Bogus caricatures, flat-out misinformation, and bias-by-omission have recently plagued the Los Angeles Times when addressing the issue of abortion. For example:
1. A Tuesday, May 22, 2007, front-page piece by Stephanie Simon (whose work we've addressed before here, here, here, and here) tackles the fact that the number of abortion doctors in the United States is dwindling. Misinformed stereotypes and misleading information riddle the article. For example:
a. Simon paints an overly grisly portrait of abortion in the years before Roe v. Wade (emphasis mine):
[Medical student Megan] Lederer, 30, can't relate to the images that drew an older generation of physicians into abortion work. She can barely picture it when they talk about life before legal abortion: the blood-spattered apartments, the women racked with infection from stabbing sticks into their wombs.
"Blood-splattered apartments"? "Women racked with infection from stabbing sticks (??) into their wombs"? Sure - it's easy to find anecdotal evidence of sad and tragic episodes like this, but what's the truth about illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade?
According to CDC figures, in 1972, the last full year before the Roe v. Wade decision, 39 women died from illegal abortions (source). As tragic as each death is, this is hardly the national bloodbath that Simon suggests. (It's also a far cry from the "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year" that the abortion industry once lied about. (Read more about that here.)) Meanwhile, 35 years later, women continue to die from legal abortions. Life Dynamics has compiled a list of 347 women who have been verified to have been killed by legal abortion; the list is called "Blackmun's Wall." (For other stories, see this, this, and this.) By the way, the number of deaths from legal abortions nowadays is almost impossible to tabulate, as many abortions occur in "nonreporting states" (source, see page 5) and abortion-related deaths often go unreported (see this important report.) (For even more on this, read the book Lime 5, by Mark Crutcher.)
b. Simon also adds (emphasis mine):
Extreme violence is always a threat. A Texas man was indicted this month on charges of planting a bomb filled with nails outside an abortion clinic in Austin. The National Abortion Federation is so fearful of attack that officials don't announce the dates of the annual conference, much less the location.
But the violence has subsided greatly since the mid-1990s, when seven doctors and clinic workers in the U.S. and Canada were killed and dozens of clinics were targeted with bombings, arsons and acid attacks. Doctors today are more likely to face pickets and pray-ins.
First of all, notice a blatant contradiction. Simon first says that "Extreme violence is always a threat." Then in the next paragraph she writes, "Doctors today are more likely to face pickets and pray-ins." Which is it, Stephanie?
Is "extreme violence" really "always" a threat? Any violence against abortionists is reprehensible; but what is the truth?
Here are the facts: Even the National Abortion Federation's own web site acknowledges that there have been exactly ZERO murders of abortion providers so far in the 21st century, and the last murder was in 1998 (nine years ago). The last attempted murder was in 2000 (link (pdf)). In addition, the seven murders that Simon cites are the total number of murders that have occurred since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973! There were zero murders of abortion providers between 1973 and 1993 (Source: On Message by Mark Crutcher) (See also NAF's site.)
The bottom line: "The image of abortion workers having to dodge a hail of automatic weapon fire just to get from their car to the clinic door is utter nonsense," writes Mark Crutcher. (Crutcher also notes that in the years 1993 and 1994, the worst period of violence in pro-life history in which five abortionists and clinic workers were killed, more farmers and twice as many hairdressers were murdered on the job (On Message).)
2. A particularly offensive opinion piece by Dan Neil (Sun. 5/6/07) (he usually writes about cars) is about how Dan and his wife aborted two boys (partly because they "run a higher risk of autism") in a "selective reduction." (Read reaction to Neil's awful piece here, here, and here.) Neil wrote (emphasis mine),
The physician who performed our reduction asked that her name not be used, for fear that she might be terrorized by some gun-toting antiabortion extremist.
As we've already shown above, the caricature of the "gun-toting antiabortion extremist" is an extremely gross and unfair exaggeration.
3. A May 7, 2007, article addressed the Supreme Court's April partial-birth abortion decision. In citing a UCLA doctor, the article said the upheld federal law "probably refers to a procedure called 'intact dilation and extraction,' or intact D&X" (emphasis mine).
"Probably"?? Why "probably"? Did anyone at the Times actually read the Supreme Court decision? In the very first paragraph, the case explicitly states that the debated procedure "is herein referred to as 'intact D&E.'" In addition, a few paragraphs later in Justice Kennedy's opinion, the jurist clearly explains that the procedure "has been referred to as 'intact D&E,' 'dilation and extraction' (D&X), and 'intact D&X'."
In other words, there should be no "probably." What we have is a case of sloppy journalism by the Times.
4. The Times' bias in addressing the abortion issue is especially egregious for not only what it reports but for what it does not report. As we wrote last week, the Times has failed to publish a single syllable about a major scandal at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. A Planned Parenthood clinic worker was caught on videotape advising a woman she thought to be underage to conceal a statutory rape. "[J]ust figure out a birth date that works. And I don’t know anything," said the clinic worker. Illegal activity, maybe?
It goes without saying that if this had been a Republican or a Catholic priest caught on the tape, the Times would be sure to report it - in BIG letters on their front page. But since Planned Parenthood is the culprit, the story is completely and utterly ignored.
Virulent bias at the Los Angeles Times? Absolutely.