An Example of Media Bias on the Healthcare Mandate

Mollie Hemingway says that if she were to satirize the problems the media have had reporting on religious liberty, then the story would look exactly like a real story that appeared at The Washington Post yesterday. The story is by Michelle Boorstein, and it reads like it is supposed to be a straight news report. But the discerning reader will notice that the Ms. Boorstein has a bit of a slant on things. There are a number of problems with this piece, but here’s the item that stuck out to me:

The Stand Up For Religious Freedom event will be held Friday in dozens of locations across the country — noon local time for all. It was prompted by the White House’s announcement earlier this year that many faith-based organizations would not be exempt from the new health care law and its mandatory coverage of contraception and other reproductive services. The rally is being organized by pro-life organizations and appears to be mostly Catholics, whose bishops have been the most vocal and visible critics of the mandate.

The problem here is subtle, but important. Notice the line that I have underlined, “other reproductive services.” That line conceals far more than it reveals. The “other reproductive services” in question are chemical abortions and sterilization. So here’s the question. Why would the reporter mention “contraception” specifically while euphemizing chemical abortions and sterilizations? Why didn’t she say “mandatory coverage of chemical abortions and other reproductive services”? Or even better, why didn’t she remove the euphemism altogether? Would it not have been more accurate to communicate to readers that the religious liberty concerns center on all three: chemical abortions, sterilization, and contraception?

I cannot account for what motivated the author to euphemize chemical abortions. But I can say this. The story takes a side on this debate even though it doesn’t say so in so many words. The President, Congressional Democrats, and feminist activists have been spinning this controversy into a debate about the availability of contraception. The Catholic Bishops, Republicans in Congress, and many evangelicals have been saying that it’s about religious liberty—about the fact that millions of believers will have to pay for services that they abhor. Roman Catholics and evangelicals disagree about contraception, but they are in lockstep about when it comes to opposing abortion. The article pushes the “contraception” narrative and glosses over the one issue that unites religious conservatives against this mandate—abortion.

This is not a straight report even though it poses as one. You can be sure that there will be many more like it. Caveat lector!

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  1. The Top Blog Posts of the Week | SBC Today - March 25, 2012

    […] “An Example of Media Bias on the Healthcare Mandate,” by Denny Burk on his blog, with an example of how the media uses language that subtly strengthens the pro-mandate position and weakens the anti-mandate position. […]

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