PBS Tells School Kids That Democrats 'Have Softened Their Rhetoric' on Abortion
The website of the NewsHour on PBS has a NewsHour Extra for students. Its Extra article by Lizzy Berryman on President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame carried this surprising sentence: "While historically Democrats have been pro-choice, in recent years Democratic candidates have softened their rhetoric. President Obama has defended a woman's right to choose -- but says abortion should be rare and may be restricted."
Considering that candidate Obama pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, scrapping every state abortion restriction, that’s not exactly an accurate picture for students to read. In captions of Presidents Obama and Bush, Obama was merely "pro-choice," while Bush was an "ardent opponent of abortion rights."
The bias was even more obvious at the article’s end, which sought to explain away the new Gallup poll showing a 51-42 chasm in favor of the pro-life position. The article’s subhead painted away the victory: "Polls show Americans are divided on the abortion issue." The actual 51-42 gap is never mentioned:
A Gallup poll released last week states that the number of Americans who identify as "pro-life" has increased, making it the first time since 1995, that more people identify as pro-life then [sic] pro-choice.
The increase was almost entirely amongst Republicans—who may be more concerned about abortion now that there is a pro-choice president, according to Amy Walters [sic], a polling expert and editor-in-chief of the Hotline.
The American National Election Studies board also studies public opinion about abortion and does not ask individuals if they are "pro-life" or "pro-choice" but rather under what circumstances they think abortion should be legal. Their most recent findings state that 41 percent still believe abortion is a matter of personal choice and should be legal while only 15 percent believe abortion should never be permitted.
There is still 44 percent in the middle who may call themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice" but who believe that abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances: when the pregnancy is the result of rape and/or incest, when it is a threat the mother’s life, and/or "when the need has been established."
Steven Waldman of Beliefnet told the NewsHour that "the majority of the population is in the middle, which is to say, they want abortion to be legal, but with restrictions."
This only underlines why the NewsHour summarizers look manipulative with the facts: if a majority of Americans want restrictions on abortions, that majority is at odds with President Obama's rhetoric and record.