Pro-Life Witness

 

Mar

20

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Why Pro-Lifers Are Losing Legal Battles, But Winning the Larger War

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This week at the left-leaning ThinkProgress, Tara Culp-Ressler contributes an article called “Abortion Rights Are Winning Legal Battles, But Losing the Larger War,” in which she celebrates the recent legal victories for supporters of abortion rights. Two cases stand out:

  1. A federal judge struck down Arkansas’ 12-week abortion ban.
  2. The settlement of a lawsuit has allowed North Dakota’s one abortion clinic to remain open for the time being.

These are just two of the many judicial decisions that have undercut legislation geared toward regulating and restricting abortion access.

Uneasiness in the Pro-Choice Camp

But all is not well for supporters of abortion rights, as Culp-Ressler points out.

Bits and pieces of these laws remain in place, such as the requirement in Arkansas for women to undergo an ultrasound to determine if a fetal heartbeat is present. In similar legislation across the country, lawmakers are erecting barriers to abortion through mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, parental notification, and clinic regulation. She concludes:

Although the complex restrictions that target clinics and providers are often most insidious, they tend to get the least attention. That’s why, even though reproductive rights supporters are winning most of their legal battles, they’re losing the larger war.

The Battle for the American Conscience

I agree with Culp-Ressler that the pro-choice lobby is winning in federal courts while losing the larger war. But I don’t think the battleground is primarily in legislatures. Instead, we’re locked in a battle for the consciences of the American people.

The hope of the pro-life community is a day when abortion is not simply “illegal,” but unthinkable. The goal is human rights for all human beings, to live in a country where human life is so esteemed that the very idea of abortion is as repulsive as the ancient Roman practice of infanticide or last century’s eugenics movement.

Here are some additional reasons abortion rights supporters are winning legal victories but losing the larger war.

1. These unsuccessful laws still succeed in bringing attention to the humanity of the unborn.

When the politicians are publicly debating abortion bans after a heartbeat is detected or once pain can be sensed, the conversation has shifted from the mother to the child. We’re talking about what abortion is: a procedure that terminates a pregnancy by ending a human life.

In nearly every abortion, a human heartbeat is stopped. Let that sink in for a moment.

The reason Americans are conflicted about abortion is that compassion for women in difficult circumstances is bumping up against a profound realization that the life in the womb is human.

2. Many of these laws seem reasonable to Americans.

Polls are all over the place, indicating that Americans aren’t fully on the pro-life or pro-choice side of the ledger. We don’t like the idea of abortion being legal for any reason; neither do we like the idea of it being banned for every reason. But polls do show that support for abortion rights drops precipitously as the pregnancy progresses.

The pro-life strategy is to seize the widespread support for late-term abortion restrictions in order to chip away at Roe v. Wade. The pro-choice strategy is to counter these attempts by convincing the public that these restrictions are unreasonable and infringe upon women’s rights.

On this issue, the pro-choice side has a more difficult task in the court of public opinion. It’s hard to say that 20-week abortion bans are “extreme,” for example, when most of the world bans abortion after the first trimester. (In fact, many Europeans see U.S. advocacy for abortion in the second and third trimesters as barbaric.) Our lax abortion laws place the U.S. in the company of just three other countries that permit abortion after viability: China, North Korea, and Canada.

3. A mother’s womb is no longer invisible.

12 weeks is the end of the first trimester. Here’s how Pregnancy.com describes the child’s development at this stage:

Your baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close, his toes will curl, his eye muscles will clench, and his mouth will make sucking movements. In fact, if you prod your abdomen, your baby will squirm in response, although you won’t be able to feel it. His intestines, which have grown so fast that they protrude into the umbilical cord, will start to move into his abdominal cavity about now, and his kidneys will begin excreting urine into his bladder.

Meanwhile, nerve cells are multiplying rapidly, and in your baby’s brain, synapses are forming furiously. His face looks unquestionably human…

Keep in mind, this is 12 weeks, only halfway to viability, the point where abortion restrictions kick in. But abortion supporters not only want abortion access at 12 weeks, but also from 20-24 weeks (cue the cheering of Wendy Davis’ pink sneakers).

With ultrasounds giving us a glimpse into the womb, the fetus is no longer a faceless victim. We can see the human in the womb. The millennial generation’s first baby scrapbook pictures are in the womb, not after birth.

Scientific and technological advances have shown us the miracle of life like never before. It may be true that seeing an ultrasound doesn’t affect the woman who is determined to get an abortion, but the reason for this may be frighteningly tragic: frightening if it means they go into the abortion clinic fully aware that their decision will end a human life, tragic if it means they think they have no other option.

Conclusion

The pro-life movement has a long way to go before abortion is abolished in the United States. We may be winning the larger war, but there are plenty of legal battles ahead, as well as the funded fury of abortion advocacy groups. 

But now that the Kermit Gosnell trial has opened the door for increasing clinic regulations and medical technology has opened the window into the womb, it’s more likely that the roof of Roe v. Wade will eventually crumble under the weight of its own inconsistencies. On that day, states will be free to protect life at all stages, and human rights may finally triumph over the euphemism of “reproductive health.”

 
 

Feb

14

2014

Trevin Wax|6:33 am CT

What Do Downton Abbey, Wendy Davis, TED, and Obama Have in Common?

What do Downton Abbey, Wendy Davis, TED Talks, and President Obama have in common? They are uncomfortable talking about abortion.

It’s been an interesting week in the ongoing discussion on abortion rights in the United States.

Edith-confides-in-Aunt-RosamundDownton Abbey

(Spoilers in this section!)

It started with Downton Abbey giving one of its main characters an unplanned pregnancy. The script featured stark language about what a woman’s “choice” entails – the “killing of a child.” It also painted “doctors” who perform the procedure in a bad light, questioning their medical ethics.

Pro-life viewers praised the show for its honesty. But in Time, Lily Rothman pointed out that the show was true to its setting and shouldn’t be considered a pro-life position. After all, abortion was illegal in England in the 1920′s, and dangerous. Rothman’s article implies that had abortion been safe and legal, then the character may have chosen a difficult outcome.

Perhaps.

But pro-life viewers lauded the show’s refreshing honesty in admitting there are two people’s destinies at stake in this discussion: the human in distress, and the human in the womb.

Should a human in distress take the life of the other human in question? This is at the center of the abortion debate. For the pro-life side, it is a question of human rights, and human rights trump reproductive freedom.

Interestingly enough, Rothman’s article points out that Downton’s decision for the character to keep the baby adds more drama and opens up new windows for the storyline. Just like Juno. Just like a number of television shows.

It’s commonplace now to see fictional women face the abortion choice and almost always choose life. You kill the baby, and you kill the story. Which, in some ways, is a further reinforcement of the pro-life position.

Rothman even describes the Downton character’s choice as “less of a realization about the beauty of motherhood, and more a recalculation of her own strength.” Wow. According to Time, it seems the woman who chooses life is stronger than the woman who asks a doctor to stop her baby’s heartbeat.

wendy_davis_APWendy Davis

In the middle of the week, Wendy Davis, candidate for governor of Texas whose claim to fame was filibustering a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, moved back to the center. She claimed that she would have supported a 20-week ban had there been more exceptions provided. This is a political way of saying, I don’t like late-term abortions either; I just want to make sure women still have the right to choose. It’s not a position-change, but Davis is clearly pivoting to the center.

Even if this flip flop doesn’t have much substance, pro-life advocates should take heart. Her pivot implies that late-term abortion is a losing issue. Aaron Earls writes:

Every time a pro-choice politicians tries to frame further restrictions as draconian or extreme, we can now say, “Even Wendy Davis supports a ban on abortions after 20-weeks.”

We have changed the shape of the discussion to the point that strident supporters of unfettered abortion have to – at the very least – pay lip service to wanting abortion to be “safe, legal and rare” or, in Davis’ words, something we prefer not to happen.

It is at this point that the entire argument for abortion crumbles. If the life inside the womb is of no real importance, if it is not a person worthy of our protection, why would it matter that abortion be kept even rare? Why would we prefer it not happen in any circumstances?

If the decision is only about the woman and her rights, then none of these other facts should be considered at all. Davis should be refusing to support any kind of ban on abortion no matter at what point in the pregnancy it is.

But that’s not what she’s doing, because that’s not the case. Texans (and most Americans) recognize that there is more to the discussion than merely “a woman’s right to choose.”

2903dbe09eafe9200099d4423c0864ed61f8bea0_389x292TED Talks

By the end of the week, the abortion conversation had shifted to TED Talks. Organizers of the TEDWomen conference claim that their decision to never address abortion is because it doesn’t fit into “wider issues of justice, inequality, and human rights.”

Pro-choice feminists went to blogs to protest. It has everything to do with human rights, they say. Pro-life advocates, surprisingly, agree. It’s just that human rights extend to the child too.

The TED controversy brings up the relationship between feminism and abortion. Jessica Valenti made it clear:

“Being pro-choice is not the sole qualification for feminists—but you can’t be a feminist without supporting abortion rights.”

Really? Cue Susan B. Anthony’s grave-roll.

How terribly demeaning to imply that the only way for women to be equal with men is to have access to an invasive, life-taking procedure! Since when is the highest and most sacred aspect of women’s rights the choice of a mother to take the life of her child? As I’ve written before, an accurate assessment of the abortion debate is that this is a war between women, not a war on women.

In response to TED’s decision, Dawn Laugens of Planned Parenthood writes:

Abortion isn’t just about abortion. It’s about a woman’s power to determine her own destiny, to plan her own life.

Good grief! If women’s autonomy is at stake in abortion, then why stop at birth? The newborn who needs feeding every three hours is getting in the way of my wife’s power to determine her own destiny right now. Having three kids makes it hard to plan our Valentine’s Day evening. Can we call a doctor and have these little distractions done away with? Of course, not. That would be infringing on the rights of children.

Exactly.

TED doesn’t want to talk about abortion because no one wants to talk about the third party in this decision. There is the “doctor,” the woman, and another human being. 

obama01_16773717President Obama

Maybe this is why President Obama’s statement on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade never mentions abortion. The ugly procedure is hidden behind clever euphemisms. Here is Obama’s statement, with my commentary added:

Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health. (Agreed. What does this have to do with abortion?)

We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom. (Including the right to have her unborn child dismembered and extracted from the womb?)

And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children. (All children, except for the ones we don’t want.)

Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams. (Not everyone, unfortunately. The right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness only applies to those who have the right to life.)

Conclusion

In response to recent restrictions on abortion, the abortion evangelists are out in full force, making their case in public and pressuring TED to include abortion as one of their ideas worth spreading. I say, “Go for it!” Let’s have an honest conversation about what takes place in abortion clinics. Because when we do, the majority of Americans will see that abortion is an idea worth stopping, not spreading.

 
 

Jan

21

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

If A Day Could Speak (January 22)

Evening-Supreme-CourtWhat if every day of the year could speak? What would the message of each day bring?

I wonder.

Do the days soak up the joy of weddings, births, and victories that take place during their hours?

Do they bend and bow under the weight of heaviness, weeping over deaths, losses, and tragedies?

Does September shudder every time the 11th rolls by, as it recalls the horror of human carnage and the blood that now stains the beginning of fall?

Will December 14th forever strain under the weight of sadness, remembering the Newtown children gunned down in the innocence of youth?

~~~~~

There are days that remain with us, carving out a space in the calendar, forcing us to rethink life in terms of before and after.

And then there are days whose sadness spreads. Quiet events that bring monumental changes. Effects felt not on the first day, but on the second, the third, the hundredth, the thousandth.

~~~~~

More than fourteen thousand days have passed since a quiet winter day in January, when the rights of an entire class of human beings were denied with a stroke of a pen, when the most powerful nation in the world determined to withhold protection from its most defenseless.

If January 22 could speak, what would it say?

Unlike other tragic days, this one comes and goes each year with little fanfare. If January 22 could speak, it would tell us of the ignobility of being ignored.

The tears of those affected are unseen, because they never had the chance to cry. Their suffering is silent, captured only in ultrasound images that show them scurrying away from the intruding instruments that take apart their fragile bodies.

The cries of January 22 are drowned out by partisan powers of politics, the clanging of coins and cash, the frightful sight of moms and dads marching for the right to end the lives of their children, as if a baby were only a burden and not a blessing.

~~~~~~

But one day, January 22 will not be shrouded in sadness.

A new generation is rising. We refuse to make unborn children invisible. We are unafraid to stand up to the entrenched interests of those who would deny a class of humans their right to live.

We envision a more beautiful world – a world where all are welcomed into existence, where our love for life overcomes our desire for convenience, where we rely on each other as we choose life rather than revel in our freedom to choose death.

~~~~~~

Forty years have passed, and so have 50 million little ones.

But the message of a day can change.

January 22 might break under the unbearable weight of its tragic significance if not for another day on the calendar. If that day could speak, it would tell us of the darkness of death and the coldness of a tomb whose stillness was shattered when the stopped, silent heart of a crucified man suddenly began beating again.

Days can change. That day gives January 22 hope.

 
 

Jan

20

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Don’t Hate, Pray for Pro-Choice Champions

091111_abortion_ap_223In the never-ending battle over abortion, it’s easy to lose yourself in the heat of the moment and to feel a sense of disdain toward those who defend the “right” to take the life of an unborn child. But as Christians, we must not give in to the cultural tendency to denigrate and demonize people on the other side of the political aisle.

How can we make a stand for the unborn and yet also love our political opponents?

By praying for them by name.

It is hard to hate someone you pray for.

So, instead of raging against people you disagree with, people made in God’s image, pray:

  • Pray for the day Wendy Davis’ pink sneakers will be what she wears at the annual March for Life.
  • Pray for the day our president, who comes from a people long acquainted with the indignity of being treated as something less than human, will throw his support behind human rights for all.
  • Pray for reporters like Sarah Kliff, that her passion for human life will one day outstrip her devotion to “reproductive health.”
  • Pray for leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who out of political convenience have left behind their pro-life convictions. Pray that they will join with Alveda King and other African-American leaders to end the massacre of their people.
  • Pray for Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, that her eyes would be opened to the miracle unfolding in the womb. Pray for the day she leads her organization to never again earn a penny through stopping the heartbeat of a human child.
  • Pray for the day Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, joins forces with those who want to stop the war on women in the womb.
  • Pray for Hillary Clinton, that she will come to realize the main reason why she refers to abortion as a “tragic choice.”
  • Pray for the abortion-rights activists who berate and belittle those who speak up for the voiceless.
  • Pray for the countless men and women in our country who are uncomfortable with the reality of abortion, but are unable to fully articulate why.
  • Pray for pro-life Christians who remain silent, who unwittingly stand by as little humans beings are discarded in clinics within driving distance of their homes.
  • Pray for Supreme Court justices like Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to see the instability of the Roe decision and return the decision to the states.
  • Pray for abortion providers, that God would prick the conscience of those who piece together the remains of unborn children every day.
  • Pray that the abortion culture would unravel from the inside, as more and more “doctors” are rightly uncomfortable with stilling the heartbeats of other human beings.
  • Most of all, pray that God would have mercy on us for treating the gift of life as an inconvenience.

Don’t hate. Pray.

 
 

Jan

18

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Do Pro-Life Laws Establish Religion?

PUB_2158_BOOK_HARDCOVER_abortion_Aug20b.inddR. C. Sproul says no, and here’s why:

When the church calls on the state to prohibit abortion, the state is not being asked to establish a religion. Nor is the state being asked to be the church. The church is simply asking the state to be the state.

If it is the role of the state to protect, sustain, and maintain human life, and if it is the conviction of the church that abortion involves the destruction of human life, then it follows that the church has the right to call the state to outlaw abortion.

The church is not asking the state to baptize human beings, but to protect the lives of unborn humans.

from Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue

 
 

Nov

08

2013

Trevin Wax|10:38 am CT

What Happens When Your Abortion Appointment Gets Delayed?

The Texas Tribune recently posted a video interview with a man and woman frustrated by the recent abortion restrictions in Texas. The woman found out her abortion appointment had been canceled, and she had to travel to Austin in order to stop her child’s heartbeat.

The video is one-sided, of course, as it only shows the point of view of a pro-choice couple (who call the recent restrictions “fiendishly clever” and a “wake-up call” for people passionate about abortion rights).

What’s intriguing about the video, however, is how it seems to have backfired.

Glancing through the comments and blog streams about the video, there is a wide sense of revulsion at the fact that this couple who appear educated, financially stable, and established would choose to go through an abortion simply due to the stress of it “not being the right time.”

Americans feel a certain empathy for women in difficult circumstances who are convinced the only way option they have is abortion. That empathy tends to erode the longer the pregnancy goes on. (60% of American women agree that abortions after 20 weeks should be banned.)

Empathy also tends to erode when abortion is turned to as a matter of convenience or when a man is present and (apparently) willing to shoulder the responsibility, as is evident in this particular case.

Watch for yourself, and weep for the little one whose life was snuffed out. Then pray that more eyes would open to the humanity of the unborn.

 
 

Aug

08

2013

Trevin Wax|3:40 am CT

Is the Abortion Battle a War On Women or a War Between Women?

The War on Women has become a political catchphrase, popular enough to warrant its own entry on Wikipedia, which defines it as “an expression in United States politics, used to describe Republican Party initiatives in federal and state legislatures that restrict women’s rights, especially reproductive rights.” The definition continues:

The term is often used when targeting policies that reduce or eliminate taxpayer funding for women’s health organizations, like Planned Parenthood… Prominent Democrats and feminists have used the phrase to criticize conservative actions as trying to force their social views and religious beliefs on a general public by legal legislation.

Add to “prominent Democrats” and “feminists” the mainstream media. Read news articles or watch the talking heads discuss abortion and you’ll find the “War on Women” description used again and again.

The Way the Media Frames Abortion Debates

Framing the abortion debate as an “assault on women’s reproductive rights” plays well with abortion advocates because it paints any abortion restriction from the pro-choice point of view. But this is precisely what the debate is about, and why Americans are so conflicted on this issue.

One side believes in a woman’s unalienable right to terminate her pregnancy. The other side believes in human rights for all, including the unborn human in the womb.

If reporters and journalists were to frame all conversations about abortion as a “War on Babies,” I suspect abortion advocates would cry foul. They would protest such coverage as biased toward the pro-life view, and they’d be right. So shouldn’t we recognize that pro-life advocates are right to question the journalistic decision to adopt a pro-choice perspective in framing abortion restrictions as a “War on Women”?

When news reports use this motif or describe those who protest restrictions on abortion as “woman’s rights protestors,” they’re being unfair. They’re also being inaccurate.

Just who is at the forefront of this “war on women?”

  • Well, we could start with Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life.
  • Or we could point to Marjorie Dannenfelser, who runs the Susan B. Anthony List.
  • Then there’s political filmmaker, Lila Rose, who goes undercover to expose lawbreaking at abortion clinics.
  • And Kristen Day, who heads up Democrats for Life.
  • Or Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. who has likened abortion to “black genocide.”
  • In journalism, we have Kirsten Powers and Mollie Hemingway, who helped bring national media attention to the multiple-murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
  • Or actresses like Patricia Heaton, who consistently uses her Twitter platform to advocate for life.

What do all these people have in common? They’re all women.

Women Vs. Women

The fact is, women are at the forefront of the so-called “War on Women.” That’s why it’s particularly damaging for media outlets to adopt the pro-choice spin on abortion battles by failing to challenge the terminology. It has the rhetorical effect of making every pro-life woman a traitor to the cause of women’s rights.

Using the “War on Women” nomenclature communicates this message: if you are for unrestricted abortion rights, you are pro-women. If you are pro-life, you’re anti-women.

This must be news to the majority of women in the United States, who consistently express their support for a ban on late-term abortions. Consider the recent recent controversy in Texas over a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. If this is an example of Gov. Rick Perry’s “War on Women,” it doesn’t play out that way in the polls. You see, women are more likely than men to support a ban on abortion at 20 weeks.

In other polls, women take a stronger pro-life view than men: 24 percent of women want all abortions made illegal and 36 percent want almost all illegal. Americans are generally in favor of abortion access during the first trimester, but support falls drastically by the second and third trimesters.

Apparently, most women in the United States do not believe they need unfettered access to a life-taking surgical procedure in order to be on equal footing with men. Outside of Planned Parenthood circles, few women believe the highest and most sacred aspect of women’s rights is the choice of a mother to take the life of her child.

If reporters want to accurately describe the debate over abortion in this country, they should retire the “War on Women” phrase, or at least challenge it when abortion advocates use it. When it comes to abortion, there’s no war on women. What we have is a war between women.

 
 

Jun

18

2013

Trevin Wax|8:03 pm CT

When Reporters Roll Their Eyes at an Abortion Bill

As expected, the House of Representatives voted today to ban abortions after 22 weeks (the point when a fetus can feel pain). The Senate will probably ignore this bill, and the president will definitely veto it. But the symbolic power of the House kicking against the goads of Roe v. Wade is certainly newsworthy, which is why media outlets are devoting attention to the bill.

Unfortunately, in reading the news stories, one gets the impression that most journalists are rolling their eyes at Republicans for even attempting such a laughable, backwards piece of legislation.

Take a look at The New York Times headline: “In Partisan Vote, House Acts to Limit Abortions.” The title is true, of course, but one wonders why the headline is framed in a way that focuses on partisanship and restriction, rather than compassion and protection. I doubt we’d ever see a title that says, “In Partisan Vote, House Acts to Impose Gun Control.”

The second sentence of the article implies that the House vote can be chalked up to partisan politics:

The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228 to 196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines.

It’s puzzling why journalists revert to the “abortion is a partisan political issue” when reporting on these kinds of restrictions. And note the “medically disputed” line which casts doubt on the basis of the bill. Who is medically disputing the theory that fetuses at 22 weeks don’t feel the pain of having their limbs torn apart and heads crushed in utero? Is there a heated debate in the medical community on this issue?

The brief New York Times article ends better than it begins. After showing how Democrats see this issue as another part of the “war on women,” a Republican woman is quoted:

“I’m not waging a war on anyone… Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”

CBS News focuses primarily on the political implications of the bill, as if the symbolic nature of the vote means Republicans are just throwing a bone to social conservatives and are not in any way motivated by compassion for unborn children who face a violent demise in the womb. The first three paragraphs emphasize how the action goes against consultants who are urging Republicans to back away from social issues. The rest of the piece brings up the “rape” exceptions and how this conversation derailed Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock last year.

The subtext: Haven’t these Republicans learned their lesson? Why do they keep coming back to this?

My answer: Perhaps it’s not stupidity and stubbornness, but courage that leads representatives to engage one of the most important human rights issues of our day.

USA Today’s coverage leaves aside the question of fetal pain altogether. Kermit Gosnell gets a mention (and kudos to USA Today for actually reporting on that trial!), but in this article, the reasoning for a 20-week abortion ban (the unborn can feel pain) is nowhere to be found. Instead, the first sentence tells us up front this is all about limiting a woman’s right to choose.

The Republican-led House of Representatives approved a far-reaching bill to ban a woman’s ability to seek an abortion after 20 weeks on a mostly party-line 228-196 vote Tuesday.

Then, in case you’re concerned about women’s freedom, the follow-up:

It stands no chance of becoming law under the Obama administration.

Whew! At least we’ve got Obama as Plan B.

The rest of USA Today’s coverage quotes generously from people on both sides of the issue, but the reporter is quick to explain away Marsha Blackburn’s involvement with the bill (she was put forward as a female face to help with the PR).

As a side note, I wonder what the vast numbers of pro-life women must feel when they find out they’re part of a “war on women.”

  • Was Alice Paul (the original architect of the Equal Rights Amendment) part of the war on women when she described abortion as the “ultimate exploitation of women?”
  • What about Susan B. Anthony? Or Elizabeth Cady Stanton?
  • What about the women who lead pregnancy support centers across the country, run pro-life organizations (Charmaine Yoest), or use their platforms to lobby for life (Patricia Heaton)?

The end of the USA Today article points to research showing that only 1.3% of abortions in 2009 occurred after 20 weeks. That’s comforting. Only 15,600 fetuses felt the pain of dismemberment that year. “Nothing to see here… move along.”

Forgive my frustration, folks. I usually leave it to GetReligion to do the media analysis on biased reporting. But I decided tonight to meet the collective “eye-rolling” by shaking my head.

 
 

Apr

24

2013

Trevin Wax|12:14 am CT

Imagining How Planned Parenthood Might Respond to Gosnell

Note: This is not an official statement from Planned Parenthood.

In light of the recent trial of the abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, Planned Parenthood continues to stand with women across the country in reinforcing the importance of access to abortion that is safe, legal, and common.

The actions of Dr. Gosnell and the atmosphere of his clinic for reproductive health do not represent the experience of women who visit Planned Parenthood for access to birth control and other reproductive services.

Here are some important differences to keep in mind:

  • In abortions after the first trimester, Planned Parenthood physicians never “snip the necks” of babies outside the womb. We take great care to make sure that the snipping happens inside the birth canal moments before birth, not after.
  • Unlike Gosnell’s clinic, Planned Parenthood clinics do not have jars of baby parts or toilets overflowing with fetal remains. We make sure that the fetuses we dismember and extract from the womb are placed in sanitary medical bags and properly disposed of.
  • Unlike Gosnell’s clinic, Planned Parenthood does not pressure women into having abortions. At the same time, we oppose all legislation requiring a woman to see an ultrasound, because seeing the heartbeat and face of the fetus might cause her to question her right to choose.
  • Unlike Gosnell’s clinic, Planned Parenthood does not target vulnerable women from minority populations. The fact that most of our clinics are in the inner city and the largest percentage of abortions comes from minority groups has nothing to do with our business model.
  • Unlike Dr. Gosnell, Planned Parenthood doctors are professional and courteous and treat patients with respect. They perform abortions with surgical precision and a smile. The possibility of a botched abortion or a baby born alive is very rare. Women can rest assured – the doctor will not err; the fetus will not escape. Our doctors are highly skilled in stopping the heartbeats of the little ones.

The sad case of Dr. Gosnell’s trial is a powerful reminder of the importance of reproductive rights. When late-term abortions are regulated, women in desperation visit clinics like Dr. Gosnell’s. For this reason, we recommend loosening restrictions on abortion at all stages of pregnancy. Women have the right to a safe, sanitary procedure, and the child has, well, no rights at all.

 
 

Apr

18

2013

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

How Mollie Hemingway Introduced the Nation to Kermit Gosnell

A week ago today, I tweeted:

One didn’t have to be a prophet to see that the story was on the rise. One only had to watch Mollie Hemingway in action.

What Happened

For the past few weeks, coverage of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial has been virtually absent in the mainstream media. Noticing the lack of media attention to such an intriguing story, Mollie Hemingway (from the must-read blog Get Religion) began writing about the oversight.

As the details of the trial began to spread through outside channels, the silence of mainstream journalists became less and less excusable. Mollie kept blogging about the journalistic oversight. Then, she extended her protest to Twitter, publicly contacting journalists across the nation and asking them to explain their silence.

On Thursday, Kirsten Powers wrote an Op-Ed for USA Today that claimed American journalists had forgotten what should be on the front page. By Thursday night, Gosnell was trending on Twitter.

Social media outlets were rapidly spreading the news story. I was one of many who blogged about the story - registering my frustration with the way abortion stories are framed by journalists.

Gosnell in the National Spotlight

All day Friday, Kermit Gosnell was the top subject trending on Twitter. Anderson Cooper gave extensive coverage to the story on Friday night. Over the weekend, journalists covered the story of why there hadn’t been a story (which is not as good as actually covering the trial, but it’s a start).

Until the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday afternoon, the Gosnell story was top news across the nation, including CBS. What media critics had called a “blackout” had ended.

How Mollie Hemingway Changed the National Conversation

Without taking away from Kirsten Powers’ article or the thousands who blogged or tweeted about Gosnell, I believe Mollie Hemingway deserves most of the credit for causing respected journalists to give this story a second look. For example, when Sarah Kliff claimed Gosnell was a local crime story without policy implications, Mollie pressed her on the silliness of that excuse. Later, Sarah admitted she’d been wrong. Newsweek followed suit.

So what did Mollie do right? Several things.

1. She was an informed, credible voice on the issue.

Mollie knows the ins and outs of journalism. She also demonstrated an awareness of the issues related to the trial. She was not a blogger passing on conspiracy theories or someone always ranting against media bias on right-wing websites. She had both information and credibility, and she put both to good use. For that reason, people paid attention.

Too often, people are willing to speak before they have built up credibility (e.g., almost all bloggers and people on Twitter). Others are afraid to expend their capital when it is needed (e.g., many Christians academics at secular colleges).

2. She didn’t just complain; she pushed.

Mollie didn’t use Twitter to gripe about the mainstream media. She personally approached stakeholders and journalists.

Twitter allowed Mollie to make personal contact with a reporter, but with lots of people eavesdropping. The effect was that her challenges to the reporter had some pressure and accountability built into them.

In short, she revealed the blind spot of a number of respected journalists, not by slamming them, but by pressing them on their coverage of stories.

3. She devoted time and attention to a serious issue worthy of conversation.

Journalists understand there are many issues related to abortion that are open for debate and discussion. It seems like we most often see stories about the chipping away of access to abortion in red states, or the unwise comments from pro-life politicians on exceptional cases.

Mollie pushed the Gosnell case because it was totally deserving of attention. It was also one of the first cases that puts the conflicted conscience of Americans on abortion (particularly late-term) on full display.

Conclusion

It’s important to have informed, credible people involved in all levels of journalism. These are the people who can gently and firmly expose the blind spots in how journalists direct our national conversation on volatile issues like abortion.

For example, it is sadly ironic that the article in which Sarah Kliff reports on Gosnell’s crimes is tagged “reproductive health.” Why not “human rights?” There is continued bias in the way journalists discuss the issue of abortion (or, in this case, infanticide!).

We’ve got a long way to go. But last week was something of a breakthrough.

Mollie Hemingway shows that, in a world where media coverage is no longer chained to mainstream outlets, one person can make a big difference.