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Critiquing the Times


In recent months the pro-life movement has gained some political momentum and won some important victories in Congress. Evidence of this can be seen from the increasingly shrill reporting from mainstream media outlets. In fact, during the past few months, the quality of reporting and commentary from the mainstream media on sanctity of life issues has deteriorated to an all time low. When reporting on abortion issues, the mainstream media typically offers (1) predictions of doom (2) ridicule of Arizona senator John Kyl and (3) misleading statistics from Planned Parenthood press releases.

Tuesday’s house editorial in the New York Times offers little in the way of improvement. They denounce the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, which passed in the House of Representatives last week, as “terrible” and a “new attack on women’s rights.” The editorial is also blatantly contradictory. They begin by saying that the bill is “not really about federal financing of abortion.” However, the editorial goes on to state that this bill “would eliminate the yearly renewal of the Hyde Amendment” — which bans federal funding of abortion. This actually has been a long-term goal for pro-lifers, as it is always possible a partisan shift in Congress could jeopardize the Hyde Amendment’s passage.

The Times editorial also criticizes the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act because it treats tax benefits as the equivalent of public expenditures for abortion. Specifically, it denies tax credits to small businesses that offer private health plans that cover abortion services and ends the availability of reimbursement for abortion costs from medical savings accounts. However, the solution here is not to screech at Congress, but rather to encourage the formation of a free-market system of health insurance where individuals can purchase a plan that fits their needs.

After all, since World War II–era legislation allows for companies to pay for health insurance in pre-tax dollars, the federal government has the ability to use the tax code to influence health care policy. It should come as no surprise that Congress will sometimes use the tax code to encourage and discourage certain activities. Furthermore, the Times should be wary of the fact that Obamacare is going to give Congress even more control over health insurance markets. Of course, this seems to be lost on them.

Even if the mainstream media does not want to abandon its pro-choice position, there are still plenty of interesting angles for commentary and reporting on the issue of abortion. For instance, the media could analyze why the current Congress is devoting more attention to sanctity of life issues than previous Congresses where Republicans held a majority. They could also try to explain why the pro-life position has made gains in the court of public opinion. Instead, the New York Times and most other mainstream media outlets seem interested in scare tactics and giving supporters of legal abortion a prestigious platform to promote their tired arguments.

Michael New is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Alabama and a Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ.