WaPo's Abortion Debate: Antiabortion Conservatives vs. Comprehensive Nonprofits?

The Washington Post knows how to signal which side in the abortion debate they favor. In both Friday's and Saturday's Metro sections, they describe the two sides in a tilted way as they cover new clinic regulations in Virginia, which insist abortion clinics be just like ambulatory surgical centers, since many abortions are still surgical.

One side is "conservative" and "antiabortion." The other side is not labeled liberal, but they are "reproductive-health activists," and the Guttmacher Institute, which was founded as a division of  Planned Parenthood and is named after Alan Guttmacher, a past Planned Parenthood president and "Old Testament prophet", is described as a "nonprofit reproductive health research center that gathers the most comprehensive data on abortion in the United States." In other words, bow to their comprehensive, nonpartisan authority.

Friday's story by Anita Kumar and Lena Sun began:

Virginia health officials are planning to release draft emergency regulations for abortion clinics as soon as Friday that reproductive-health activists say could impose strict physical, staffing and equipment requirements and could force many of the state's clinics to close....

"These really have nothing to do with patients and everything to do with making it harder to provide abortion services," said Elizabeth Nash, a public- policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive health research center that gathers the most comprehensive data on abortion in the United States.

This "nothing to do with patients" line is highlighted in a pull quote, even though it's not a researcher's line. It's an abortion advocate's line. Nash is correct that making clinics meet a surgical-center standard has caused clinics to close in other states, as the Post notes. But in its ideological approach, the Post does not wish to consider that some abortion clinics could be accused of being sub-standard in patient care. Then came the labels:

Antiabortion activists have long been urging that Virginia abortion clinics be treated like ambulatory surgical centers, arguing that doing so would make the clinics safer.

"After more than two decades of hiding behind a veil of politically motivated secrecy, abortion centers in Virginia now face real, tangible regulations,'' said Victoria Cobb, executive director of the conservative Family Foundation.

The Friday story ended with an emphasis on abortionist complaints:

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Falls Church, which had 5,000 patients last year and performed 800 abortions, rents its space, so it would be virtually impossible for the clinic to do any remodeling, said Laura Meyers, its chief executive officer.

Moreover, she said, clinics are allowed to perform only first-trimester abortions, which typically involve medication rather than surgery.

“Why would a wider hallway have anything to do with taking a pill?” she said.

Did Kumar and Sun ask specifically if most abortions in Falls Church are pharmaceutical rather than surgical? And couldn't it be argued that if the Falls Church abortionists are renting, it would be easier to just move and find a property that matches the new space requirements? That might sound easier than having to redesign a property that's owned.

The Post repeated the pattern on Saturday, with the “nonprofit” Guttmacher Institute (and its comprehensive data and no Planned Parenthood linkage) versus the “conservative” Family Foundation and the Virginia Catholic Conference.

Graham's Law of Labeling applies: "The epic political battles of our time are fought between the conservatives and the nonpartisans."

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