Washington Post Mourns "Rare" Abortions in South Dakota

Washington Post reporter Evelyn Nieves, a crusading and roving liberal reporter based in San Francisco, lands on the Post front page today with an abortion dispatch from South Dakota. "S.D. Makes Abortion Rare Through Laws And Stigma," reads the headline. But wait, don’t Democrats love the idea of making abortion "safe, legal, and rare"? This is the kind of article where the media displays that they really want abortion safe, legal, unstigmatized, offered daily and available within a 20-minute drive. This is the kind of article, to be plain, that is pro-abortion, not pro-choice.

Nieves sets the sad stage, where the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood clinic can only perform abortions one day a week, since they’re dependent on doctors flying in from Minneapolis to do the dirty work. "The last doctor in South Dakota to perform abortions stopped about eight years ago; the consensus in the medical community is that offering the procedure is not worth the stigma of being branded a baby killer." To Nieves, an abortion doctor is not a baby-killer. Each one of them is a medical and political hero for "choice."

The point of the piece and the reason for its front-page placement becomes more apparent in paragraph seven (which is inside the paper):

As national leaders on both sides of the abortion debate focus on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearings of Samuel A. Alito Jr., they are watching states such as South Dakota pass more and more restrictions that might be upheld by a newly constituted, more conservative Supreme Court.

"Samuel Alito wrote the blueprint 20 years ago on how to dismantle and eventually overturn Roe," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, referring to a memo Alito wrote in 1985 in which he mentioned passing restrictions on abortion as a way to mitigate the effects of Roe v. Wade . "If he is confirmed, Alito could cast the decisive vote that allows additional attacks on women's reproductive freedom from the states to stand."

Nieves then lines up the hard-luck story of having to drive to Sioux Falls (very much on the eastern edge of the state):

"Each week, 15 to 20 or so women from across South Dakota find their way to the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood for an abortion, no easy feat for many of them. South Dakota is home to some of the poorest counties in the country, including the poorest, Buffalo County, seat of the Crow Creek Sioux reservation. State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest. Beyond cost, there is the distance. It's a long slog here from places like Rapid City, about 350 miles away in the western part of the state. For some women, the only way to do it -- and not pay for a hotel room -- is to make the 700-mile trip in one day."

In other words, making South Dakota a truly happy abortion paradise would require subsidizing abortions with public funds and making them available in every town with a population greater than, say, 3,000 people. It’s a little odd – and also indicative of the biases of the media outlet – that no one presses Planned Parenthood about the abortion price tag. If it’s so high, why wouldn’t you ask the country’s leading abortion-providing corporation why it’s so profit-driven? (Here's today's Brent Baker-style fun fact: people from Rapid City would have a shorter drive if they went to Planned Parenthood's clinic in Casper, Wyoming, at least 25 miles shorter if you take I-90.)

Pro-life leaders are quoted in the story, but notice the oddness of the caption on the story's photo: "Allen Unruh, an abortion opponent, and Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, listen at a meeting of the state task force on abortion." That's called burying the label for the abortion proponent, make that abortion industry.

When I talk to college students, I cite this kind of an article to explain that reporting isn't "pro-choice," it's pro-abortion. When you think something like this is a social good, you complain that it's not more readily available, cheaper, and easier. When you want more doctors to choose the specialty of abortion "providing," and want abortions provided in every small town, you're not just for "choice," you're for making that choice as leisurely as possible. If someone argued that smoking should be available in every bar and public office building, they wouldn't be called "pro-choice," but "pro-smoking." The same logic applies to these stories.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis