Newsweek's Abortion Debate: "Hard Right" vs. "Pro-Abortion Rights" Groups

The most transparently obvious way of displaying liberal bias is to take an issue like an abortion, and suggest the conservative side is extreme, while describing the liberal, abortion-on-demand side without a label, as reasonable, almost non-ideological. Newsweek's that obvious in this week's issue, carrying the headline:

Reality Check for 'Roe'

With the hard right hoping for reversal, the black-and-white war over abortion finds itself immersed in shades of gray.

But where is the "hard left" that's so extreme they would abort a baby that was mistakenly born alive? Even as they claim the abortion debate is more ambiguous than either side would like, reporters Evan Thomas and Martha Brant are still displaying their labeling imbalance:

The hard-line anti-abortion crusaders may be disappointed by the legal realities, at least in the short term. At the same time, the pro-abortion-rights interest groups are just beginning to grapple with an uncomfortable truth: that many of the million-odd women who have abortions every year are deeply troubled, if not guilt-ridden.

There's more labeling imbalance, as "conservative legal strategists" suggest South Dakota's new anti-abortion law won't win over the Supreme Court, while:

...the pro-abortion-rights groups are still partly in denial. Last month William Saletan of Slate, the online magazine, wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times that has set off a buzz of controversy. "It's bad to kill a fetus," wrote Saletan. "You can't eliminate the moral question by ignoring it." But Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL, throws up her hands at Saletan's characterization of abortion as "bad," and exclaims, "There it is again! Judgment!"

Even at the story's end, as a "liberal" label surfaces, it's not directed at the abortion advocates, who are merely "old-line" (not "hard-line") believers:

This week [Frances] Kissling and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, are hosting an unusual summit meeting in Washington between old-line true believers and middle-of-the-roaders.

It may be that leftist media-watch groups will complain about this article, too, especially the first line:

At first glance, it appeared that the forces of the pro-life movement were on the march last week. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on partial-birth abortions...

You can just imagine the outrage over an "objective" publication like Newsweek using the word "pro-life" and using "partial-birth abortion" without the perennial dismissive modifiers, or even quotation marks. (In fact, that may have spurred the headline writers to go for the "hard right" label.) But it's rather clear as you read through the piece that the writers are rooting for the liberal side, although I'm guessing they felt that this was a pretty tough piece for the "pro-choice" side (they use that old label, too).

You might not want to read the way the abortion clinics try to persuade their clients they're not bad people as they consent to their child's destruction:

A growing number of clinics are coming up with coping strategies. At her Pittsburgh clinic, Claire Keyes encourages patients to write their feelings on a paper heart that she later tacks to the waiting-room wall. "I love you even though I know in my heart I can't keep you," reads one of about a thousand hearts, which have now overflowed into binders. Keyes gives each patient a polished semiprecious stone to imbue with whatever meaning she wants. The two clinics that permit late-term abortions let their patients hold the fetus in a blanket.

Brent Bozell wrote that up a while back when it was celebrated in Glamour magazine.

Newsweek is that same magazine which carried this bizarre quote that earned the magazine a prominent place in our review of the first ten years of the MRC in 1997:

"Sadly, many home remedies could damage a fetus instead of kill it."
-- Newsweek Senior Editor Melinda Beck on self-performed abortions, July 17, 1989 issue.

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