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Abortion Rates Drop, Bias Doesn't

In reporting the good – nay GREAT – news that the number of abortions performed annually has continued to decline in America, The Washington Post couldn't refrain from infusing the Page One story with liberal bias. 


Reporter Rob Stein put the statistics up front in the story  (the abortion rate dropped 9 percent from 2000 to 2005, and hit the lowest absolute number since 1976), before mentioning that the numbers come from the Guttmacher Institute.  He failed to report that institute is a research arm of Planned Parenthood and an abortion rights advocate.  In a similar story buried on page 6D in the Life section, Sharon Jayson of USA Today did report Guttmacher's pro-abortion stance.


Stein stacked the deck on the pro-abortion side in this story.  When he started to parse the reasons for the decline in the number of abortions and abortion rates in the United States, Stein quoted three pro-abortion sources and only one pro-life source.


The three liberals:

·        “'It could be more women using contraception and not having as many unintended pregnancies. It could be more restrictions on abortions making it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services. It could be a combination of these and other dynamics,' said Rachel K. Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization, which published the report in the March issue of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.”

·        “'This study shows that prevention works, and that's what we provide in our health centers every day,' said Cecile Richard of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 'At the end of the day, Americans of all stripes believe that we need to do more to prevent unintended pregnancy and make health care affordable and accessible.'”

·        “Suzanne T. Poppema of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health speculated that wider availability of the morning-after pill also might be playing a role. 'I would like to say that it's at least partially due to increased availability of emergency contraception, which is a really good addition to reproductive health care in this country,' she said. The emergency contraceptive known as Plan B, a high dose of standard birth control pills, can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.”

The lone pro-life advocate:

·        “Said Randall K. O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee: 'It's still a massive number, but it's moving in the right direction.' He added that at least some of the drop may be the result of changing attitudes. 'Even look at Hollywood,' he said, citing the hit movie Juno, about a pregnant teenager who decides to have her baby. 'More and more people are starting to reconsider their positions.'”

Stein's story concluded with more opinion on what role RU486, the abortion pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, played in the statistics released by Guttmacher.  Here too, Stein cited abortion advocates twice and opponents once. 

·        “The sharp fall came despite a comparatively tiny decline in the number of abortion providers. There were 2 percent fewer providers than in the previous survey, but that drop was much smaller than in prior studies. Jones [Guttmacher Institute] attributed the slower decline to the introduction of RU-486, also known as mifepristone. The drug, which was approved in 2000, allows women to terminate their pregnancies without the need for a surgical procedure. 'We found that there were providers who previously didn't offer surgical abortions and are now only providing early medical abortions,' Jones said. 'If it wasn't for those providers, the number of providers would have declined by far more.'”

·        “But advocates said they were encouraged by the increased availability of mifepristone, which they said has been shown to be highly effective and safe. 'One of the objections to the abortion pill was that it was going to cause the abortion rate to go sky-high. But this shows that didn't happen,' Poppema said.” [Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health]

·        “That trend was troubling to O'Bannon [National Right to Life Committee], who questioned the safety of the drug. 'It disturbs me that there are clinics that may not have been doing abortions before and are doing them now, and that there are doctors who may not have been doing abortions before but are now,' he said.”

Stein's conclusion exposes his liberal take on the story.  Coming off the quote from Poppema above, he wrote, “Nevertheless, 87 percent of U.S. counties, accounting for 35 percent of women ages 15 to 44, do not have an abortion provider, the report found.”  Stein bemoans the fact that abortion services aren't more readily available, and yet the statistics show that demand for the services isn't there.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.