Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.
The abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America released a study June 11 that analyzed the media’s coverage of abortion and gave the media a series of recommendations that illustrated how the abortion lobby would like the media to cover the issue. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, stated that “the analysis demonstrates how even mainstream coverage around issues of pregnancy and abortion has been affected by right-wing propaganda and disinformation.”
So what “right-wing propaganda” and “disinformation” about abortion did the abortion lobbying group find from the mainstream media in their purportedly neutral study of 300 articles from 10 major outlets? Their findings included that “abortion is covered as a political issue and not a health issue,” highlighting that “more than 77 percent of all abortion-related articles were written by political, general assignment, breaking news, or legal reporters.”
In that critique, NARAL did not address the fact that abortion is a political issue. They themselves boast of effecting “political and cultural change at every level, from the statehouse to the White House” on the issue and holding “political leaders accountable at the ballot box.” They even noted at the beginning of the report that “the right to abortion has never been more at risk.”
A significant portion of NARAL’s analysis consisted of complaints that “charged rhetoric from anti-choice advocates are included in coverage, oftentimes with minimal context.” This included “91 articles mentioning fetal ‘heartbeat’ legislation.” NARAL has their own vocabulary guide for media for “how to contextualize inflammatory anti-choice terms if they are referenced in coverage.”
In their definition of “heartbeat bill” they recommended reporters write that “this cardiac activity is electric activity among cells that will eventually become the heart, but is not the same as a heartbeat that pumps blood,” and advised that “an alternative to ‘heartbeat bill’ is legislation banning abortion after six weeks, before many women know that they are pregnant.”
Another term they objected to was “born alive.” They called it an “inflammatory term” and said it was “used by anti-choice activists and politicians who claim they want to protect an infant who is ‘born alive.’ In these tragic cases, a baby is dying and politicians are suggesting taking away a parent’s ability to make the best decision for their family about palliative care for the infant in exceptionally difficult circumstances.”
While NARAL claimed to base their suggestions around facts and medical science, they ignored the facts behind “born alive” legislation. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate that the circumstance of an infant being born alive and then dying after an abortion attempt has occurred at least 143 times between the years of 2003 and 2014.
As for the parent’s ability to make “palliative care” decisions, Planned Parenthood lobbyist Alisa LaPolt Snow was clear that the infant’s life is still viewed as a “choice” when Congress asked her in 2013 “if a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?” She replied, “we believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”
One case of an abortionist killing infants born alive after abortion procedures was that of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted in May 2013 of the first-degree murder of three infants born alive after attempted abortions and the involuntary manslaughter of one woman during an abortion. It would have been difficult for the media to cover the case at all using NARAL’s preferred terminology. The case received little coverage regardless.
NARAL also objected to the term “pro-abortion.” They claimed the latter “mischaracterizes the core guiding principle of the pro-choice movement: to allow people the ability to choose what is best for them, their bodies, their families, and their lives” and informs reporters that “the preferred phrase is pro-choice.” However, they had no problem referring to pro-life groups as “anti-choice activists” throughout the report, disregarding the preferred phrase of “pro-life” based on the core guiding principle of the pro-life movement that human life begins at conception.
Their recommendation goes even further than the AP Stylebook, which caused controversy among pro-lifers when it advised that reporters “use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.”
NARAL also cautioned reporters about references to a “Crisis pregnancy center/Women’s Health Center,” saying that “these are fake women’s health centers that intentionally lie to, shame, and mislead those seeking an abortion in order to block them from accessing abortion care. These centers often do not provide medically accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased information.” The group offered no proof that pregnancy centers “lie to” women. The former president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, recently described one crisis pregnancy center as an area of “common ground” with pro-lifers.
The group also objected to the term “DIY Abortion,” claiming it was a “phrase used by the anti-choice movement to describe a self-managed abortion, where someone ends their own pregnancy, often through medication such as mifepristone and/or misoprostol. The term ‘DIY’ is used to evoke images of abortions being done at home or as part of a ‘DIY’ trend. The preferred term is self-managed abortion.”
These “self-managed” abortions, without the supervision of a medical professional, are still mostly illegal in the United States. NARAL is pushing to change this and has recently called for the lifting of existing Food and Drug Administration restrictions on abortions at home, carried out by taking the drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, to allow them to be marketed via telemedicine without any direct oversight by medical personnel.
Throughout their analysis, the abortion group complained about reporters characterizing “the abortion debate as divisive, furthering the perception of profound conflict on the issue.” The group then cited a statistic that “support for Roe v. Wade has enjoyed majority support, with recent polling indicating strong support — 77 percent — for the landmark ruling.”
However, that number is from an NBC/Marist poll which also found that “61% said they were in favor of a combination of limitations that included allowing abortion in just the first three months of a pregnancy (23%); only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman (29%); or only to save the life of the woman (9%).”
The breadth of polling on the abortion issue still supports labeling it as “controversial.” Recent polling from Gallup highlights the decade-long split between the 46% of Americans who would label themselves as “pro-life” and the 48% of “pro-choice” Americans. Additionally, 44% of Americans view abortion as “morally acceptable” while 47% see it as “morally wrong.”