Where have all the mainstream media pro-life voices gone?
A new abortion clinic is opening in Bethesda, Md., with a spa-like atmosphere. Think hot tea, fluffy robes and hardwood floors designed to put the patient at ease. The Washington Post reported on it earlier this week and the usual conservative sites picked it up denouncing the clinic for legitimizing murder.
Unbelievably, that was it. No outraged voices on cable or on the editorial pages of the dailies. No social media campaign. No second-day analysis/activist pieces decrying the immorality of ending a life, especially in such blasé fashion. It was barely a blip in the 24/7 news cycle. You could almost hear a resigned sigh coming from the conservative wing of the GOP.
It seems, for the moment, that abortion is dead as a political issue whether the party says it out loud or not.
And that’s a sad commentary on the state of the media. Pro-life advocates — despite the fact that Americans are split down the middle on their views about it — aren’t finding, or making, opportunities to be heard.
More and more, liberal media sites dominate coverage of abortion stories, making the conversation lopsided. Feminist columnist Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Slate’s “Double X” blog, picked up on the Post’s story agreeing that abortion patients deserve spa-like conditions. The headline on her post: “What’s the problem?”
Yet contrast abortion coverage with the endless hours and words devoted to batting down Indiana’s religious freedom law. Conservatives got plenty of air. Why is it that the media will make a fuss about marriage equality, but issues related to abortion are now a no-go?
Not all of the blame lands squarely on the media’s shoulders. For writers and talking-head conservatives, defending life can be lose-lose. Fighting the abortion battle won’t help most politicians get elected. And fear drives many non-activist pro-lifers to keep quiet.
At a recent conservative women’s lunch in Washington, D.C., many women told me they would not raise their pro-life beliefs in the workplace or speak out on TV or print because it could hurt their careers. “I know when I’m in a room that some of the women I’m speaking to must have had abortions,” said one participant. “It’s not an issue I want to be vocal about.”
Maybe that’s why we didn’t hear much reaction when a 26-year-old Colorado woman had a fetus cut from her stomach last month by a woman who came to her house under the guise of buying baby clothes. Yes, the facts of the mauling and baby’s death were covered by all of the biggies: USA Today, New York Times, CNN, Fox News. And a few outlets covered the next-day story that the perpetrator wouldn’t be charged with murdering the fetus because of murky Colorado personhood laws. But the coverage seemed brief and largely confined to being online.
Of course, many conservative outlets –- ones that more regularly beat the anti-abortion drum –- wrote about it. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway weighed in with a column, which ran alongside a picture of a gun pointed at a naked pregnant belly. Catholic News Agency predictably quoted from the archbishop of Denver. And LifeNews railed against the state’s unjust “unborn victims laws.”
Outside of that, the mainstream conversation was notably absent of pro-life activists, editorial writers, and politicians calling for amendments that would lead to charging the perpetrator with murder. Or any scent of general media outrage about what had transpired.
Perhaps because lending a platform to such outrage would give media credence to the idea that a fetus is a life — especially seven months into a pregnancy, as was the case in Colorado.
The last big abortion story to make it mainstream involved Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted for murdering three infants born alive. The utterly gruesome accounts of his procedures in a 2011 grand jury report apparently passed the media’s litmus test. And even then, it took ages for it to make page one.
Not a lot of progress has been made covering abortion since then. And with primary season almost upon us, it’s doubtful we’ll see a change. Where does that leave the half of the country who believe that abortion is murder? They’re without a bully pulpit or a chance to make their opposition known. And that’s a shame.
>> Lauren Ashburn is an award-winning, Washington-based journalist and TV analyst covering media and politics. Follow her on Twitter here.
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