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How Did This Story Get on NPR?

NPR news programs often feature contributions from public-radio reporters at local affiliates across the fifty states. But this piece on Tuesday night’s All Things Considered from a reporter at WHYY in Philadelphia certainly differed from the usual fare about heroic abortionists denouncing pro-life “terrorists” for protesting late-term procedures.

TAUNYA ENGLISH: The doors are locked and there’s not much to see through the dingy window of the west Philadelphia clinic. It’s also not clear what first prompted federal agents to raid the facility in February. But investigators found unsanitary conditions and an unlicensed worker treating patients without supervision. Soon, several women came forward with stories of botched and incompetent care.

When Marie Smith went to the Women’s Medical Society 11 years ago, she says the clinic was known as a cheap place to get an abortion. She didn’t know anything about Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Ms. MARIE SMITH: He looked like an all-right man ’cause it was like a lot of ladies in there waiting for abortions.

ENGLISH: Smith was 19 at the time. The clinic recovery area disturbed her most.

Ms. SMITH: It’s nasty and dirty, and like, the blood on the floor. Just nasty. It was real crowded, and girls were slumped over after they got their abortion.

ENGLISH: After a week of fever and vomiting, Smith was rushed to a local hospital. She says X-rays revealed that parts of the fetus were still lodged in her uterus. Over the years, other women shared their stories with vocal abortion-rights groups who documented problems but didn’t take them to state authorities.

Dr. SUSAN SCHEWEL (Executive Director, Women’s Medical Fund): We never had any proof. All we had were the women’s stories, and they were the ones that had the proof so we encouraged them to make the complaint. All we had was hearsay.

ENGLISH: Susan Schewel leads the Women’s Medical Fund, a nonprofit group that raises money for patients who can’t afford abortions.

Dr. SCHEWEL: The people that we help are women who are struggling to get by and their life is chaotic and busy enough as it is. So the thought of talking to a state bureaucrat about something as stigmatized as an abortion, it’s a low priority when youre trying to figure out how to pay your electric bills.

This wasn’t truly “all things” considered, in that there wasn’t an actual “abortion foe” quoted in the story. It ended with Gosnell’s lawyer, the aptly named William Brennan, vouching for his professionalism. But NPR is the only national media outlet so far to notice this story. The slackers might claim that it’s due to newspapers and networks shutting down domestic bureaus. But these outlets often respond quickly to news tips from the activist groups they like.

The Philadelphia Daily News did have an interesting Gosnell story, including tussles with the National Abortion Federation, with this awful headline: “Doctor From Hell….or Godsend?”

Tim GrahamTim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center, where he began in 1989, and has served there with the exception of 2001 and 2002, when served ...


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