CBS News Typifies Media Bias in Abortion March Coverage

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

CBS News Typifies Media Bias in Abortion March Coverage

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 4, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Abortion advocates continue to dispute the notion that their national abortion march failed to produce the more than one million people they predicted, despite numerous media and police estimates that organizers missed that mark by hundreds of thousands of people.

Yet, the media have been willing accomplices in claiming that organizers turned out a critical mass of people that dwarfs the size of the annual pro-life march and, therefore, a majority of Americans must back abortion.

CBS News’ coverage, for example, of the pro-abortion march is flattering compared to its coverage of the annual March for Life in January.

The headline in the abortion march coverage blares: "Huge Abortion Rights Rally in D.C." and the lead sentence reads, "Demonstrators jammed Pennsylvania Avenue by the hundreds of thousands, forming a sea of protest that drew activists from coast to coast and around the world."

Compare that to their March for Life headline ("Abortion Anniversary Noted In D.C.") or the lead sentence covering the pro-life march that minimizes the size of the event: "Nearly two-dozen Catholic bishops and a crowd of thousands, mostly teenagers, united Thursday for the annual rally and march protesting the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion."

On the CBS News web site, a photo of a large crowd of people heading up the pro-abortion march accompanies the article. With the pro-life march article, the lead photo depicts two pro-life people hunkering down as a large group of pro-abortion counterprotesters swarms around them.

Not until the middle of the March for Life story does a picture appear showing the equally large number of pro-life people jamming the streets on the way to the Supreme Court.

The March for Life coverage features a short article of only 351 words. In the article, abortion advocates receive as many quotes and as much coverage as the rally itself — including discussion of new Congressional legislation designed to overturn numerous pro-life laws. The article describes pro-abortion counterprotesters in terms that make it appear they were equal in size to the 100-200,000 pro-life people who gathered.

Meanwhile, the article on the pro-abortion march runs 859 words and features quotes from only two pro-life people in reaction to numerous abortion advocates who are featured. The CBS News article also discusses a group of pro-life people who were arrested and describes the couple thousand pro-life people who counterprotested as "a much smaller contingent of abortion opponents."

Despite the coverage and claims by abortion advocates that they outnumber pro-life supporters nationwide, an April Zogby poll shows more people take a pro-life position on abortion.

A total of 56 percent agreed with one of the following pro-life views: abortion should never be legal (18 percent), legal only when the life of the mother is in danger (15 percent) or legal only when the life of the mother is in danger or in cases of rape or incest (23 percent).

Since abortions in cases of rape or incest or those necessary to save the life of the mother are extremely rare, that means a majority of Americans oppose approximately 96 percent of all abortions.

Only 42 percent of those surveyed agreed with one of the following statements supporting abortion: abortion should be legal for any reason in the first 3 months (25 percent), legal for any reason during the first 6 months (4 percent) or legal for any reason at any time during the woman’s pregnancy (13 percent).

"NARAL, Planned Parenthood and their comrades like to think they represent a majority of Americans," stated Carol Tobias, political director for the National Right to Life Committee. "However, the latest poll shows that their extreme position of abortion on demand throughout pregnancy is supported by only 13 percent of the public."