Media Largely Ignored March for Life, Provided Biased Abortion Coverage

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 27, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Media Largely Ignored March for Life, Provided Biased Abortion Coverage

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 27, 2004

New York, NY ( — While one media outlet, ABC News, has already been criticized for its biased coverage of the 2004 March for Life, a comprehensive analysis by a media watchdog group shows that the national media largely ignored the 2003 pro-life march as well.

The Media Research Center conducted an analysis of the 2003 March for Life coverage and found that national outlets spent more time covering a much smaller anti-Bush, anti-war protest that occurred just four days earlier.

ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 26 segments on the anti-war march, 14 of them before the rally began. The coverage included stories which emphasized the protesters’ diversity, including political diversity.

"Braving frigid temperatures," ABC’s Lisa Sylvester proclaimed on the January 19 World News Tonight, "they traveled across the country — black and white, Democrat and Republican, young and old."

The coverage, print and broadcast, excised speeches from the podium, from rally organizer Ramsey Clark’s call for President Bush’s impeachment to a man decrying the Bush administration as "greedy imperialist murderers."

On the other hand, the networks focused much less attention on the large March for Life. They offered only nine stories (four of them beforehand) and most of the stories covered the abortion debate in general and "made only oblique references" to the March for Life, MRC notes.

"Not one network news story had the pro-life demonstrations as its central topic, in contrast to 26 that featured anti-war protesters," the MRC analysis indicated.

The news coverage also blurred the difference between the more than 100,000 people that attended the March for Life and several dozen that attended pro-abortion rallies or counterprotests.

That evening, CBS’s Dan Rather obscured the counts this way: "Tens of thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the issue filled the streets of Washington today."

Reporters also failed to describe the diversity of the pro-life march participants, the Media Research Center notes. Instead, they highlighted the fringe and a few extreme elements.

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reported on a "crowd" that was later described as "a dozen or so" by the Buffalo News: "Today, supporters of James Kopp the man who confessed to the killing [of abortion practitioner Barnett Slepian in 1998], have come to Buffalo to claim the shooting was justified."

On CBS, reporter Jim Axelrod held up the "small number of demonstrators" as "telling," since the Slepian shooting was "an example of how abortion is redder than any other red meat social issue in America. It’s the one producing the most violence." Axelrod spoke over video of a bomb going off.

ABC News was recently criticized for completely ignoring the 2004 March for Life. Instead, the network news channel covered Wesley Clark expanding on his pro-abortion position.

The only other abortion coverage from ABC News was on their web site, where the news outfit feature two pro-abortion articles. One lumped the pro-life movement in with violence extremists and the other accused the Bush administration of sacrificing women’s lives because of a pro-life foreign policy prohibiting taxpayer funding of groups that promote or perform abortions in other countries.

"If it were up to the networks alone, only the pro-life movement would need to struggle to be heard," MRC concluded.