USA Today Criticized for Telling Pro-Life Advocate What to Write in Editorial

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 25, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

USA Today Criticized for Telling Pro-Life Advocate What to Write in Editorial

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 25
, 2009

New York, NY ( — USA Today, the national newspaper with a pro-abortion editorial perspective, is coming under criticism from a pro-life advocate for telling her what to write in an editorial column. USA Today editorial writer Louise Branson had asked pro-life nurse Jill Stanek to craft a column on the infamous octuplets story.

Last week, Branson emailed Stanek a request to "write a short piece for us about the regulation of fertility clinics in the aftermath of the octuplets scandal, and praising the proposed Georgia legislation as the standard that should be set nationwide."

Stanek was happy to do so in order to provide a pro-life rebuttal to an official editorial USA Today would craft. However, the pro-life advocate never expected to be treated like a scaramouch in the process.

"With a pro-abortion audience in mind, I wrote a piece explaining the harm of egg harvesting to women," Stanek recounts in a WorldNetDaily column today.

She wrote about how "the vast number of human embryos killed throughout the in vitro fertilization process, and how human embryo research proponents use the ‘leftover’ embryos excuse to push their agenda" and the closed the piece "by describing common sense regulations."

She received a response from Branson asking her to "re-do it a bit."

"We were hoping to see a piece that would … say the best way to prevent another Suleman case would be to limit the number of embryos that could be implanted and also define an embryo as a person," she wrote Stanek.

She said USA Today is "less interested in all the medical details as our debate is on how best to regulate fertility clinics."

"I was taken aback," Stanek recalls. "USA Today was telling me how and what to write?"

She responded with a revised editorial conforming to USA Today’s request, but stood her ground on how "it is important to convey this is a women’s health issue as well as an embryo personhood issue."

"It is also important to convey just how many embryos are killed through the IVF process and to also touch on embryonic stem cell research. All these are building blocks to make my case for the need to regulate IVF," Stanek responded.

Branson responded: "We would like to use a piece by you, but it still isn’t quite what fits the needs of our debate."

"[T]he details of what happens to embryos, while important, is not germane to this particular debate, which is about regulating fertility clinics and preventing another octomom," she said.

Ultimately, Stanek allowed USA Today to revise her piece and felt that "offering something good as opposed to excellent was better than offering nothing at all."

The newspaper winnowed Stanek’s column to 343 and slugged it with the headline "Define embryos as human; Now’s the time for pro-lifers to promote regulation of IVF." It’s own editorial received 531 words and was entitled, "Protect health and safety , but don’t play abortion politics."

"I was fuming," Stanek relates in her WorldNetDaily piece. "My original piece had not been about ‘abortion politics.’ It had applied logic to the need to regulate IVF. But USA Today didn’t want logic, and I walked into its trap."

She has some words of wisdom for other pro-life advocates who are invited to write counter pieces to the pro-abortion mantra of the mainstream media.

"Bearing one’s audience in mind is critical when writing pro-life apologetics," she says. "As the mainstream media become more pressed by the New Media to seek pro-life opinions on matters, guard against letting them define us or frame our message."

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.