Bench Memos

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Biased Wall Street Journal Article on Partial-Birth Ruling


Especially when abortion is involved, I fully expect biased articles in places like the New York Times.  But I’m still surprised to find how widespread the bias is.


This article by Jess Bravin in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal is a prime example.  Beyond the fact that the article somehow never explains to the reader what “so-called partial-birth abortions” are, it falsely suggests that the partial-birth law had only partisan Republican support and it grossly exaggerates the bearing of the case on the broader question of Roe v. Wade.  Consider some of the article’s assertions:


1.  The law “was signed by President Bush in 2003,” and the “ruling marks a rare victory for the administration.”  No mention of the significant support in Congress from Democrats and/or usual supporters of abortion, including, for example, former Democratic leader Tom Daschle, current Democratic leader Harry Reid, and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy. 


2.  “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who personally opposes abortion rights, said the decision shows why ‘a lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there.’”  The innocent reader is given the false impression that Reid must have opposed the law (which must have been so extreme that usual pro-lifers didn’t even support it).  An accurate accounting would instead have raised serious questions about the intellect and integrity of Harry Reid.


3.  “[T]he court’s majority embraced much of the vocabulary of the antiabortion movement.”  This charge is straight from Ginsburg’s dissent (and presumably relies on her same mistaken characterization of the term “abortion doctor”).


4.  The court “stopped short of overruling Roe v. Wade.”  Yes, about 10,000 miles short.


5.  “Justice Kennedy … has never challenged the core holding of Roe.”  That’s quite an understatement, as he has done exactly the opposite, embracing in Planned Parenthood v. Casey what he and others described as the “essential holding” of Roe.  The innocent reader would have no clue of this.


The Wall Street Journal’s readers are entitled to better than this.

Tags: Whelan


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