NPR's Lauren Frayer repeatedly emphasized the conservative ideology of the ruling party of Spain on Thursday's Morning Edition, as she reported on proposed legislation there that would be, in her words, "one of the toughest abortion laws in Europe – a near-total ban, except in cases of rape or threats to the mother's health." However, she didn't point out the left-of-center political affiliation of opponents of the proposal.
Frayer noted how "topless women" shouted "abortion is sacred...surrounding a Catholic cardinal on his way into church a couple weeks ago," but failed identify that these protesters were from Femen, the radical feminist group that got its start in Ukraine by cutting down a memorial cross to victims of Soviet communism. The correspondent also played up how the party that proposed the pro-life law is "moving to the right – trying to keep members from defecting to a new far-right political party, similar to the Tea Party in the U.S."
Host David Greene outlined in his introduction to Frayer's report that "Spain is poised to pass one of the toughest abortion laws in Europe....In 2010, the then-socialist government relaxed abortion rules...But now, a conservative government is in power, and plans to reverse that – banning abortion altogether, except in cases of rape or threats to the mother's health. The move has sparked protests across Spain, and its Spanish consulates here in the United States and around the world."
The NPR correspondent led with two sound bites from Esperanza Puente, a Spanish woman who had an abortion in the 1980s. She described how "the end of the 1980s was a wild time in Madrid," and how she ended up pregnant. Frayer pointed out how "Puente couldn't bear to tell her conservative Catholic family back in her village," and decided to have the abortion. However, the journalist soon added that Puente "now volunteers with an anti-abortion group. She's changed her mind."
Frayer continued with her "toughest abortion laws in Europe" label of the legislation, and punctuated this by noting that "serious birth defects will no longer be grounds for terminating a pregnancy." She then summarized the apparent "big backlash by abortion rights advocates" to the proposal, and included clips from a pro-abortion rally and the Femen protest:
LAUREN FRAYER: ...Thousands of protesters march up and down Madrid's wide avenues every weekend. Many accuse the government of cowing to the Catholic Church. (clip of Femen protesters shouting down Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela) 'Abortion is sacred,' topless women chanted, surrounding a Catholic cardinal on his way into church a couple weeks ago. They pelted him with lace panties, in one of the more colorful protests that have become a fixture here in recent months.
The correspondent then played three straight sound bites from pro-abortion talking heads – the president of Planned Parenthood in Spain and a "conservative" supporter of legalized abortion – and included her "far right party similar to the Tea Party" line:
FRAYER: Luis Enrique Sanchez, president of Spain's Planned Parenthood Federation, says the new law will turn the clocks back to the 1970s – when Spanish women went abroad for abortions.
LUIS ENRIQUE SANCHEZ, PLANNED PARENTHOOD (translated, from the original Spanish): Many women will be packing their suitcases once again for weekend flights to France and England. This is a situation we cannot endure. It will do so much damage to the Spanish population.
FRAYER: Ruling conservatives hold an absolute majority in Spain's parliament – enough to push this abortion ban through. They're moving to the right – trying to keep members from defecting to a new far-right political party, similar to the Tea Party in the U.S. But they also face another revolt from the center – led by this woman. (clip of Celia Villalobos speaking in Spanish)
Celia Villalobos is the feisty deputy speaker of Spain's parliament – a conservative and an abortion-rights advocate. She's urging fellow conservatives to break with the party leadership, and vote their conscience on abortion.
CELIA VILLALOBOS, MEMBER OF SPANISH PARLIAMENT (translated, from the original Spanish): Sure, there's a far-right wing of the party that's much more conservative, and it's pressuring the leadership. But what's happened, is it's not in 1985 anymore. We're in 2014, and things have changed.
Frayer used more slanted language towards the end of the segment, as she pointed out that "in the intervening years, most of Europe legalized abortion. In 40 years, Spain has changed from a Catholic dictatorship to one of the first European nations to legalize gay marriage." That's an oversimplification, as Francisco Franco's Falangist Party's nationalist and authoritarian rule led it to clash with completing Catholic factions. Falange Party members even attacked a Catholic religious procession attended by political opponents in 1942.
Back in 2011, the NPR journalist played up the the trend towards secularization in Spain during her biased report on Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the country for World Youth Day. Frayer asserted that "most of the papal audience is foreign," and underline the impression of rampant secularism in Spain by stating that "Spain is one of the least religious places in Europe, in terms of seeing the Church as a guide for moral values." In reality, this wasn't a completely accurate portrayal of the southern European country, as earlier that year, "between 130,000 and 160,000 people demonstrated in central Madrid, Spain, on Saturday [March 26] against laws that make abortion easier."