CBS, NBC Hype 'The Most Restrictive Abortion Law in the Country'

On Wednesday and Thursday, two of the Big Three networks ballyhooed how the Arkansas state legislature overrode Governor Mike Beebe's veto of a pro-life bill that outlaws abortion once the unborn baby's heartbeat is detected. Scott Pelley hyped "the most restrictive abortion law in the country" on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, echoing the New York Times' label of the new law – "the country's most restrictive ban on abortion".

Natalie Morales used nearly identical language to Pelley on Thursday's Today on NBC. ABC punted on covering the move by Arkansas state legislators on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning newscasts. By contrast, Norah O'Donnell didn't use such language during her news brief on the story on Thursday's CBS This Morning:

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Anchor; Screen Cap From 7 March 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgNORAH O'DONNELL: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette says the state legislature has voted to allow a ban on abortions after 12 weeks. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe had vetoed the ban, but lawmakers approved an override, now banning abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

O'Donnell's straight reporting on this development stands out, as she grilled Republican strategist Mike Murphy on the October 10, 2012 edition of CBS This Morning, hinting that Mitt Romney had flip-flopped on the abortion issue.

O'DONNELL: ...He [Romney] was talking about abortion rights. And he said this – quote, 'There's no legislation, with regards to abortion, that I'm familiar with that would be part of my agenda.' Then, several hours later, his spokesperson said, 'Governor Romney would, of course, support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.' What's with the Mitt Romney positions going back and forth on different issues? He's not on the same page with his own campaign.

The transcript of Scott Pelley's news brief from Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Natalie Morales's brief from Thursday's Today on NBC:


03/06/2013
06:37 pm EST
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY: In Arkansas today, lawmakers have given that state the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Abortions will be banned after the 12th week of pregnancy with few exceptions. Governor Mike Beebe insists that the law is unconstitutional, but the legislature overrode his veto today.


03/07/2013
07:12 am EST
NBC – Today

NATALIE MORALES: Well, the most restrictive abortion law in the nation was approved last night by state lawmakers in Arkansas. They completed an override of the governor's veto and it bans an abortion after 12 weeks. The law still faces legal challenges ahead.

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