Former ABC journalist: Media should show respect for pro-life views
Analysis

Former ABC journalist: Media should show respect for pro-life views

pro-life, abortion

In a piece published in Dallas News, Peggy Wehmeyer, a former religion correspondent for ABC News, has issued a call for newsrooms around the country to treat pro-life voices with respect and fairness. She calls out her fellow journalists for their gravely inadequate coverage of pro-life views, which she labels as “grossly underrepresented in today’s abortion coverage by most media outlets.” According to a recent Live Action News report, a Gallup poll at the end of June this year found that, for the first time since 2013, “a higher percentage of respondents identified as ‘pro-life’ rather than ‘pro-choice’,” — 49 percent to 46 percent, respectively. In addition, most Americans disagree with taxpayer-funded abortions. And a January 2019 Marist poll, as reported by Live Action News, showed that “Ninety-two percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Independents, 60 percent of Democrats, and 61 percent of those who identified as ‘pro-choice’ stated they wanted abortion allowed only in the first three months of pregnancy — at most.”

It is hard to dispute Wehmeyer’s diagnosis of journalism’s treatment of pro-life voices today. Looking at a 2019 sampling of abortion coverage, the evidence is overwhelming. Just a handful of examples:

  • The Washington Post’s deeply biased coverage of the Obria Group’s network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers earlier this year
  • The New York Times’ one-sided pro-abortion coverage of abortion in the Black community and its publishing of an abortionist’s op-ed claiming “pregnancy kills, abortion saves”
  • The Guardian’s stigmatizing of peaceful 40 Days for Life activists in the UK
  • Apple News’ banning of a pro-life news site for “intolerance”
  • Big Tech’s ongoing campaign against Live Action and its pro-life news
  • Widespread media disinformation about the Trump administration’s new Title X Family Planning funding rule 

The evidence strongly indicates that most major news organizations are decidedly antagonistic to pro-lifers. 

READ: Media bias: Pro-life organizations receive heavy scrutiny, while Planned Parenthood

Wehmeyer, whose reporting once aired on World News Tonight and other ABC News shows, attempted to be fair to the pro-life voice. She exclusively interviewed Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, after McCorvey’s pro-life conversion in 1995. She gave voice to abortionists traumatized by botched abortions that included live deliveries. And she covered pro-life protestors at abortion facilities as equally as she covered abortion activists.

Build ideological diversity in the newsroom

The former ABC News journalist’s proposes concrete actions to “rebuild trust with millions of Americans who feel marginalized by the national media” include a need for “ideological diversity” in newsrooms around the country. She argues that reporters, who are isolated in pro-abortion echo chambers, should sincerely educate themselves about the beliefs of the tens of millions of pro-lifers around the country. Although she specifically refers to learning about evangelical Christians and their pro-life convictions, the reality is that journalists would do well to learn about the many strands of the pro-life movement, including Secular Pro-Life, New Wave Feminists, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ pro-life ministry, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life of America, National Right to Life, pro-life pregnancy resource centers, various state pro-life groups, and countless other organizations ranging from the grassroots to the national level. 

To Wehmeyer, the failure to adequately cover pro-life perspectives is at least partly rooted in most major newsrooms’ disconect from the beliefs and experiences of pro-life Americans. A prime example is the media’s chronic underreporting and unjust treatment of the seminal annual pro-life event, the March for Life, which in 2019 drew an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Americans from all over the country. Over five years (2013-2017), the March for Life received a combined total of from all networks of just 23 minutes and 45 seconds of coverage, while the combined coverage of the Women’s March in January 2017 alone was 1 hour and 15 minutes. In January 2018, the March for Life received 13 times less coverage than the pro-abortion March for Our Lives. Even the UK March for Life in 2019 was greeted with silence by the media. 

Watch your language

Wehmeyer also rightly points out that the media loses credibility with vast swaths of the pro-life public by consciously manipulating even the language they use to discuss the issues around abortion. She highlights deliberately misleading terms, like “embryonic pulsing” to describe a fetal heartbeat or “cluster of cells” to refer to a preborn baby, that not only infuriate pro-lifers but insult their intelligence and drive them to other news outlets and alternative media sources.

 

Don’t treat abortion as a mere political issue

Another problem plaguing news coverage, according to Wehmeyer, is that newsrooms today treat abortion solely as a political issue. Yet she argues that her colleagues should expand their coverage beyond the political agenda of abortion to report on the human side of the story, by allowing “reasonable opponents of abortion to describe their moral angst over a mother aborting her unborn child.”

Wehmeyer recalls that her efforts at giving faithful representation to the pro-life voice at ABC News was widely popular among the public: “Over and over our viewers told us they finally felt heard and understood.” Yet she also recalls that, even two decades ago, she encountered “vocal resistance” from inside the newsroom. Still, she insists journalists are duty-bound to be faithful to both sides of the issue: “Let the Democrats dismiss half the country as ‘deplorable’ or unintelligent, but not the media, which is charged with understanding and covering both sides with impartiality.” 

Wehmeyer’s call for fair-mindedness and respect for the pro-life voice in the media, which in a normal era might be considered common sense, is today nothing less than revolutionary.

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