Should pro-choice activists be asked Gosnell questions?

Should pro-choice activists be asked Gosnell questions? May 13, 2013

The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a Mother’s Day interview with, who else, the head of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does a few things that people either love or hate, but none so much as aborting more than 300,000 unborn children each year.

The media are firmly on one side of this issue and have done quite a bit to help out Planned Parenthood, a truth laid painfully bare during the Komen Foundation for the Cure situation last year, which I chronicled extensively. That was when the private foundation devoted to fighting breast cancer decided to pull out of funding the country’s largest abortion provider. The media didn’t view this as a story with two sides but went to the mat to force Komen to cave in. It worked. Within days, they were bullied into relenting and agreed to give money to Planned Parenthood.

Some media outlets perpetuated a falsehood about Planned Parenthood — that the organization offers mammograms. It doesn’t. Months (and years) after those mistruths were shared (by Planned Parenthood, President Obama and the media), some media outlets corrected the information. See here, here and here.

That cozy relationship is also shown in this Times magazine piece. These interviews are generally fluffier for friends of the paper than foes, but fluffy in general.

You can see where that might be a problem when dealing with the head of an organization that, again, aborts more than 300,000 unborn children each year. If, you know, you think that’s troubling.

But even so, the interviewer does not in any way shy away from political questions. That could be a good thing.

Do we see tough questions about whether the Cleveland kidnapper should be charged with murdering his unborn children by forcibly aborting them? No.

Do we see any questions, tough or non, about the biggest abortion-related story of the year — the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell? Dear reader, I have to tell you. The answer is no!

Just by way of example, Catholic news director Anna Mitchell is having trouble getting anyone at Planned Parenthood to accept her interview request. She offers these sample questions for journalists who are able to get interviews with Planned Parenthood:

First, I read a report that Gosnell’s lawyer, during cross-examination, downplayed the procedures in his clinic by saying they were common in the abortion industry at-large. Is this true? If Gosnell’s procedures are not standard to the industry, what is standard procedure? The latest string of videos from Lila Rose’s Live Action confirms at least that Gosnell’s is not the only clinic that would be willing to let a baby die after a botched abortion ( – are there more? Should these doctors be punished if the evidence proved they did not provide life saving care for the child?

Second, the conditions in Gosnell’s clinic were revolting, to say the least. He could quite possibly become a poster child for legislation that would require abortion clinics to have the same standards as hospitals. I know that most – perhaps all – abortion rights groups have opposed these bills in the past, saying it would force too many clinics to shut down. In light of the Gosnell case, will that position change? Wouldn’t hospital-like requirements ensure that every clinic provides a clean, safe environment for women? Wouldn’t it be better for a woman to travel farther away if it meant lessening her risk of STDs, infections or even death? If you remain opposed to these kinds of standards, why?

Instead, you won’t believe the hot-off-the-presses questions that New York Times interviewer Andrew Goldman and his editors signed off on instead of anything on, say, Gosnell:

When House Republicans invited five male religious leaders to testify on whether birth control should be covered by Obamacare, you asked on Facebook: “What’s wrong with this picture?” Republicans had to know the optics were bad. I assume no one thought it through. Some folks in Congress are so wrapped up in their political ideology, they forget that women are part of the equation.

WHAT THE HECK? First off, that’s not a question. How a self-respecting journalist could even live with themselves after “asking” it is beyond me. It’s also misleading, ignoring the women who testified at the hearing (ignoring some women is better than ignoring other women, I guess).

Nevermind that the hearing was titled in words simple enough for everyone but journalists to understand:

Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?

I wouldn’t expect that the media would accept that Republican spin on the hearing. But that they carried the football 98 yards for a touchdown on behalf of Democratic spin (which happens to be, word for word, what the New York Times “interviewer” offered here) is troubling.

For the eleventy billionth time, that the particular area of religious liberty concern (sorry, “religious liberty” concern) dealt with funding abortion drugs, sterilization and contraception is somewhat incidental from the perspective of those concerned about religious liberty. I’m not arguing that journalists should ignore, again, the perspective of those unconcerned with religious liberty in this case but the lack of care shown those on the other side is disconcerting.

When the media marginalizes people such as me (the head of my church body represented me that day) and my millions of confessional Lutheran brethren is infuriating and hurtful and insulting. That they do it in the service of “journalism” is even worse. I really wish, more than a year later, they’d stop this.

The other questions?

What can we learn from Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment?

Really. Akin. Gosnell. Akin. Gosnell. Hmmm. Which one is more timely and important? (And I wrote this before today’s verdict, mind you.)

And, finally:

Last year, when Susan G. Komen announced it was cutting financing to Planned Parenthood, your organization got a ton of attention and $3 million in donations. Did you think, I can’t believe our luck?

Yeah, did you know that the media would do all of your work for you? Did you think that your version of events — contradicted by this first-hand account, for instance — would be accepted wholesale by the media and that they would rush to help you with a devotion not even the most fervent religionists have for their church body?

Great questions, New York Times! Great questions.

One thing I love about this is how the media continue to Gosnell the Gosnell coverage (to explain, “Gosnelling” now means to downplay media coverage for particular gain)
and then write stories about how no one is interested in it. How would a New York Times reader even know about the Gosnell trail unless he happened upon the meager coverage provided? Do you think an average Times reader is aware of Komen, Fluke and Akin? What’s the difference?

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23 responses to “Should pro-choice activists be asked Gosnell questions?”

  1. I can’t use here the language that crossed my mind when reading that piece in the paper. Three questions about “Those troglodytes who said mean things about women and sex – are they malicious or just stupid?” and nothing about “So, as the representative of Planned Parenthood nationally, care to explain how it was that when women complained about Gosnell when they went to your affiliate in Philadelphia, their concern for women’s health and safety didn’t extend to picking up the phone and calling the relevant authorities?”
    A fine example of the interviewing technique known as “pelted by marshmallows”.

  2. How about some reporter being sent out to see if the IRS has been harassing Planned Parenthood the way apparently so many conservative groups were.

  3. Not only should pro-choice activists be asked Gosnell questions, but pro-life politicians should STOP answering “Akin questions” and the like; or, rather, answer them by saying, “I’ll answer that question after you ask the Gosnell questions to the president and 20 other pro-choice national elected officials.” And then hand them the appropriate questions as laid out above!

  4. I want to punch my computer reading this! This has gone way beyond “misrepresentation” to full-blown advocacy! That the media is still peddling these lies only makes this worse! Serious question – can we sue the NY Times and the other papers for not covering the Gosnell trial or Benghazi or the now IRS scandal?

  5. Sorry, folks. You lost me in the very first paragraph here, because the phrase “unborn children” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing.

    Beyond that, you seem to be willfully missing the point of the NYT’s piece on the GOP’s inept approach to women’s issues and family planning. For starters, and this really should be obvious, what conceivable reason is there for Congress to invite testimony from religious leaders *at all* (never mind exclusively male ones!) on insurance coverage of contraception? That is in no way, shape, or form a religious issue.

    I support free exercise of religious beliefs as much as the next person, but it’s a matter of one’s personal, voluntary choices… it has no business interfering with anyone else’s legal rights.

    • “That is in no way, shape, or form a religious issue.”

      That’s an assertion, not an argument. The religious leaders say that, yes, contraception coverage *is* a religious issue, and anyone who follows what the Vatican says would have to agree. So, journalistically, why should a reporter agree with your view and disregard the view of those who disagree?

      • Because “what the Vatican says” is not something that should have any influence in American politics or policymaking. In fact, it’s flatly prohibited from doing so by the Constitution. Religious leaders can say whatever they like, of course, and it’s relevant to those who voluntarily choose to follow them. It’s *not* relevant to anyone else, nor to public officials who have a duty to the entire citizenry.

    • “Unborn children” is not an oxymoron. It is a philosophical statement. The gist of the article is that the media assumes a philosophy about life, rights, personal identity, metaphysics and the like, in short the media assumes a morality about the issue. Your statement that “this is in no way, shape, or form a religious issue” is the same thing–a philosophy, a confession, a belief. Everyone has them.

      But the question is does the true exercise of reporting require the awareness of one’s own worldview and perspective in such a way that the media can give faithful representation to those who may have differing worldviews and perspectives? The manner in which the Koman kerfuffle was reported suggests that the media believed the issue was that the organization had committed an insult to women by its actions and was guilty of a moral failure. In this it may have failed to be fair to Komen.

      Good reporting will ask questions of “Whose justice?” and “Which rationality?” Columnists can offer opinions and judgments all day long and try and convert us to whatever they believe. The reporter has to be fair amid his or her beliefs, confessions and weltanschauung.

      • I don’t think I was making a philosophical statement, much less a “confession.” On the contrary, I was making a statement of legal doctrine. The legal and Constitutional context is the one that matters here, and in that sense it is, in fact, clearly and unequivocally, *not* a religious issue. If I were to venture into the philosophical aspects of this, that would be a different discussion… but those aspects are relevant to personal judgments and decisions, not public ones.

      • Have you actually read Roe v. Wade? The legal and medical complexities of this kind of question are addressed there with admirable nuance.

          • Care to explain why? I think it stands out as an exemplar of careful, balanced, factually and philosophically informed jurisprudence.

  6. The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a Mother’s Day interview
    with, who else, the head of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does
    a few things that people either love or hate, but none so much as
    aborting more than 300,000 unborn children each year.

    I have no idea who the people are that love the fact that Planned Parenthood aborts more than 300,000 “unborn children” each year.

    • Probably more accurate to say they love that women have taken advantage of 300,000 opportunities for reproductive choice (a decent percentage of which occur on fetuses and otherwise viable babies).

      And, is it just me, or do Planned Parenthood and NRA not occupy the same lobby niche? I’ll have to start watching how framing of these two lobby groups matches up.

    • Malthusians and a political party that receives a portion of the blood money from those abortions surely love PP’s abortions despite what they claim to swing voters

    • Cha5678, and kmbold,

      Yup. That’s who I thought Molly was referring to. Those answers seem so far unconnected to reality as to be shameful–as is the implication that for some people the single most thing that they “love” about planned parenthood is the fact that it “aborts more than 300,000″ unborn children each year.” Yup, some people just really, really love abortion. I bet those people are wondering how they can get that number even higher? (After all, abortion is just so much fun.)


      Hmmm. If by a “decent percentage” you mean about 1.5%, then I guess you are right.

  7. As to interviewing Ms Richards on Mothers Day — well, her mother was rather well-known, that and there’s a play on Broadway about Ann Richards, featured on the front page of the Arts Section. To read her only as the head of PP and not as the daughter of a celebrity misses the celebrity approach that is the foundation of the NYT Magazine interviews.