Babies and holy ghosts in Texas surrogate pregnancies story

Give the Austin American-Statesman credit for a couple of things.

First, the Texas newspaper has the start of a potentially fantastic, enlightening trend piece:

AUSTIN — A nurse spread gel on Nicole Benham’s pregnant belly and slowly moved a sonogram wand over it, describing the images on nearby monitors. This scene, in which parents get an early glimpse of baby, is played out many times a day in medical offices across America, but this plot has a twist.

Benham is carrying twins, but they are not her babies. They belong to Sheila and Kevin McWilliams, a New Jersey couple who lost their firstborn and can’t have another child together. They provided the eggs and sperm, and they will bear all costs, which average $75,000 to $100,000 and include fees to the surrogate, the matchmaking surrogacy company and lawyers for both parties, experts said.

Despite such costs, U.S. surrogate births have jumped 250 percent in eight years, and experts expect them to continue rising because of advances in reproductive technology, increasing numbers of same-sex marriages and growing acceptance of surrogacy.

In the vast majority of surrogate births today, the intended parents provide the egg and sperm, minimizing the risk of custody battles. Data suggest that there are fewer multiple births, and, perhaps surprisingly, more surrogates bearing babies for others more than once.

Second, the American-Statesman doesn’t totally ignore religion:

Even so, surrogacy remains controversial. State laws vary widely, with such liberal locales as New York and the District of Columbia banning it outright. The Catholic Church also forbids it, along with in vitro fertilization, the process in which the egg and sperm are combined in a lab before being transferred to the carrier.

“It removes procreation from that intimate act of love and puts it in the realm of science and medicine,” said Marie Cehovin, director of the Office of Pro-life Activities and Chaste Living for the Catholic Diocese of Austin. “The whole idea of creating life in a petri dish is horrendous to us.”

The church also opposes the destruction of embryos and terminating the fetus, which could happen, for example, if a different gender is preferred, she said.

But overall, this story fails to deliver.

Granted, it would be impossible for a newspaper story — particularly in the 1,100 words afforded to this one — to cover every religious and ethical issue associated with surrogate pregnancies. On a basic, Journalism 101 level, however, this piece leaves too many unanswered questions. That’s even before the rather large holy ghosts that — even if those general points were addressed — would cause concern here at GetReligion.

The basic stuff first: Way up high, readers are told:

[Read more...]

Stenography vs. reporting: ‘Bias’ in the Lone Star State

Just the other night, I was watching an old episode of “The West Wing,” one of my all-time favorite television series.

On this particular episode, a distinguished journalist returns from an important overseas assignment and finds himself stuck — as he sees it — in the White House press corps.

“Why do you think the White House is a bad beat?” Press Secretary C.J. Cregg asks the reporter, named Will.

“I don’t like being a stenographer,” he replies.

I feel his pain. In my Associated Press days, I seldom enjoyed being part of a horde camped outside a crime scene or closed-door meeting with a million of my closest media friends. I much preferred being the lone journalist chasing an untold story in a forgotten place.

I was reminded of the stenography quote when I read a recent Dallas Morning News story on a study examining Bible elective courses offered in public schools (this is an issue I remember covering during my time with The Oklahoman).

The Dallas story, churned out by the newspaper’s Austin bureau, ran under this headline:

Watchdog group finds ‘blatant bias’ in Bible courses at Texas schools

What is bias? Presumably, that means that the courses tell only one side of the story. Ironically, the Morning News story — all of 350 words — manages to do the same.

The top of the report:

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X