CBS Hypes Threat to 'Abortion Rights' From 'Staunch' Opponents

On Tuesday's Early Show, CBS's Cynthia Bowers let abortion advocates decry new pro-life legislation at the state level, barely letting supporters speak in her report. Bowers slanted by a three to one margin in the number of sound bites that she played from "abortion rights" supporters versus those from pro-lifers. She labeled Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback a "staunch abortion opponent," while giving no equivalent label to a pro-choicer.

The correspondent led the segment with a clip from an unidentified woman who aborted her unborn child who had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a disorder where most of the baby's brain fails to develop. She continued that the woman's obstetrician "suggested...one of only three clinics in the entire state [of Kansas] that still performs abortions- access that could soon be cut even further."

Bowers then outlined that Governor Brownback, "a staunch abortion opponent, has enacted three new laws restricting the procedure. One requires both parents of a minor give notarized consent before any abortion; the second bans private health insurance coverage for most abortions; and the third gives the state's health department broad authority to regulate the operations of abortion providers."

The CBS journalist later played two sound bites from Kansas State Senator Mary Pilcher Cook, the only pro-lifer she interviewed for her report. She took a pro-abortion talking point and made it into a question, which she asked of State Senator Cook: "What do you say to people who view these restrictions as a means of, kind of, outlawing abortion by a side door?"

For the reminder of the segment, Bowers played five consecutive clips from Doctors Tracy Nauser and Herb Hodes, a father and daughter team who run an abortion-performing practice in Kansas who, according to the journalist, "fear limiting access to abortion will drive desperate women to illegal clinics, or to drugs bought on the Internet." Dr. Hodes claimed that "abortion is a medical procedure. It's not a political procedure, but it's being made that by the government." Dr. Nauser went so far to blast that "women are going to have to go back to dying if we don't stop this railroad on women's rights." The correspondent ended her report with an additional sound bite from the unidentified woman, "who, until recently, wasn't sure she supported abortion rights."

Earlier, anchor Chris Wragge noted in his introduction for the correspondent's report that Kansas is "one of the chief battlegrounds" in the debate over abortion and highlighted how "a doctor who provided abortions was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist two years ago" in the state. Co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis added that "new laws aimed at limiting abortions in Kansas are adding more fuel to the fire."

It should be pointed out that The Early Show didn't even cover the massive scandal earlier in 2011 involving Philadelphia Doctor Kermit Gosnell, who performed illegal abortions in an unsanitary office. After a patient of his died from a botched abortion, Dr. Gosnell was charged with eight counts of murder, one for the deceased patient and one each for the seven infants that were born alive and were killed in his office by having their spinal cords severed with scissors. The criminal investigation led to the introduction of a bill in the Pennsylvania state legislature which would impose tighter safety regulations on abortion facilities, the same regulations that other surgical facilities are subject to.

The full transcript of Cynthia Bowers's report from Tuesday's Early Show:

CHRIS WRAGGE: For more than 40 years, Americans have been arguing over abortion and whether it should be legal. Now, one of the chief battlegrounds is Kansas, where a doctor who provided abortions was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist two years ago.

REBECCA JARVIS: This morning, new laws aimed at limiting abortions in Kansas are adding more fuel to the fire. And correspondent Cynthia Bowers has the story.

DR. TRACY NAUSER, OB/GYN IN KANSAS: See this line now?

Cynthia Bowers, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCYNTHIA BOWERS (voice-over): Dr. Traci Nauser checks on a patient in her Kansas office.

NAUSER: You are good. We're done.

BOWERS: The married mother of two, who asked not to be identified, never dreamed she'd be here.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: I found out at 14 weeks that my baby had anecephaly. I was told that if I carried my baby to term, that within five minutes of being born, that my baby would die, and I would have to watch my baby die.

BOWERS: Her obstetrician suggested Nauser's clinic, one of only three clinics in the entire state that still performs abortions- access that could soon be cut even further.

GOV. SAM BROWNBACK, (R), KANASAS: Kansas, in the heart of America, is a culture of life state.

BOWERS: Since taking office in January, Governor Sam Brownback, a staunch abortion opponent, has enacted three new laws restricting the procedure. One requires both parents of a minor give notarized consent before any abortion; the second bans private health insurance coverage for most abortions; and the third gives the state's health department broad authority to regulate the operations of abortion providers.

SEN. MARY PILCHER COOK, (R), KANSAS STATE SENATOR: We consider this common-sense legislation that almost all Kansas citizens would like to see.

BOWERS: The Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal across the country, but a 1992 ruling allowed states some power to regulate it. Since then, abortion rights advocates allege new laws in dozens of states are intended to drive abortion providers out of business. Earlier this month, Mississippi voters rejected a call to declare a fetus a person. Kansas Senator Mary Pilcher Cook says her state's regulations are solely intended to protect women.

BOWERS (on-camera): What do you say to people who view these restrictions as a means of, kind of, outlawing abortion by a side door?

COOK: We're protecting women's health and safety. We're making sure that parents make the decisions over their children's health care. And we're making sure that taxpayers are not paying for abortions that they believe are immoral.

DR. HERB HODES, OB/GYN IN KANSAS: Abortion is a medical procedure. It's not a political procedure, but it's being made that by the government.

BOWERS (voice-over): Dr. Tracy Nauser and her OB/GYN dad, Herb Hodes, see it much differently.

BOWERS (on-camera): What do you think about these new regulations and restrictions?

NAUSER: They're onerous; they're completely unmedical; they're unnecessary.

HODES: It's blatantly obvious, and it's death by a thousand paper cuts.

BOWERS (voice-over): They fear limiting access to abortion will drive desperate women to illegal clinics, or to drugs bought on the Internet.


NAUSER: Women are going to have to go back to dying if we don't stop this railroad on women's rights.

BOWERS: A fear now understood by a woman who, until recently, wasn't sure she supported abortion rights.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: It was definitely the most difficult decision that I've ever had to make. And I want people to know that it's not a black and white issue. There's so many gray areas.

NAUSER: Emotionally, you're still doing good?

BOWERS: And she fears it's the women in these gray areas that stand to lose the most if these new laws hold up in the high court. Cynthia Bowers, CBS News, Overland Park, Kansas.

JARVIS (live): And, as Cynthia mentioned, Kansas is not alone. Lawmakers in Ohio are considering a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That would effectively outlaw abortions for women after the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center