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Abortion in the Media


Abortion has become a hot topic in the media. Every so often, the media covers this taboo subject when politicians are in a race for leadership. It appears to be nothing more than just a subject that the media will pull from their deck of cards to create a circus on the debate of pro-life vs. pro-choice. The media tends to lean more on the ideals of a woman’s right to her body over the insignificance of a body that is yet to be identified as a human being. Abortion is not just a hot topic. It is a real social issue in our society where all people are being affected; and the time will come when each person much choose a side.

It might be beneficial to break down by definition what an abortion represents. An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus: as a: spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation (Merriam-Webster). In other words, it means to kill or murder. The Hebrew’s definition of kill or murder, as it refers to the standard of Bible law: “You shall not murder” (The New International Bible, Exodus 20:13) defines the Hebrew root as eliminating life with deadly intent or malice (Strong’s Lexicon).

The deliberate action of defining abortion is to highlight the media’s coverage to the masses on this social issue. The media’s stance is to present information to people so that they can make up their own minds. However, the media has failed to uphold that stance when it comes to this particular issue. Granted, the media does take the time to cover abortion when it is aligned with the agenda of politicians and government funding; catching the readers eye with titles like, “THE AVERAGE COST OF A NON-HOSPITAL ABORTION AT 10 WEEKS WAS $430" (Postdispatch).

The media coverage lacks full discloser of details and is limited to a curtain of pro-life vs. pro-choice platforms. Thus, the story becomes a sensational backdrop that only gets enough byline to notify people that it’s still an issue amongst the other “pressing” news. However, if the media were to completely scrutinize this social issue the same way politicians are dissected, then important details of the aftermath of abortion would come in to light. For instance, the people would become aware of the psychological damage of emotion scars that never go away, and the physical complications that are known to occur shortly after the procedure and or the long term struggle that can take place when a woman finds herself ready to conceive.

The other side of the media’s coverage on abortion is that the journalist are bias on the subject in supporting the pro-choice movement according to interviews of reputable media outlets and other major studies (Shaw). The following is an example of the sensational route the media tends to take when it comes to covering the issue of abortion.

Most of the media bought -- hook, line, and sinker -- the basic pro-abortion lie on the shooting: that pro-life activity leads to violence. For instance, Peter Jennings began ABC World News Tonight's coverage of the shooting by connecting peaceful pro-life protests with violence. "There have been hundreds and thousands of anti-abortion demonstrations outside abortion clinics all across the country over the last several years," he said. "Today, in Pensacola, one of them ended in murder"(Myers).

The media will jump at the opportunity to cover a story that has a ratings boost angle attached to it. This type of coverage is usually exclusive to the broadcasting branch, where they can take advantage of human emotion at its best or worst and portray on site with a camera and sound bites. In the end though, the abortion issue from which news breaking episodes can occur, do not get any more clarity placed on it; and the viewers are still left with their own personal sought information to manage their own decisions. 

The biasness attached to the media when it comes to abortion can also be attached to the idea of need vs. want. A newspaper wants to provide facts for their readers so that they can be informed to the point of managing their own stance, but the need for readers comes from the wants of the public. For example, a paper will not sell if the news is not of interest to the individuals reading it. So, the editor tends to edit or omit issues that are not of the public’s interest at the moment. The media is quite use to playing with words when it comes to providing information for the public. It frames the abortion issue around a woman and omits the representation of a fetus.
When the networks broadcast an abortion story, the backdrop has often been the large word ‘abortion’ – with the ‘O’ in the word stylized into the biological symbol for female. The networks could just as easily stylize the ‘O’ to represent a womb, with a drawing of a fetus inside, but they don’t.

When Time magazine published a cover story on abortion last year, the cover was a drawing of a woman; when Newsweek published a cover story on abortion two months later, its cover featured a photo of a pregnant woman. Neither depicted a fetus (Wade).

These examples are just limited to the image of the abortion issue, but when one examines the articles published within these subliminal packages it is evident that the use of language is geared toward the movement of pro-choice. However, the argument of language is not just limited to the pro-life platform. Gloria Feldt, the author of The War on Choice, wrote an article last year pointing out the flaws of the media’s coverage on abortion and how its folly fueled a federal anti-choice ruling.

Indeed, the travesty of language around abortion is so pervasive that even Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court's majority, in addition to using the inaccurate term "partial birth abortion," also referred to the "abortion doctor" repeatedly in the ruling. Why did he not simply refer to doctors as "doctors," or "ob/gyns"? If another surgical procedure were under scrutiny, would he have referred to "tonsillectomy doctor" or "hysterectomy doctor"? Of course not. But those who want to take away entirely a woman's human right to make her own childbearing decisions have used the term "abortion doctor" for so long as an epithet that they have succeeded in getting even the highest court in the land to adopt their language (Feldt).

In her article, she flips the argument used by pro-lifers by highlighting the power of language and the result of its setting back the rights of women. However, just as she calls the media out on their biased word usage, she too ends her article with the same quiet attack. “The public relations goldmine of those who aim for nothing less than to eliminate reproductive justice at all times from all women has paid off for them. Language, after all, has consequences too” (Feldt). She refers to abortion as a ‘reproductive justice’. Which by definition yields a cancellation because one represents ‘death’ and the other represents ‘life’. Therefore, contrary to her biased argument she would be representing the pro-life movement on her own words.

The idea of ‘life’ and ‘death’; have been blurred together in the society of America. When it comes to the abortion issue, the free world has failed to extend life and relevance to the individual that has no voice. Yet the media has the power to encourage this issue with just stated facts all around. They can uphold their right and duty as informants to guide the hand of the people. Regardless of the media’s failure to rise to their call of duty, the American society has shown signs of moving in a direction that is opposite of what the headlines rally. According to an article published by the Chicago Tribune, abortion has dropped to its lowest numbers in 30 years (Chapman). Members of our society are beginning to look past the euphemisms of “choice” and are uncovering the basic layers of ‘life’ over ‘death’. Pro-choice or pro-life; the idea of destroying a life is hard to swallow (Chapman).

"It's almost hard to remain objective”, states Lee Cowan of NBC (Ponnuru). This one line announces to the observant listener that the media has stepped onto the lines of their choice smearing their profession’s mission statement and abandoning the objective code. It is evident that the media plays a huge part in capturing the minds of the people. This silent branch of government is arguably the most powerful because it does link the people with the titans of capital hill. The media has a duty to remain objective on all issues, and on the issue of abortion, they must reevaluate their past efforts and renew their vision with the objective code in play.