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Roe Warriors: The Media's Pro-Abortion Bias

Updated and Revised

Introduction

Gina Kolata doesn't feel that media spin is accidental. When questioned by William Powers in the January 10 National Journal about her slant in favor of cloning, the New York Times health reporter replied: "If you read their pieces, you can usually figure out what they [reporters] think...Anybody who reads The New York Times who doesn't think The New York Times is pro-choice, they are out of their minds...we send messages all the time about what we think."

The media's bias in favor of "choice" is not reflected in recent polling data. Days after Kolata's candid admission, The New York Times front page trumpeted a new poll showing "a notable shift from general acceptance" of abortion. The New York Times/CBS News poll broke down support for abortion rights into trimesters: while 61 percent favored the choice of abortion in the first trimester to 28 percent opposed, 66 percent of those polled opposed permitting second-trimester abortions to only 15 percent who supported it. Fully 79 percent of the people opposed permitting third-trimester abortion, while only seven percent supported it.

But media coverage suggests that any restriction of abortion is unpopular and unwise. Even forced abortions in China have drawn a measure of sympathy from network anchors. After a hard-hitting Brian Ross story on forced abortions and sterilizations in China on the June 9 World News Tonight, ABC's Peter Jennings argued: "The Chinese point out their economic miracle, they have had the fastest growing economy in the world, could not have been accomplished without population control. The United Nations estimates that China's population will grow by 24 percent in the next half a century. By comparison, the Indian population, more than 900 million people today, will grow by 65 percent. And Pakistan, 135 million people today, is expected to grow by about 162 percent. In this regard family planning makes a difference."

To document media treatment of the abortion divide, employing a broad overview of five years of studies, MRC analysts have documented five ways in which the national media continue to tilt the abortion debate in favor of abortion advocates: