NY Times' One-Sided Coverage of Texas Abortion Regs at SCOTUS Continues

The New York Times really despises the Texas law raising safety standards for abortion clinics, and its reporting makes no effort to hide it. Health reporter Abby Goodnough reports on the case, soon to come before the Supreme Court, which will rule whether it violates a 1992 ruling that states cannot impose “undue burdens” on women seeking abortions. The 2013 law, signed by then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, requires abortion doctors to maintain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and for abortions to be performed in surgical facilities.

The headline summed up the paper’s one-sided stance: “Under Texas Law, Women Pay More and Wait Longer for Abortions – Crowded Waiting Rooms As New Rules Force Half Of State’s Clinics to Shut.”

Goodnough either couldn’t find or didn’t bother interviewing a single pro-life person deep in the heart of Texas. Instead, “Texas lawmakers” who passed the law got a single explanatory sentence. Goodnough didn’t mention a religious angle, though when it comes to other public policy like Obama-care, she is able to find a “moral dimension.” A photograph on the jump page showing a grand total of “two protesters” praying, which would seem to deliberately minimize opposition to abortion in Fort Worth.

Her Sunday story was a series of sympathetic interviews with women relieved to be able to get abortions for now, though they were aggrieved by the inconvenience.

When Amy found out around Christmas that she was pregnant, she wasted no time seeking an abortion. Her husband had just lost his job and the couple had been kicked out of their house, forcing their family of five to move in with his parents.

“It would have been the absolute wrong thing to do, to have another baby right now,” said Amy, who is 32. “So I started calling around pretty quickly.”

But she found that getting an appointment for an abortion, even in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, proved almost as stressful as the unwanted pregnancy. The number of abortion clinics in Texas has shrunk by half since a 2013 state law imposed new regulations that many said they found impossible to meet. When Amy called the two clinics here just after New Year’s, and a third in Dallas, the earliest available appointment was on Jan. 22.

The United States Supreme Court, in one of the most closely watched cases of the year, is considering the constitutionality of that law and whether it creates too much of a burden on women seeking an abortion.

These are the restrictions on abortion that Goodnough found “unnerving.”

Here in Texas, women are experiencing what it means to navigate the landscape created when roughly half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics closed, with some facing an unnervingly long wait and others traveling hundreds of miles, sometimes leaving the state, for the procedure.

When Amy, who like several others interviewed asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy, went to Whole Woman’s Health here for her sonogram and abortion over two days in January, she was shocked by how crowded the waiting room was and by how long she had to wait for the procedure: about five hours.

“Private” Amy’s picture accompanies the story, by the way.

Opponents of the law say the wait stems largely from the closing of the clinics, which they tie directly to its requirements that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that all abortions take place in so-called ambulatory surgical centers.

Texas lawmakers argue that the provisions were intended to improve the safety of the clinics and that despite the closings, as Texas’ solicitor general, Scott A. Keller, put it before the court, “abortion is legal and accessible in Texas.”

Abortion rights advocates say the logistical hurdles for women seeking to end pregnancies include separate Texas laws requiring most women to get a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion, from the same doctor, and requiring all abortions past 16 weeks to be done at surgical centers.

Goodnough unleashed a stack of unchallenged anecdotes from the pro-abortion side.

Already, abortion providers say, long drives and packed waiting rooms have become the norm, and second-trimester abortions have become more common because of the wait for an appointment.

Tenesha Duncan, an administrator at Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, said her clinic’s patient load had doubled since the new law took effect, with more patients coming from rural parts of the state and also from Houston and Austin. Demand is so high that the clinic has expanded its procedure hours to 60 from 40 a week, Ms. Duncan said, and has assigned seven employees to answer phones.

Candice Russell, a 32-year-old administrative assistant from Irving, was 12 weeks along when she learned she was pregnant in 2014, she said, and she faced a wait of two and a half weeks for an abortion in Dallas or Fort Worth.

Another apparent burden for pregnant women: The clinics might look too much like....doctor’s offices?

At the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth, which looks like a small house, several women waiting for abortions said they did not like the idea of having to get the procedure at a hospital-like surgical center.


Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.