Back to the '90s: Media Decried Violence Outside Clinics, But Not Inside

For the first time in more than a decade, an abortionist has been murdered. During a series of clinic bombings and shootings in the mid-1990s, the networks were relentlessly pro-abortion – not merely decrying the violence, but whitewashing the violence inside abortion clinics as they put angelic haloes on abortion clinic doctors and workers. From our 1998 Special Report "Roe Warriors," here’s a number that shows the journalistic and moral imbalance of TV news programs we studied on ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as one CNN nightly newscast: "Violence committed against abortionists or clinic personnel inspired more than 500 network television stories from January 1992 to mid-1995. In the same four-year span there were only five stories devoted to violence by abortion advocates or abortionists themselves."One quote stands out, from then-NBC anchor Jane Pauley, on January 3, 1995: "Still ahead, the latest round of violence and bloodshed at abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement has been creeping to the edge of bloody fanaticism for a decade."Here's a larger piece of our numbers on TV and print coverage of abortion clinic violence:

In 1992, the networks did only 18 stories on anti-abortion violence. In 1993, the total exploded to 126, growing further to 228 in 1994 and 129 in the first six months of 1995. The violence angle also grew as a percentage of the networks' total abortion coverage: in 1993, it became 126 violence stories out of 331 abortion stories (38 percent). In 1994, it rose to 229 of 374 (61 percent). In the first six months of 1995, it declined slightly, to 129 stories out of 267 (48 percent). Violence committed against abortionists or clinic personnel inspired more than 500 network television stories from January 1992 to mid-1995. In the same four-year span there were only five stories devoted to violence by abortion advocates or abortionists themselves.In print, three anti-abortion shooting incidents drew more than 1,100 stories in seven national print and network outlets in the same time period. By contrast, 13 documented cases of pro-abortion violence attracted only 59 stories in the same outlets. Of those, seven cases of violence or threats from abortion advocates drew only six print media stories. Six examples of abortionists responsible for the death or disfigurement of women from botched abortions drew only 53 print stories.Using the same sample of three national newspapers and the three national news weeklies used for studying political moderates and extremes, and adding Associated Press dispatches, a Nexis search on the largest stories on abortion and violence demonstrated an unremitting focus on violence against abortion providers. A search for abortionist "David Gunn" drew 549 stories; clinic killer "Paul Hill" pulled up 349 stories; and the last major assailant, "John Salvi," drew 206, for a total of 1,154 news stories through June 30, 1995. (Some of these stories may have included more than one of these names, but the number of mentions does serve to suggest the quantity of reporting).While three abortionist shootings drew more than 1,100 stories in three major newspapers and Associated Press, seven cases of abortion-advocate violence or harassment got only six stories, and six examples of abortionists responsible for the death or disfigurement of women drew only 53 stories.The same approach occurred with the violence done to women by malpracticing abortionists who killed women in their care. Three editorials, two in The New York Times and one in the Los Angeles Times, bemoaned botched abortions. But all three focused not on the abortions, but on the failure of state medical authorities to appropriately remove and discipline incompetent physicians.

Here were the TV programs studied:

Our three-and-a-half year network survey of the boom in abortion-and-violence stories covered the four evening news shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's World News); the three network morning shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today); and magazine programs (ABC's Day One, Prime Time Live, and 20/20, CBS's 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, Street Stories, and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, and NBC's Dateline and Now). Stories were placed in the abortion violence category if they covered a physical altercation (pushing, assault, murder) or threats of violence or injuries resulting from an altercation near a clinic.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis