Bad, Better, Best: Networks React to the Texas SCOTUS Abortion Case

March 3rd, 2016 4:27 PM

The results are in – from worst to best in coverage: NBC, ABC and CBS.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The abortion case out of Texas challenges HB 2, which required abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and mandated that their clinics adhere to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. During their Wednesday evening news shows, the big three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) offered mixed reports (and terminology) to their audiences.

CBS was the only network to cover the case Thursday morning during the network’s morning news shows.

Here is the coverage from the three networks, listed from worst to best:

1. NBC News

During Wednesday night’s NBC Nightly News, host Lester Holt introduced the “high drama” at the U.S. Supreme Court over the “tough new Texas law” which could mean “sweeping implications for women across the country.”

Holt then turned to justice correspondent Pete Williams. Williams immediately focused on the story of Candace Russell, a Texan who went to California after getting pregnant because “it was so hard to get an appointment at an abortion clinic.”

Throughout his report, Williams cited women’s groups as well as clinic doctors, showed abortion supporter signs outside SCOTUS and played clips of a clinic physician and actress Amy Brenneman (who recently went public with her positive abortion story).

NBC only gave one sound bite to the pro-life movement: a short comment from Texas state senator Kelly Hancock.

In his conclusion, Williams warned, “With Justice Scalia gone, the most Texas could hope for was a 4-4 tie which would let the law remain in effect, but judging from today's argument, that seems unlikely.”

2. ABC News

After NBC, ABC World News Tonight came in second for worst-in-coverage on Wednesday.

Reiterating abortion supporter talking points, host David Muir stressed that the case that has “already forced clinics to close and could force even more to close down as well.”

He described the two sides protesting outside SCOTUS as “abortion foes facing off against abortion rights supporters.” (Compare that with CBS’ terminology below which called pro-lifers “supporters” and abortion activists “critics.”)

When congressional correspondent Mary Bruce continued the story, she began with a clip from outside SCOTUS where a woman challenged a man, “Is it your body?”

But unlike NBC, ABC showed signs from both sides of the abortion debate outside SCOTUS.

Bruce spoke with both sides too: Stephanie Toti, attorney for Whole Woman’s Health, as well as a pro-lifer.

3. CBS News

CBS Evening News did a fair job of reporting on the case. Host Scott Pelley cited the Texas law that “imposes tough standards on abortion clinics” but also added that “supporters say the law protects patients.”

Chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford showed both abortion supporters and pro-lifers outside the court.

From inside and outside the court, Crawford gave opinions from both liberals and conservatives – and went on to refer to Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

“Texas passed the law in 2013 amid national outcry over a Pennsylvania clinic where a doctor was convicted of killing a patient and three infants in botched, late-term abortions,” she said.

On Thursday, This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell briefly mentioned the “landmark abortion case” during “This Morning’s Headlines.” She called pro-lifers “supporters” and pro-abortion activists “critics” of the case.

Related story: The 25 Craziest Signs Outside SCOTUS During TX Abortion Arguments