Media Frames Coverage of Supreme Court Case From Pro-Abortion Viewpoint

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 19, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Media Frames Coverage of Supreme Court Case From Pro-Abortion Viewpoint Email this article
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by Brent Baker
April 19, 2007 Note: Brent Baker is the vice president of the Media Research Center.

The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday night all ran full stories on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Act, but while each included arguments from justices in the majority, featured a soundbite from pro-life lawyer Jay Sekulow and offered at least a brief description of the procedure, they all framed the stories in ways favorable to those on the losing side.

All led into competing soundbites by putting abortion supporters on the side of "rights" — describing "abortion rights supporters" versus "abortion opponents" — characterized the ruling as imposing a further "restriction" on abortion instead of as expanding protection for the unborn, and creatively distanced themselves from the "partial-birth" abortion term.
ABC’s Charles Gibson saw "a long-sought victory for abortion opponents" before Jan Crawford Greenburg fretted that "abortion rights activists were devastated."

CBS’s Wyatt Andrews highlighted how "abortion rights supporters bitterly protested" since "the ban is now the first abortion restriction ever approved with no exception for the health of the mother."

NBC’s Chip Reid related that "abortion rights activists worry this may be only the start of a campaign to limit abortion rights."

"So-called" partial-birth hot potato: With "5-4 ruling upholds federal ban on so-called ‘partial-birth abortion’" on screen, ABC anchor Gibson brought in ideology as he announced that "the court’s new conservative majority today upheld a nationwide ban on a controversial procedure, one that critics call ‘partial-birth abortion.’"

Jan Crawford Greenburg cited how "the court said the government could ban a specific type of abortion procedure."

Over on the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric referred to "a controversial late-term abortion procedure" and Wyatt Andrews reported on "what Congress called ‘partial-birth abortions.’"

NBC’s Chip Reid asserted that the court "upheld a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure that opponents call ‘partial-birth abortion.’"

The ABC and CBS stories were the least balanced since, after giving about equal time to quotes from justices on both sides and advocates on each side, the two networks added another pro-partial-birth abortion perspective.

ABC’s Greenburg featured the view of an "abortion provider" and CBS’s Andrews showcased a woman, whose baby would have suffered and died after birth, who had a partial-birth abortion and, in tears, declared: "It’s wrong for this law to exist at all. Nobody could agonize over the decision more than my husband and I did."