so). As one of the AP’s 2.18 million followers, I can’t really ever recall seeing a tweet from the news organization that was accompanied by a hashtag, much less one that indicates brazen support for abortion rights. (The anti-abortion hashtag for the bill in question was #Stand4Life) One AP follower asked:

Will @AP formally come out tomorrow AM and explain why it decided to #StandWithWendy?

I, too, wanted to see how the Associated Press apologized for its tweet or why it deleted the tweet, a tweet that had to offend the majority of Texans (and Americans outside of newsrooms) who, well, don’t #StandWithWendy (“One of the clearest messages from Gallup trends is that Americans oppose late-term abortion.”) I went back through dozens upon dozens of tweets to see how the #StandWithWendy tweet deletion was handled. Did AP say something? Apologize? Explain itself? If the news organization did, it wasn’t on the AP’s Twitter feed.

Going back into the wee hours of July 13, I did find 35 tweets about the George Zimmerman trial. That got me thinking. I wondered how many tweets AP sent out about another hot-button trial, one that dealt with racism, poor treatment of immigrants, drugs, serial killing of children, abortion-related deaths, obscene health violations, politics and more. I speak, of course, of the Gosnell trial. Here’s the tally for the history of AP tweets that mention George Zimmerman and/or Trayvon Martin and tweets that mention Dr. Kermit Gosnell:

George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin: more than 272

Gosnell: 2

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Big tests for media’s abortion message machine

Someone on Twitter noticed something illuminating about mainstream media coverage of social issues that’s worth a look. Remember, first, how tmatt quoted the New York Times‘ Bill Keller on the bias dividing line of that paper:

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.”

While many outlets are being more open and honest about their inability to cover — without, at times, quite dramatic bias — social issues, it’s still interesting to just see it in practice. So @DavidSeawright’s note is interesting:

Framing: Gay marriage, at 53%, has “country as a whole.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/06/27/a-majority-of-the-country-supports-gay-marriage-will-any-2016-republican-presidential-candidate/ … Pro-life “polls pretty well” at 59% http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/07/12/food-stamps-abortion-pose-big-tests-for-gop-message-machine/?wprss=rss_the-fix&clsrd …

Both stories are from the same media outlet, the Washington Post. Indeed, they are from the same section — “The Fix.” Both stories even share a reporter. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? It’s just a very good example of the subtle ways in which stories are framed. It’s perhaps even more pronounced if you look at the headlines (which is all that many people do, of course):

A majority of the country supports gay marriage. Will any 2016 Republican presidential candidate?

Food stamps, abortion pose big tests for GOP message machine

Fascinating. Just fascinating. At the end of the post, I want to look at something positive about media coverage of this topic, but another quick notation about a New York Times story yesterday on the “safety” of abortions. The theme of the piece revolves around safe, safety and safeguards. The reporter promoted the piece on Twitter with the note:

Rare agreement on a sensible way to keep abortion safe: Maryland’s Path to an Accord in Abortion Fight http://nyti.ms/10OiC7m

And it’s an interesting story, in many ways. But it was shocking to read an entire article about how to make abortions “safer” without even the slightest mention of how “safe” abortions are for the unborn child. If you’re pro-life, this is abundantly clear. If you’re pro-choice, just imagine reading a story about how to make slavery safer … for the slave owner. Or imagine if it were a story about how to make discrimination against homosexuals safer … for the discriminator. It would be weird, at best. This type of question-begging is common in stories about abortion. The perspective of the human who is killed in the procedure is almost never mentioned … at all!

The New York Times hyped this story in its morning email and even included it in its “Quote of the Day” in that email:

QUOTATION OF THE DAY  “Today, having an abortion is safer than an injection of penicillin.”  DR. DAVID A. GRIMES, the former chief of abortion surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the record of a procedure that is subject to new restrictions in many states.

The first comment on the story is from a reader who quotes the quotation of the day and adds:

Except for the innocent child, that is.

The second comment is:

Once again the elephant in the room is ignored. Debating what constitutes proper regulation of abortion procedures ignores the fundamental divide on the issue: when is it acceptable to kill a child in the womb?  The answer range is from “never” to “whenever”.  Current constitutional precedent says anytime for any reason (Roe v Wade, Doe v Bolton, Casey v Planned Parenthood) since “health exceptions” include distress from being pregnant. Public opinion has vacillated since 1973 and differs based on how the question is asked, but CLEARLY it is not a “settled” public question like slavery or human trafficking or suffrage or bigotry. If you think having an abortion is like removing a tumor or taking penicillin than every regulation is onerous, political, and ideological. If you think abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent baby then regulating abortion clinics is as noxious as drafting workplace improvement regulations for 19th century slave plantations.  It presumes that ______ is either NOT evil or that it IS evil but can be done in a good way.

Even something so simple as clarifying that this story was about how to make abortions safer for the women who have them would be helpful. This media practice of dehumanizing the main victim of the abortion is not journalistically defensible. It certainly does not help media credibility. And there is so much ground to be made up.

In any case, I said we’d end on a brighter note.

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Could it be … Satan? Not in the news coverage

When abortion rights supporters showed up at the Texas state capitol to protest, the AP considers it worthy of a 800-plus word feature. The headline on Monday was “Crowd Of Thousands Packs Texas Capitol To Protest Abortion Bill.”

It was the largest demonstration at the Capitol in recent memory, with the Department of Public Safety pegging the crowd size at about 3,000 by mid-morning and The Associated Press later estimating it had grown to at least 5,000 participants at its peak. Scattered among the sea of orange were clusters of blue-clad counter-demonstrators who prayed, clutched crosses, sang and watched the debate from the Senate gallery, but they were far outnumbered by opponents of the legislation.

The AP makes a point of noting the religious activity of the counter-demonstrators (prayed, clutched crosses, sang hymns, the usual stuff), but why do they not mention the religious activity of the demonstrators? For example, what about those who were chanting, “Hail Satan”?

Texas blogger Adam Cahm, who recorded the video, says, “For the record: They’ve been doing this all day, this is just the first time we caught it on video.” So if the protestors were chanting “Hail Satan” all day yesterday, why have we not seen reports about today by mainstream outlets?

The Washington Times appears to be the only newspaper to report on these chants. Meanwhile, CNN producer Josh Rubin mentioned the chants on Twitter (“Crowd of anti abortion activists giving speeches while a group of people chant hail Satan in the background.”) but, so far, nothing on CNN, in terms of actual coverage.

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Zeleny’s questions: 3 on shoes, 3 on catheters, 0 on abortion

Earlier this week, we discussed the six questions that ABC News’ reporter Jeff Zeleny asked of State Sen. Wendy Davis in the interview that aired on “This Week” on Sunday. We’ve been pointing out the problems in this religion ghost-soaked topic for years. Over the past week, those problems have been demonstrated in the softball interviews and coverage of Davis.

Zeleny took a bit of heat for the nature of his questions and inability to ask a single question (much less good question) about abortion, which is what the legislation under debate in Texas relates to, as the pro-choice protesters here demonstrate. That takes work in six questions. But today Zeleny proudly released a lengthier version of the interview.

A longer cut of our Wendy Davis interview, where we ask about her past, future — and yes, her catheter. http://yhoo.it/16LxnJ5 #PowerPlayers

Somehow, it’s even more obsequious than the initial interview. It’s downright shameful, in fact, how unborn children never make an appearance in this interview, much less the views born Texans hold on abortion. You can watch it here, and it could be used unaltered as a campaign or fundraising video. These are things no journalist should ever aim for.

I went ahead and transcribed the portions Jeff Zeleny spoke, which we’ll look at below. He introduced the piece and concluded it and had 18 questions or statements to which Davis responded. Please note the three shoe questions, the three catheter questions and the zero abortion questions:

Welcome to the fine print. I’m Jeff Zeleny Today we’re in Ft. Worth, Texas at the Stage West Theater having a conversation with State Sen. Wendy Davis, rising democratic star at the center of the abortion debate here in Texas.

(1) Senator. Thank you very much for joining us.

(2) So A week ago, no one knew State Sen Wendy Davis outside of Ft. Worth, now you’ve become a national and international name.

(3) Why did you decide to wear your running shoes. Let’s take a look at those. They’ve kind of been rocketing around the internet.

(4) These are the shoes now, probably the most famous shoes in politics. And is this a pink?

(5) But you’re also a runner. These are legitimate running shoes.

(6) How did you handle the personal side of this?

(7) With a catheter, is that right?

(8) I apologize for my rudeness. But I think I read in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram that you came prepared for …

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