A Matter of Trust

By Laura Echevarria

Over the years the public's trust in the "media" has plummeted. Reporters in particular, and news people in general, are widely distrusted.


In his revealing book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, Emmy Award-winner Bernard Goldberg looked at his colleagues and concluded that they "far too often ignored their primary mission: objective, disinterested reporting."

Nowhere is that more true than in the way the news business covers the abortion issue. The distrust that so many people have for the media's handling of abortion is because so much misinformation distributed by pro-abortion groups finds its way into the newsroom and presented as fact. Look no further than the coverage of the ban on partial-birth abortions. Recently, Pamela Brogan, a Gannett News Service reporter, repeated much of the litany of misinformation about partial-abortion and Roe v. Wade that had been discredited in excruciating detail years before. Brogan based her story in its entirety on the campaign of misinformation promoted by pro-abortion groups, which assert that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act would "ban all abortions in the second trimester." In fact the language is very, very specific and limited to one abortion technique.

In addition to using this incorrect information about the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Brogan also minimized the impact of Roe v. Wade. Referring to Roe, she wrote, "the decision. . . said abortion in the first trimester must be left to physicians. The court further said states could regulate or restrict abortions in later stages of pregnancy but must provide an exception for health of the mother."

It is, of course, a gross misconception to suggest that the "right to abortion" that the Supreme Court has enforced under Roe v. Wade is limited in some special way to "the first trimester." Indeed, it is a misconception that has been repeatedly refuted by the Supreme Court itself.

The casual reader would also conclude that there would need to be a serious risk to the mother's health to warrant an "abortion in later stages of pregnancy." But what does "health" mean?

The United States Supreme Court made clear in its Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings that the "health" of the mother could be defined broadly to include "all factors - - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - - relevant to the well-being of the patient."

In 1996, this led Dr. David Brown, medical writer for the Washington Post, to conclude, "Because of this definition, life-threatening conditions need not exist in order for a woman to get a third-trimester abortion."

Some media outlets learned long ago to discontinue the use of some of these "myths" about abortion and in particular partial-birth abortion. But there are some that seem to have trouble discarding fiction for surety of fact. Perhaps part of the reason they are so easily duped is that they uncritically accept "unbiased" sources which, in fact, are associated with the abortion industry. Take, for example, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the "special affiliate" of Planned Parenthood. AGI recently wrote a response to an opinion piece written about partial-birth abortion by Michael Fumento that appeared in the Washington Times October 24. AGI wrote, "it is inappropriate to equate D&X [dilation and extraction] procedures with 'partial-birth abortion,' as Mr. Fumento's article does. AGI did not collect information on 'partial-birth abortions' - - nor does anyone - - because there is no accepted medical definition for the term."

In a National Organization for Women (NOW) press release dated October 21, 2003, Kim Gandy, president of NOW, parroted the same line. "Try as you might, you won't find the term 'partial birth abortion' in any medical dictionary," she wrote. "That's because it doesn't exist in the medical world - - it's a fabrication of the anti-choice machine." Wrong. "Partial-birth abortion" is not only a legal term but also can be found at major medical web sites. These include Medline, which is associated with the National Institutes of Health, and Intelihealth, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

If you go there and use the medical dictionary search tools (which access the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary), you find "partial-birth abortion" defined as "an abortion in the second or third trimester of pregnancy in which the death of the fetus is induced after it has passed partway through the birth canal."

And, as NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson recently noted, "This widely used medical dictionary does NOT list the pseudo-medical jargon terms that pro-abortion groups insist are the proper 'medical' terms for the method - - 'dilation and extraction,' 'intact dilation and evacuation,' or 'intact dilation and extraction.'"

But pro-abortion groups have repeated these statements so frequently some reporters will use "so-called" in front of "partial-birth abortion" or any other phrase they deem to be "loaded." When they do it gives the appearance that the term is questionable or untrustworthy.

Not everyone is so easily conned. For example, in May 2003, John Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times, wrote a memo addressing the use of the words "so-called" that had appeared in an article on legislation related to crisis pregnancy centers in Texas.

"The apparent bias of the writer and/or the [news]desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring 'so-called counseling of patients,'" he wrote. "I don't think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it 'so-called,' a phrase that is loaded with derision."

Pro-abortion groups are still playing fast and loose with the facts, in spite of reams of evidence against them.

Pro-abortion groups wield this misinformation to their advantage. Unfortunately, some journalists are still taken for the ride.

But we can counteract this if educated people just like you go to the NRLC web page and use the information found there to clear away the errors and misstatements.

If you go to www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/index.html, you will find the most complete data on partial-birth abortion found anywhere on the net.