A number of conservative pundits are bemoaning the lack of media coverage of the trial of notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadephia. The trial has featured vivid testimony about both the brutal late-term abortions Gosnell conducted and the squalid conditions in his clinic. The trial has received some coverage from local media outlets in Philadelphia, but the mainstream media has largely chosen to ignore the issue.
But the media have a long history of ignoring misconduct within the abortion industry. For instance, in July 2011, Americans United for Life released an exposé on Planned Parenthood. It provided 180 pages of evidence that Planned Parenthood violated parental-involvement laws, failed to report sexual abuse of children, and cannot account for millions in government grants. Despite a Capitol Hill press conference, it received coverage from only a handful of mainstream-media outlets. The fact that Planned Parenthood did not even post their response to the report on their website is evidence that they were confident that the mainstream media would cover for them.
Of course, the mainstream media has devoted a considerable amount of coverage to stories that reflect negatively on the pro-life movement. Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks about rape, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood all received plenty of negative media coverage in 2012.
Even worse, the mainstream media has been clearly willing to disseminate false or misleading information to help supporters of legal abortion achieve their political goals. For instance, before the 2004 Presidential election, ethicist Glen Stassen wrote a widely cited article for Sojourners arguing that abortions had actually increased after President Bush’s inauguration. This article was reprinted by a number of major newspapers around the country including the Charlotte Observer, the Miami Herald, the Houston Chronicle, and the Hartford Courant. Furthermore, Stassen’s research was cited in articles that appeared in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
There were a number of problems with Stassen’s analysis, including the fact he used data from a small sample of states. Furthermore, some states specifically attributed their increases to more rigorous reporting standards. Nevertheless, Stassen’s claims stuck. But then when more reliable data from the CDC and Guttmacher was published, indicating that the number of abortions actually fell during the Bush presidency, not one mainstream-media outlet reported on this, much less corrected the record.
Pro-lifers have gotten used to the fact that mainstream-media outlets are not going to report our perspective on polls, trends, and studies. However, some of us hoped that the Gosnell trial would be different than other stories involving abortion. After all, it provides plenty of graphic evidence of both real human suffering and gross misconduct. We hoped that the testimony might convince some in the media that abortion clinics need more regulation. Unfortunately, all pro-lifers have received is yet another example of the media’s circling the wagons for their allies in the abortion industry.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.