Today is the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., a day that is likely to pass with limited, if any, notice from a national news media which is hostile to the pro-life cause. While the abortion issue has divided Americans for the past four decades, journalists have consistently come down on the pro-abortion side of this debate.
It’s a bias some reporters freely admit. “I think that when abortion opponents complain about a bias in newsrooms against their cause, they’re absolutely right,” Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner told the Los Angeles Times back in 1990. “Opposing abortion, in the eyes of most journalists...is not a legitimate, civilized position in our society.”
In 2004, ABC News’s daily political newsletter, The Note, admitted that to “the Washington and political press corps... liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default.” That same year, New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent said that if one thought the Times was playing social issues like abortion “down the middle...you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.”
Four surveys, from the 1970s through the 1990s, illustrate the media’s uniformity in favor of abortion. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman’s survey of 240 top journalists, conducted in 1979-1980 for their book The Media Elite, found that “90% agree that a woman has the right to decide for herself whether to have an abortion; 79% agree strongly with this pro-choice position.”
In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled 2700 journalists around the country for an in-depth series on the media. This survey found a huge majority (82%) of reporters and editors favored allowing women to have abortions, vs. 14% who opposed abortion. Among readers, the split was much narrower, 51% to 42%.
In 1992, journalism professors David Weaver and Cleveland Wilhoit polled 1,410 journalists, and found 12 times as many (51%) agreed that abortion should be “legal under any circumstances,” vs. to just 4% who thought abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances.” When Gallup posed the same question to the general public in the fall of 1991, the gap was much narrower, with 33% wanting abortion “legal under any circumstances,” and 14% saying it should always be illegal.
And in 1995, Stanley Rothman and Amy Black polled elite journalists as part of a follow-up to the earlier Media Elite survey. This time, they found that “nearly all of the media elite (97%) agreed that ‘it is a woman’s right to decide whether or not to have an abortion,’ and five out of six (84%) agreed strongly.”
And covering the issue over the years, journalists have routinely characterized the pro-life stance as retrograde or anti-woman, including during last year’s presidential campaign, when Team Obama took advantage of the media’s pro-abortion bias to construct a phony “war on women” attack on conservatives.
Some of the more outrageous highlights from the Media Research Center’s archives demonstrating the media's hostility to the pro-life cause:
“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.
“‘To me, the struggle for abortion rights is as important to women as the struggle against slavery,’ says a Chicago Tribune reporter. ‘This isn’t about whether they’re going to build some bridge downtown. This is about my body.’”
— Unidentified reporter quoted in August 14, 1989 Time article by Laurence Zuckerman.
“Senator Simon, is there any doubt in your mind that [Supreme Court nominee David Souter’s] views pretty well parallel those of John Sununu’s, which means he’s anti-abortion or anti-women’s rights, whichever way you want to put it?”
— Dan Rather to then-Democratic Senator Paul Simon on the CBS Evening News, July 23, 1990.
“Bush, the exponent of a ‘kinder, gentler’ approach to government at the 1988 convention, was presented with a 1992 platform loaded with puritanical, punitive language that not only forbade abortions but attacked public television, gun control, homosexual rights, birth control clinics and the distribution of clean needles for drug users.”
— Boston Globe reporter Curtis Wilkie, August 18, 1992 news story.
“Still ahead, the latest round of bloodshed and violence at abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement has been creeping to the edge of bloody fanaticism for a decade.”
— Jane Pauley, January 3, 1995 Dateline NBC.
“I would be happy to give him [Clinton] a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”
— Time contributor and former reporter Nina Burleigh recalling what she told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz about her feeling toward Bill Clinton, as recounted by Burleigh in the July 20, 1998 New York Observer.
“The platform is, again, very strongly pro-life and rejects abortion rights, and the platform specifically comes out against gay unions, and against legal protections based on sexual preferences. So is this really an open, compassionate, tolerant party?”
— Charles Gibson to Lynne Cheney, August 2, 2000 Good Morning America.
“Since September 11, the word ‘terrorist' has come to mean someone who is radical, Islamic and foreign. But many believe we have as much to fear from a home-grown group of anti-abortion crusaders.”
— ABC’s Jami Floyd on 20/20, November 28, 2001.
“The abortion platform here is pretty hard right when it comes to the abortion question — with which you have some disagreement, I think, with the party still.”
— NBC’s David Gregory to ex-New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, MSNBC convention coverage, September 2, 2008.
“Who woke up in the Republican Party one day recently and said, ‘I know what, let’s go after reproductive rights in the United States’? What was that about?”
— NBC anchor Brian Williams during live Super Tuesday coverage, March 6, 2012.
“Are you prepared to leave this gathering and own the fact that the platform of this party allows a woman, who has been raped, no exception but to carry that child to term?...In a business where you and your opponent are trying to attract, especially, suburban women, does it send the right message?”
— NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, August 30, 2012.
“A lot of women look at the Republican platform on abortion, contraception, a number of issues, and ask the question whether Republicans have women’s best interests at heart?”
— CBS anchor Scott Pelley in an interview with Ann Romney shown on the August 28, 2012 Evening News.
“There’s a Grand Canyon of difference between Obama, who’s very pro-choice, and, for example, the Republican ticket this year, which would give 14th Amendment rights, whatever that means, life, liberty, and property rights, to a fetus that had just been — or rather, an egg that has just been fertilized, right after sex, if you will....It’s almost like Sharia. You’re saying to the country, we’re going to operate under a religious theory....”
— Chris Matthews during MSNBC’s pre-debate coverage, October 16, 2012.
“Kate, what do you think it’s going to take to get abortion rights back on track and not deny it from those who need it?”
— MSNBC fill-in anchor Alex Witt to Time staff writer Kate Pickert on NewsNation, January 3, 2013.