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How the Media Have Mangled the Pro-Life Story
by Jack Cashill
This past year, I found myself chief chronicler of the two of the year's most important stories involving the pro-life movement.
One was the inspiring saga of the 2009 March For Life, the largest in its 36-year history. The second was the dispiriting saga of the recently murdered late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller.
What the two stories have in common is that each was consciously and completely mistold by the major media. The media did this for one particular reason: They want their audiences to envision the face of the pro-life movement not as young, diverse, passionate, and idealistic, but as old, weary, cruel, and demented.
On January 22, 2009, I got to see the true face of the movement. I had come to Washington to shoot a documentary to be called Thine Eyes, the first-ever high-end production centering on the annual March For Life.
(Thine Eyes will air Wednesday, January 13 nationwide on EWTN at 10 PM EST. See Thineeyes.org for details.)
I was commissioned to create this video to set the media record straight. Although I had not attended the March before, I knew enough about the way the media works to suspect that a little straightening was in order. The media did not disappoint. Their coverage confirmed my most paranoid suspicions and shocked even the apolitical among our crew.
The March itself proved to be as colorful, diverse, and good-spirited a gathering as I have ever seen. We identified contingents from Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, Canada, and others. We found Rabbis for Life, Anglicans for Life, Lutherans for Life, and even a contingent of black hip-hoppers for life -- "Yo mamma/Chose life!"
Although the media would have you believe that the typical pro-lifer is an angry, red-faced fat man of late middle age, some three-quarters of the marchers were under 25. Our rooftop cameramen estimated about 350,000 marchers in all.
In search of drama, I instructed our six-camera crew to shoot and, if possible, interview all pro-abortion counter-protesters they could find. I had expected to see these people lining the street, especially since so many abortion-supporters had attended the inaugural of Barack Obama two days prior.
I saw none. At day's end, I conferred with the crew, and they, too, had seen none. I was disappointed. I had hoped to capture a little conflict on camera.
Somehow, however, USA Today managed to find all the pro-aborts they needed. Page three of its Jan. 23, 2009 edition featured an article on the March illustrated by two photos: one generic group shot and one close-up.
The close-up featured two women holding large signs. One read, "My Body My Choice." The second read, "Keep Abortion Legal." A small "We Choose Life" sign could be seen in the background. The caption read, "Two sides of issues: Abortion rights supporters and opponents mix outside the Supreme Court on Thursday."
The photo led the reader to believe that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of abortion supporters in attendance. In fact, there could not have been more than a pathetic handful. We saw none, and we were looking.
It also created an impression, altogether false, of USA Today's journalistic balance.
To its humble credit, USA Today at least covered the March. The New York Times could not be bothered. Neither the size of the crowd nor the radical shift in abortion policy stirred the alleged "paper of record" to print a single word. The networks were totally silent as well.
Compared to their coverage of George Tiller's rise and fall, the media treatment of the March was a model of journalistic integrity. For the record, in May 2009, a man named Scott Roeder walked into the vestibule of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas and shot and killed Tiller.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, called Tiller "the epitome of high quality medical care underscored by deep compassion for his patients." A Los Angeles Times editorial eulogized Tiller as "gentle George, a mentor to so many doctors and a hero to so many patients."
Major media reporting gave credence to the Tiller eulogists. Almost universally, the media claimed that whether one liked Tiller's practice or not, he was following Kansas law.
I knew otherwise. Living in Kansas City, I had been asked first by Kansans for Life and later by Focus on the Family to chronicle Tiller's thoroughgoing subversion of the rule of law. The truth was there for anyone to see.
For the six years that she governed the state, current Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius enabled Tiller to flout the state's tough abortion laws and get away with it. With Sebelius's help, Tiller turned this reddest of red states into the late-term abortion capital of the world.
On Tiller's web site, he boasted of having aborted 60,000-plus "fetuses over 24 weeks." In 2008, Tiller's last full year of operation, 98 percent of the late-term abortions performed in Kansas were performed on women from out of the state or out of the country.
Throughout Sebelius's tenure, the media refused to ask a basic question: Did Kansas become the world's abortion capital because it had uniquely liberal abortion laws? Or did it maintain this status because the governor was uniquely resistant to the law's enforcement? The answer was inarguably the latter.
In Kansas, an abortion can be performed on a baby capable of living outside the womb only if the pregnancy would cause the mother to die or suffer "a severe and irreversible impairment to a major bodily function." Tiller ignored the law.
As the Kansas state reports show, in the last ten years of Tiller's practice, not one single late term abortion was performed to save the life of the mother. This life-saving hokum was pure liberal media myth.
The reports also show that of the 192 late term abortions on healthy babies performed in 2008, none were performed for a legitimate "medical emergency." Every single late-term abortion where there was no fetal anomaly (and anomalies included twins and cleft palates) involved a temporary mental health diagnosis -- made, of course, by Tiller, who was no one's idea of a mental health expert.
These "irreversible impairments" included anxiety about missing a prom, a rodeo, or even a rock concert.
To keep his practice alive, Tiller had learned to game the system. His money worked well enough until Republican Phill Kline was elected Kansas Attorney General in 2002 and attempted to enforce the law, which he had helped to write as a legislator.
Sebelius engineered the deal that kept Tiller in business. She persuaded Paul Morrison, the popular Republican district attorney of the state's most affluent county, to switch parties and run against Kline.
With Tiller's massive financial backing behind him -- some $1.2 million indirect dollars -- and the full-throated support of the local media, Morrison ousted the "theocrat" Kline and killed the case that Kline had brought against Tiller.
In shooting Tiller, Roeder managed to alchemize the unholy dross of this corrupt late-term abortionist into martyr's gold. In the entirely apt words of Dan McLaughlin, "Even before anything was known about Roeder, the left side of the blogosphere reacted to Dr. Tiller's murder as if it was Christmas morning and they just got a pony."
The pro-life movement had a new poster boy.
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