News,  Politics

The Media’s Biased Coverage of Abortion

Bernie Goldberg has described media bias not as a conscious agenda on the part of news reporters, but as an unconscious worldview that inevitably comes to the surface in the way that the news gets reported. Many “straight” news reporters try to be objective, but their worldview nevertheless undermines those efforts in subtle but profound ways. Thus we have “liberal” media bias.

What makes the bias so galling, however, is the inability of those reporters to be self-conscious of their own presuppositions in their reporting. The last two weeks of coverage about the two biggest abortion stories of the year has been particularly galling.

First, there is the matter of President Obama’s recent decision to force religious groups to pay for abortions. The decision has hardly registered in the national media except when GOP candidates bring it up on the trail. The national media have largely relegated it as an archane discussion about birth control without reporting that some of these “birth control” methods cause abortions.

Second, there is the matter of the Komen foundation’s recent attempt to cut ties with Planned Parenthood. Again, the national media has treated Planned Parenthood as if there were a national consensus of support for the largest provider of abortions in America (about 300,000 annually). Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Americans remain deeply divided on the issue of abortion, though a majority of Americans believe abortion rights should be more limited than they are now. But you wouldn’t know any of that if you have been watching “straight” news reporters dressing down the Komen foundation last week. In my view, Andrea Mitchell’s interview with Nancy Brinker last week was the most egregious (see below).

Ross Douthat voices the frustration that many pro-lifers have felt over the last couple of weeks. His column on “The Media’s Abortion Blinders” is one of the few times you’ll read an acknowledgement of liberal media bias from the Old Gray Lady. He writes:

From the nightly news shows to print and online media, the coverage’s tone alternated between wonder and outrage — wonder that anyone could possibly find Planned Parenthood even remotely controversial and outrage that the Komen foundation had “politicized” the cause of women’s health.

“That ubiquitous pink ribbon … is sporting a black eye today,” Claire Shipman announced on ABC News Thursday, while Diane Sawyer nodded along. On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell dressed down the Komen foundation’s founder, Nancy Brinker: “I have to tell you,” Mitchell said, “this is shocking to a lot of your longtime supporters. … How could this have taken place?” In story after story, journalists explicitly passed judgment on Komen for creating a controversy where none need ever have existed.

Conservative complaints about media bias are sometimes overdrawn. But on the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable. In many newsrooms and television studios across the country, Planned Parenthood is regarded as the equivalent of, well, the Komen foundation: an apolitical, high-minded and humanitarian institution whose work no rational person — and certainly no self-respecting woman — could possibly question or oppose.

But of course millions of Americans — including, yes, millions of American women — do oppose Planned Parenthood. They oppose the 300,000-plus abortions it performs every year (making it the largest abortion provider in the country), and they oppose its tireless opposition to even modest limits on abortion.

Pro-lifers are not interested only in changing the law, but also in changing hearts and minds. The culture of death knows that they must keep their death-mills in the dark and covered in euphemism. They are enabled in this effort by a national media that is flush with reporters like Andrea Mitchell who apparently believe that funding Planned Parenthood is completely uncontroversial.

If Americans actually saw what goes on every day inside Planned Parenthood, support for abortion rights (and Planned Parenthood) would drop precipitously in this country. Even though the national media by and large conceals the truth of abortion, the possibility for exposing it is now more possible than ever because of the internet and social media. And that is good news, even though the national media is still chasing its own tail on this issue.


  • John

    All media definitely have a bias, both libeal and consevative, depending on the beliefs of the financial backers, the management, and the demographics of the listeners they are hoping to reach so they can sell their advertising accordingly (they are all in the money making business). The real truth is that all major news outlets are based on a worldview radically different from the Christian prospective. Man is seen as the maker of his own future in a material universe devoid of a Creator to whom we are accountable. While many conservative Christians may seek the solice of a conservative leaning news outlet, I can see no evidence of a Christian viewpoint in their reporting. The best thing we can do is filter out the bias as best we can through the renewing ouf our minds in our Christian walk.

  • Barry

    I’ve gotta say – I’m finding Bernie Goldberg’s explanation for media bias (that it’s subconscious) harder and harder to buy. I used to believe that, but lately, especially when that whole business of the JournoList came to light I have started to believe that it’s more nefarious than that.

  • Paul

    I think it’s worth noting this takedown on Ross Douthat’s take on this. As someone who works in the media, and sees the lengths that are gone to in order to maintain objectivity, the cheese like this that comes out of the right makes me want to punch a Wheaton College student. And there are plenty within arms reach…

  • Lyndsey Garza

    Denny Burk,

    I found your post: “The Media’s Biased Coverage of Abortion” thought-provoking, even though we have different opinions. I do really respect your emphasis of the obvious bias portrayed by the media in terms of Planned Parenthood (a health care provider and advocate that the American population is deeply divided on) and especially the judgment and astonishment towards Susan B. Komen’s decision to discontinue funding.

    Something I think we can both agree on is how media bias truly effects the messages the American audience hears and takes in. You argue, “…the possibility for exposing it is now more possible than ever because of the Internet and social media,” and I agree, more multi-source aggregated reporting needs to occur in order to dispel the truth from the opinions of journalists.

    On that note, I thought you might enjoy the video clip below. I hope you will embed it.

    I hope in the future we could work on maybe swapping blogroll links or Widgets.


    The clip does a great job of concisely sourcing and compiling news reports to which emphasize the scope and context the content is being reported on. Newsy synthesizes and analyzes news into neutral comprehensive video clips showing a variety of outlooks on the same topic.

    Thank you for your input, time and consideration,

    Lyndsey Garza

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