Still pretending to be an objective media watchdog (and still fooling nobody), the far-left, pro–abortion propaganda mill Media Matters is complaining that mainstream reporting on Texas’s disputed abortion clinic regulations has a pro-life bias. Yes, really:
Media coverage of Texas’ anti-abortion laws often provides equal coverage to both sides of the debate, at the expense of fact-checking anti-abortion proponents who claim, against the advice of medical experts, that the legislation helps women, as Amanda Marcotte noted in a July 2 post for RH Reality Check. Pointing to a recent article from NPR on the Supreme Court’s move to temporarily block the state’s restrictions, Marcotte explained that although the piece’s efforts to quote both sides “is not, in itself, an issue,” a statement from a representative from Texas Right to Life, which claimed the law was simply meant to protect women’s health, went unquestioned. “What is frustrating is that there is not a whiff of an effort to provide actual real-world facts to give the audience context,” wrote Marcotte.
Ignoring the patent absurdity of citing Amanda Marcotte as an authority on journalistic ethics, the piece goes on to whine that “The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal each included statements from both sides of the debate arguing that they were protecting women’s health while failing to note that medical experts don’t support the legislation”:
Health experts have roundly backed abortion access advocates in their assertion that laws of this nature are both medically unnecessary and dangerous to women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Health Association condemned such measures in a joint amicus brief, writing that the measure to be implemented in Texas “jeopardize[s] the health of women” and “denies them access” to safe abortions.
There are at least three major ways this manufactured outrage fails.
First, of the four outlets they cite, only WSJ could plausibly be claimed to have an editorial disposition against abortion. Just last month, the editorial boards of both NYT and WaPo bemoaned attacks on “abortion rights”—the latter of which was the paper’s latest in a string of attacks on the very law Media Matters is talking about.
NPR’s loyalties are similarly on the record—in 2010, managing editor David Sweeny mandated that staff refer to each side not by the respectfully neutral “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but the blatantly loaded “abortion rights advocates” and “abortion rights opponents.” This April, Kansas for Life legislative director Kathy Ostrowski laid out how they omitted key details from their interview with her, gave Planned Parenthood three times the quotes they used from her, and misstated key facts at the pro-life side’s expense.
You want to suggest any of these could occasionally omit pro-abortion talking points out of laziness? Sure, I’ll buy that. But a consistent, willful effort to make pro-aborts look weaker? Don’t make me laugh.
Second, there are other pro-abortion biases in the sample articles that don’t seem to bother Media Matters. The NPR piece suggests “some hospitals are reluctant to grant” admitting privileges “because of religious reasons, or because abortion is so controversial.” Really? Are those the only reasons—religious dogma interfering with health care or fear of controversy? None of the hospitals are motivated by any secular views that abortion violates a physician’s basic duty to do no harm?
WaPo mentions a ban on what “some call” partial-birth abortions, as if there was some dispute that that’s exactly what the legislation prohibited. MM may fret that readers won’t walk away confident that the law is wrong, but the reports in no way come across as ringing endorsements, either.
Third, and most importantly, the law’s medical fraudulence is far from the objective fact Media Matters pretends it is. For instance, they probably wouldn’t like you to know that the medical organizations they cite are themselves biased—the ACOG, for instance, redefined “pregnancy” from fertilization to implantation (in direct contradiction to how OB/GYNs actually use the terms) and in 1996 allowed the Clinton Administration to modify their statement on partial-birth abortion, both for political expediency. Similarly, the AMA’s credibility took a hit when they tried to pass off as objective fetal pain research a study whose lead author had been a NARAL lawyer. (Also noteworthy: when there aren’t abortions to promote, the AMA is more than willing to be one of thirty-two medical organizations who affirm that admitting privileges and emergency transfer agreements are a “must” for any “office-based surgery.”)
The “unnecessary” lie is also hard to square with the reality of the Texas abortion industry:
- Douglas Karpen had a patient die after an abortion he performed in 1989; in 2014 another patient sued him for “permanent injuries due to a perforated uterus, a torn cervix and internal bleeding.” A former surgical assistant claims “most of the time” he’d kill a baby after he or she “would come completely out.”
- Theodore Herring’s license was suspended last year for performing 268 abortions without active admitting privileges after the requirement took effect, “pos[ing] a continuing threat to public welfare,” according to the state medical board.
- Lester Minto didn’t get admitting privileges despite having a qualifying hospital less than two miles away, but did make a habit of sending patients to Mexico to use misoprostol as an off-brand abortifacient, even though its danger to mother and child alike led our FDA to forbid its prescription to pregnant women.
- Jasbir Ahluwalia was shut down under HB 2 after a history of improperly managing and documenting high-risk pregnancies and C-sections.
So while the reporting on Texas’s ongoing fight could use more detail and context, Media Matters’ tune would undoubtedly change if included all of the above. What they want out of abortion coverage is not legitimate journalism, but pro-choice press releases.