The new ‘abortion’: cutting newborns’ spinal cords

Two years ago, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested for the murders of eight people at the abortion clinic a jury called a “house of horrors.” As I wrote at that time, normally if anyone in the country is accused of murdering eight people (and, in fact, a reading of the grand jury report indicates he is suspected in the murders of untold more, and I do mean untold), that would be big news.

This has not been big news. It’s been covered, but not in the way the 24-hour news cycle covers, say, a missing blonde woman.

It’s been different than, say, the frenzied and unrelenting negative coverage of one anti-abortion candidate’s unscientific and widely derided remarks about rape.

Gosnell ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, performing some 16,000 procedures. Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant from Nepal, died at his hands. That’s one of the murder charges. The rest are for some of the babies he delivered before cutting their spinal cord. The grand jury report is sickening. It tells of a shop of horrors — infant body parts stashed everywhere in the clinic (including the employee lunch refrigerator), unsterilized instruments, flea-ridden cats defecating throughout the facility. Again, a grand jury report this horrific would normally be bigger news.

In the Grand Jury report, you can read more about how he violated abortion regulations by performing abortions on minors without parental consent, how he performed abortions past 24 weeks, sometimes very far past 24 weeks, fudged required ultrasounds, skipped required consultations. You can read about the other women who died or were severely injured after abortions performed by Gosnell. You can read about how pro-choice politicians ended some regulations of abortion clinics or about how one doctor complained about the spread of VD from the clinic. All this is just in the first 18 pages of the 281-page report.

At the time of this report and his arrest, the same broadcast outlets that reported on Todd Akin’s “rape” remarks night after night after night after night after night after night somehow managed not to mention Gosnell once.

There were other media outlet problems, too, which you can revisit here.

Gosnell’s trial has finally begun and the Associated Press report on it is extremely difficult to read. Here’s how it begins:

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Is Politico as partisan as The Weekly Standard?

Today is Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton’s last day. You can read his memo to staff here.

To mark it, I’m ruminating on a Twitter exchange I happened across last night. So telling. It begins with John McCormack, a reporter for The Weekly Standard, writing:

Politico article on abortion issue includes two quotes–one from Planned Parenthood and one, for balance, from ACLU

It’s a particularly bad example of what we see on abortion coverage every day, as well as coverage of many other hot-button issues commonly found on beats linked to religion and politics. Even though this is only six paragraphs long, it’s a bad example.

But what I found interesting was the response from Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter for the supposedly mainstream Buzzfeed:

Lot of balance in those Weekly Standard Chuck Hagel stories.

This is a reference to The Weekly Standard‘s work opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. But the Standard (where my better half works) is an avowedly conservative opinion journal. It’s whole purpose is to spread adoption of a particular set of conservative values.

Do you see the problem here?

BuzzFeed and Politico (and the Washington Post, and countless other media outlets) present themselves as mainstream media outlets doing straight news. I’ll let Twitter do my work for me:

@QuinHillyer Weekly Standard is an opinion journal. Politico claims to be straight news. Big difference in what’s expected

@McCormackJohn Well, at least they’re more balanced than Buzzfeed’s articles on gay marriage. Also: We don’t pretend we’re not ideological.

@IMAO_ He’s very clearly saying that Politico is as partisan as the Weekly Standard.

We’ve been talking about this a lot recently, because it’s a major change in the stated objectives of mainstream media. This is also a topic closely linked to media-bias studies about religion news.

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What do you mean ‘we’ Kemosabe?

This is a small item, but I found it interesting none-the-less. I wonder what you think.

Today the Washington Post has an update on an important First Amendment issue (important for a few different First Amendment reasons).

Rives Grogan is  a former pastor at New Beginnings Christian Church in Los Angeles. He climbed a tree during the inauguration of President Obama this year and shouted religious messages about abortion. By all accounts, including his own, the protester was zealous and was a distraction.

He was arrested and — no joke — exiled from Washington, D.C. Honest.

Now for the update:

Rives Grogan is allowed back into the District.

The protester who took to a tree to shout antiabortion comments during President Obama’s inauguration in January had been banned by a D.C. judge from setting foot in the city.

But that order was amended during a hearing Monday. The revised order says the tenacious Grogan may roam widely among us while awaiting trial but must avoid a clearly defined area on Capitol Hill that encompasses the Capitol grounds, the House and Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

The barring of Grogan from the city after his five hours in the tree touched off a vigorous debate over free speech and political dissent in the nation’s capital.

Emphasis mine.

Now, does anyone else find the “us vs. him” approach of that third paragraph to be odd? I can’t stand how political reporters suspect “othering” in, for example, every single pronouncement a Republican makes about President Obama but there’s something about this construction here that I find odd.

Part of it is that I have no idea why the reporter is using the first person plural in a news story. But more than that, “we” are just as much those people who get arrested and annoy people with our political pronouncements and religious views as “we” are the people who don’t, right?

I’m not sure I like the idea that “we” are better or set apart from the people who find themselves in court or otherwise in the crosshairs of government.

Couldn’t this just be avoided by avoiding the first person? Particularly on hot topics like free speech, religious expression, abortion rights, etc.?

Mainstream media defense of abortion never rests

I once served on a jury that convicted a man of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. We all thought he did it, but we weren’t sure the government had made its case. The evidence was strong but his defense attorney had done such a good job of explaining it away or striking various aspects from the record that we almost let him off.

It didn’t work, but it almost did. His attorney did such a fantastic job that I remember thinking, “If I ever am accused of a crime, I want this man to represent me.”

And that’s how I feel about this Washington Post write-up we’ll look at shortly. My thought is, “If I ever kill someone, I sure hope the Washington Post covers for me.” Only problem with this plan (other than my fervent hope I never commit such an act) is that I think they may only provide this exculpatory service for abortionists.

Let’s first look at the story as written up by the Journal News, a Gannett publication most recently known for publishing the home addresses of legal gun owners. The piece, “Coroner: Jennifer Morbelli bled to death following abortion,” begins:

A New Rochelle woman died of complications from a late-term abortion at a Maryland clinic, the Montgomery County, Md., coroner confirmed Wednesday.

Jennifer Morbelli, 29, a schoolteacher in White Plains, bled to death after amniotic fluid in her womb spilled into her bloodstream, said Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Medical Examiner’s Office.

That newspaper also has a feature about how the doctor who performed the abortion was profiled in a documentary film praising late-term abortionists.

Now, Newsday‘s piece is headlined, lengthily, “Jennifer Morbelli, New Rochelle teacher, died of complications after abortion, medical examiner says.”

The Washington Post piece, which took surprisingly long to go online (I had previously been writing about how there was no story there even many hours after it was appearing at other sites) went up late last night.

See, it takes time — and, I guess, many phone calls with abortion rights groups to get it just right — to write the story this way. Headline, of course, is “Md. medical examiner cites rare complication in death of woman after abortion.” Then we get many, many words about how this was just a freak accident and that legalized abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy had absolutely nothing meaningful to do with the death of this young woman (never mind the dead child, of course):

A 29-year-old woman died of natural causes after visiting an abortion clinic in Montgomery County and suffering a rare complication related to childbirth, according to an initial finding by the Maryland medical examiner’s office.

Are you freaking kidding me, Washington Post? Are you freaking kidding me? CHILDBIRTH? CHILDBIRTH?

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Water-sipping and pro-life activism. A tale of media coverage.

Last month, we covered the perennial problem of why the March for Life gets the coverage it does (or doesn’t get the coverage it doesn’t get). And various journalists responded that, well, the March for Life isn’t big news, particularly after 40 years, and that the crowds aren’t that big of a deal when compared to a weekend of sporting events. One comment, for instance:

If pretty much the same people do the same thing year after year after year, is it news? Or to what extent is it news? Or what is the news in the event? Particularly if there’s a challenge in linking the event to anything that happened other than the event? These are all journalism questions to be applied to the annual marches by people opposed to abortion rights.

Yep. Big crowd. But fewer people than attended the college football bowl games. Even if you buy the crowd estimates offered by the organizers — and such are almost always hugely puffed for any large event if there’s not been actual data collected — it wasn’t even rounding error in a nation of more than 300 million. What has happened in the US because of these annual marches? What’s different this year compared with last year because of last year’s big march? Unless there are good answers to these questions — and good answers there may well be — it’s not big news.

Two days ago, the President of the United States gave his State of the Union Address (annual event, the words of the address are eerily similar year after year) and a couple of Republicans responded (also an annual event, etc., etc.). One of them drank some water during his speech. I didn’t watch, but apparently it was the most amazingly newsworthy drink of water to have ever happened in the history of the world.

Literally (and I don’t mean that in the Joe Biden sense of the word):

Rubio water-swig replay tally: MSNBC 155, CNN 34, Fox News 12 [VIDEO]

Ahem.

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Running the White House spin on HHS regulations

If news is ever going to break on your beat, it will break on Friday afternoon, a few hours before you planned to enjoy your weekend. I don’t know why it’s always true, but it’s always true. Or at least, that’s how it works for me.

On Friday, the White House announced that there’d be another change to its rule requiring groups to provide insurance plans that cover abortion drugs, contraception and sterilization even if they have religious objections. On Twitter, Godbeat pros immediately started complaining about this change happening on a Friday afternoon — like all the other news related to this ruling had happened on Friday afternoons.

Why is this significant? Well, you have an extremely limited time to compose a story and people who might react to the story have a very short time to think through their reaction to this story. Some were able to power through the mandate revisions and respond, but some wanted to take their time and reflect before reacting. Do they have any idea how frustrating this is to a reporter on deadline?

I simply must share Sam Rocha’s hilarious post from elsewhere on Patheos, headlined “BREAKING NEWS: USCCB to Think About HHS Amendment Sanely and Without the Advice of Drudge, Huff Post, or Alike.” Here’s how it begins (though the whole thing is funny):

In a shocking press release, United States Conference of Bishops made several unexpected moves in response to the Obama administration’s proposed modifications to the HHS mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, known by many as Obamacare. In a brief three-sentence memo, Cardinal Timothy Dolan implied a number of cryptic, esoteric, and ridiculous things. Two of the three sentences were particularly disconcerting to American Catholics:

We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.

American journalists and politicians are outraged. An MSNBFOX reporter writing on condition of anonymity e-mailed,

WTF! Seriously? The USCCB is going to READ the whole document before they comment? What is this, the stone age? Clearly the Bishops are again showing how out of touch they are with the times. We reported on this story before we were sure it was real. That’s what we do: we make things real, even if they’re not. And if they are, we sometimes make them unreal by ignoring them. How naive and trite of them to act like this is their role. Ridiculous, really. Know your role, Bishops.

Obviously I love daily journalism, but I’ll take a chance to ruminate on a story any day. So I was impressed with how some reporters were able to get the details out quickly, including some reaction from the affected groups who claim they care about something they call “religious liberty.” (I think that’s how we’re supposed to characterize the parties suing the federal government.) Here’s Christianity Today, for instance.

The White House is claiming that they’ve compromised. Some folks need time to react to the changes and others are already saying that the changes are not a compromise. A lot of what’s been said in response to the mandate changes sounds like spin, too. So should media outlets just run with White House spin?

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We don’t have a free press. Discuss.

With the headline “Stupid Press, Stupid People: Non-Reporting the March for Life,” you know Anthony Esolen has something to say:

Our founders believed that a free press was essential for a free society.  We believe we have a free press.  But what good is nominal freedom—the government does not censor our newspapers—if the writers are liars, or are ill-educated, or feed the populace a lot of claptrap, or ignore important events because they don’t like the people involved or the cause?  What happens, if the “teaching” of three hundred million Americans is in the hands of people who give headlines to a football player with a fictional girlfriend, or to the sleazy habits of a porn girl turned celebrity, or to “scientific” studies about when your “relationship” is going to end, rather than to anything of substance, anything that requires learning, listening, investigating, and thought?  What happens, particularly, if the only stories about faith come from the category, “Benighted Believers”?

What happens is what we got for non-reportage on this year’s March for Life in Washington.

The issue he raises in the first paragraph is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’d be the first to point out that it’s easy to blame the media. At least a a large part of the blame lies with the people who care more about fictional girlfriends than global concerns. But it’s also true that our media have problems with accurately conveying information and have strong biases that affect their coverage. What’s worse is is that I think that many know this and just don’t care. We have a media that is content to go after some people, certainly (my prayers go with you if you’re a conservative woman in any field, for instance) but don’t seem that interested in how corporate interests helped write, say, Obamacare or all other pieces of legislation. They’ll go after you with the fury of a firestorm if you decide you don’t want to fund an abortion business any more but they don’t seem terribly interested in said abortion businesses. (Did you see much coverage of this riveting documentary out just last week about the abortion doctor who is charged with eight homicides?) They’ll go after you if you don’t share their doctrinal approach to sexuality. But if you do, you’re probably going to be just fine. And on and on. This is not speaking truth to power or being properly adversarial. And is it a truly free press? I think Esolen asks a good question.

The piece, published at Crisis isn’t just about the big-picture problems with how the media portray the abortion debate. He also brings it down the story level, fisking an Associated Press report on the recent March for Life. Let’s go ahead and look at it:

But the Ministries of Truth mostly ignored it.  What they didn’t ignore, they belittled or distorted.  In doing so, however, they revealed their own ignorance.  Here is the AP story, in News-speak, with my comments in brackets:

Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators

[That’s a lie, right there.  If 650 people show up at a town meeting, and the reporter says that “several” people showed up, that reporter is a liar, and should be fired.  If 6,500 people show up at the State House to protest a bill, and the reporter says that “dozens” showed up, he’s a liar, and should be fired.  If a crowd fills the Rose Bowl, and the reporter calls them “hundreds,” he should be fired.  The March for Life is, year after year, the largest peaceful assembly of people in the nation.  To know this, and to fail to report it, is to be a liar.  Not to know this is to be a moron; no third possibility exists.  Meanwhile, a gun control protest was held in the same place a few days later, and “thousands” were reported to have taken part in it, when the actual number was about 1,000.  The two stories together show an exaggeration of 50,000 to 65,000 percent, in favor of what the reporter favors.]

marched through Washington to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to protest the landmark decision that legalized abortion.

 

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How PR attempt against Life Marchers played out at MSNBC

YouTube Preview Image Earlier this week, I looked at how a PR push from a progressive group called Faith in Public Life, which attempted to distract from the annual human rights march in defense of unborn children, became a New York Times article. I got a lot of feedback on that piece, and I appreciate all of the kind words about it. I also got quite a bit of feedback from people who suggested I was naive to think this was surprising or noteworthy — as if this is just standard operating behavior from the media.

I was the media critic who had a hard time believing that Faith in Public Life would simultaneously run a PR campaign suggesting that the Catholic bishops were being too political when they fought for religious liberty and a PR campaign for a hyper-political anti-Paul Ryan bus tour featuring a couple of nuns. I further found it impossible to believe that the media would swallow both campaigns whole without even mentioning that these were both highly funded and savvy PR campaigns from a group with tons of connections to the Obama campaign. (Why do journalists always like to claim they’re about afflicting the comfortable or speaking truth to power? I don’t see it as much as they do.)

Anywho, I get the criticism that I was naive to be surprised or outraged by this press release being transposed into the pages of the New York Times but (and, as Pee Wee Herman says, everyone he knows has a big “but”), this really was a particularly egregious example of the larger problems the media have in covering the pro-life movement. To that end, you may be heartened to know that more than a few reporters wrote me to say that while they respect the Times’ journalism, they didn’t support this approach and they would encourage fellow reporters to be more skeptical of some PR campaigns (however much we all rely on them for stories).

So let’s move on. Above is an interview of a pro-life activist done by MSNBC. I know, I know — MSNBC. But this isn’t one of that cable outlets opinion shows. MSNBC, as to be expected, perhaps, also pushed the “if you’re really pro-life, why not gun control” messaging from the savvy PR group. (One wonders why people who support gun control are never asked by reporters about scalpel and curettage control or other tools of violence used in abortion. Why did this question only move one way last week? Why not both ways? Hmmm.)

My transcript of the above video interview by MSNBC’s Craig Melvin of Ryan Bomberger:

Melvin: Do you agree that anti-abortion activists, groups and politicians also have a moral commitment to also join the fight for stricter gun control?

 

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