Catching Up: The March for Life Blackout

Here's a belated item for your media-bias talking points: after rummaging through the media coverage of the typically large March for Life on Tuesday, January 22, I have the following scorecard:

-- ABC, CBS, and NBC had absolutely nothing on the March, and absolutely nothing on the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Put the word "abortion" into Nexis and you get a black hole for that day, and the next day.

-- By contrast, Fox News Channel at least had a fair-and-balanced report on the March (complete with abortion advocates like Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation) on Tuesday night's Special Report with Brit Hume.  

-- National Public Radio offered several segments on the Roe anniversary, but no mention of the March for Life  (with the asterisk that news breaks on the hour are not loaded into Nexis.)

On Tuesday, Morning Edition carried a Kathy Lohr on attempts in some states to pass a Human Life Amendment, with both sides of the debate represented (the labels were "pro-life" and "pro-choice"). The afternoon talk show Talk of the Nation did a long segment on women discussing their abortions with after-abortion counselors Aspen Baker and Teri Reisser, who agreed women shouldn't feel post-abortion guilt. All Things Considered anchor Robert Siegel interviewed Rudy Giuliani about his abortion views. But NPR aired nothing specifically about the protest whatsoever.

-- Most newspapers felt the need to note the Roe anniversary and the March with news stories and/or editorials. (Stephanie Simon in the Los Angeles Times covered teen pro-lifers.) I should add that Clay Waters at Times Watch found the exception: the New York Times published nothing.

-- CNN barely mentioned the March. One Alina Cho anchor brief on American Morning contained the perfunctory line that "Rallies and protests on both sides of the issue planned in Washington today." That's a strange line, since the Washington Post made no mention whatsoever of any pro-abortion events for that day.

On the Noon (Eastern time) show The World Today, CNN reporter Jill Dougherty offered a completely one-sided report that promoted Planned Parenthood and its supporters, but excluded a pro-life point of view, unless you count two small taped bites underlining Mitt Romney's abortion flip-flop.

JIM CLANCY, anchor: All right. Today the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion. But the issue, to say it is hotly debated is an understatement. The new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates 24% of all voters consider abortion extremely important to their vote in this year's presidential election. U.S. affairs editor Jill Dougherty explains why.

JILL DOUGHERTY, U.S. Affairs Editor: It is just four blocks from the White House. But that doesn't make Planned Parenthood Federation's Washington, D.C. clinic any more secure. It provides health, reproductive services and abortions. And in today's America, that makes it a target.

KIRKLAND HAMMILL, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: There have been situations with health centers like ours where there have been bomb scares, actual bombs and people dying as a result.

DOUGHERTY: Just to get in here you have to go through multiple layers of security. This door, for instance, is made of bulletproof glass and you have to be buzzed in. 28-year-old Sara Brooks used to work with Planned Parenthood. She is now with a nonprofit organization. In this presidential race, she says health and reproductive rights are her top issues. I mean this is a big issue to you?

SARA BROOKS, ABORTION RIGHTS SUPPORTER: Yes, definitely. I think it is difficult for women in my generation to understand what life was like before Roe V. Wade. I hope that we never have to learn the hard way.

DOUGHERTY: Roe Versus Wade is the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed a woman's right to abortion. The issue has been political dynamite ever sense, debated in coded language with words like "pro life" and pro choice." More than half of all Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken two months ago. But among Republican primary voters, almost two-thirds, 63 percent, believe abortion should be illegal in most cases. The Republican Party platform supports overturning Roe vs. Wade, and that's creating some uncomfortable situations for Republicans like Mitt Romney who have changed their positions.

MITT ROMNEY CLIPS: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country...On abortion, I was wrong and I changed my mind.

DOUGHERTY: As New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani supported public funding of abortion, now he says he hates abortion and wants what he calls reasonable restrictions on it. Mike Huckabee believes if abortions were outlawed, doctors should be sanctioned, but not women, because they're victims. Democrats, for the most part, support a woman's right to choose abortion and expanded access to family planning services. Jennifer Drake, a 24-year-old client of Planned Parenthood, says she's trying to convince her friends this election really matters.

JENNIFER DRAKE, PLANNED PARENTHOOD CLIENT: You would be surprised at how many people don't feel like our rights are threatened. I feel like especially here in Washington, D.C., that it hasn't even been brought under our noses.

DOUGHERTY: On the 35th anniversary of Roe Versus Wade, Planned Parenthood's political arm announces a campaign for the November presidential election. Its goal, turning out 1 million voters who support abortion rights. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.

Abortion ABC CBS NBC CNN Fox News Channel Los Angeles Times NPR
Tim Graham's picture