At Media Matters, Accuracy Doesn’t

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In criticizing an NR editorial, Hannah Groch-Begley of Media Matters can’t get through her first sentence without getting something wrong. “The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.” The editorial “acknowledges” no such thing, stating instead that the ban would conflict with Supreme Court decisions that themselves lack constitutional merit. (“The Court should welcome the opportunity to revisit its rulings on the subject, which have been by any measure extreme, to say nothing of their fundamental lack of constitutional merit.”)

Groch-Begley goes on to argue that the editorial “ignores” the fact that abortions after viability “are already severely restricted by law” and that abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy are “extremely rare.” The laws may be on the books, but the Supreme Court’s holding that abortion must be allowed even post-viability when necessary to preserve a woman’s emotional health makes them hard to enforce. Rarity is of course a matter of perspective. The link Groch-Begley provides says that 1.5 percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks and 1.2 million abortions are performed annually. If some environmental toxin were causing 18,000 toddlers to die every year, I suspect that Media Matters would not treat it as a rare and unimportant occurrence.

Finally, she repeats the spin that the Gosnell case resulted from excessive restrictions on abortion. That may be what her side of this debate would like to believe, but it’s the opposite of what the grand jury found: which is that the laws that were on the books were not being enforced by state governments that favored keeping abortion as free from restriction as possible.

Update: Just to be clear, since some commenters seem to misunderstand this point: I’m not claiming that Media Matters is inaccurate in implicitly holding the view that the Constitution is whatever the Supreme Court says it is. I don’t think that’s a view that has much to recommend it–it makes it impossible to render an account in which the Court gets the Constitution wrong and then reverses itself, for example–but I would use adjectives other than “inaccurate” to describe it. What’s inaccurate is attributing that view to people who know enough to reject it.

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