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Media bias in abortion doc's trial?

There is a lively debate over whether major national news organizations have ignored or downplayed the trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor who is charged with murder in the deaths of seven babies allegedly born alive and one mother. It's a case that has already contributed to restrictions on abortion providers and one that pro-lifers argue deserves much more attention.Details in the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell are certainly sensational enough. For example, one of Gosnell's assistants testified that she "snipped" the necks of at least 10 babies delivered alive. In one case, she testified, the doctor joked that the baby was big enough to have walked to the bus stop. But Gosnell denies that the victims were born alive and also denies what prosecutors say is their late gestational stage -- as much as 30 weeks for the victim the doctor allegedly joked about. (Pennsylvania law bars abortions after 24 weeks, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.) Gosnell's lawyer, meanwhile, charged that his client, who is black, is the victim of racism through a "prosecutorial lynching." He said Gosnell had performed 16,000 abortions in his career, and up to 1,000 a year. Gosnell could be sentenced to death by lethal injection if convicted of murdering the seven babies.With the sensational charges made by both sides, the intense emotions (many of the witnesses are dissolving into tears), the high stakes and the important social issues being raised, the Gosnell trial is clearly a national story. It has received that treatment from the largest U.S. news organization, the Associated Press, which has covered the trial daily and moved lengthy articles not only to regional clients but on the national wire as well. So daily, national coverage is available to those who want it. The New York Times, having done an article in 2011 on how Gosnell's squalid clinic had escaped state oversight, ran a story on the trial's opening arguments. (To review daily coverage of the trial, check the Philadelphia Inquirer.)But there are some major news organizations, especially the television networks, showing no interest in the trial. Is that because of bias? Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple questioned some of the national outlets, including his own. That led Martin Baron, the editor of the Post, to respond: "We believe the story is deserving of coverage by our own staff, and we intend to send a reporter for the resumption of the trial next week. In retrospect, we should have sent a reporter sooner."Yes, the Gosnell trial is news. National news, available from the AP wire.But I would expect to see few news organizations from outside the region staff the trial on a daily basis. The Gosnell trial was projected to last six to eight weeks. It's rare for a trial to receive day-to-day national coverage nowadays. It's expensive, especially for the TV networks, which have to dispatch a crew for an extended period of time. (It's much easier to assail the media for not doing the coverage than it is to report on a two-month trial yourself.)With that said, media bias in coverage of abortion was established long ago when David Shaw delved into it in a 1990 series in the Los Angeles Times. He found that, often subconsciously, news organizations reported on abortion from the pro-choice perspective. This was especially so at the TV networks. It's not hard to make sure an individual story is balanced, and a good copy editor can remove the phrases that give away the reporter's frame of reference. But deciding what's news and what's not is subjective. Nearly a quarter-century later, Shaw's reporting still holds in that regard.


Commenting Guidelines

David N. --Your last stataement is mainly about the meanings and uses of words and what certain people or groups "believe". I don't think that the Gosnell uproar is about words and beliefs. What do you think is the main point to be made about the Gosness case? is is a moral one? If so, what is that point?

He is, it seems, a serial killer. The details are extremely gory, almost unbelievable. I would like to compare with how serial killers are covered.The Kevorkian trials were covered, although I imagine most media are pro-assisted suicide. Why the difference, I wonder.

I read Friedersdorf's story in The Atlantic about the coverage and was intrigued. Thanks for providing more context and links.FWIW, I went to ABC, NBC, and CBS evening news broadcast sites and plugged "gosnell" into the search engines. My little cursory investigation indicates that each of the networks broadcast a story about the clinic in January, 2011, but since the trial started has updated its Web site frequently (in the case of ABC and NBC, almost daily) since it started.Would the increasing number of Americans know that the trial coverage was ongoing from looking at the home page? Hard to say b/c that content changes so frequently, but as of a few minutes ago, I saw no link to a story about Gosnell on NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, or CBS Evening News home pages.So the networks haven't run updates on the broadcasts, and anybody who wanted info about that story would have to search for it actively. The more interesting question, of course, is whether there is still a pro-choice bias--and whether it is at work in the Gosnell trial coverage. I can think of several reasons why this story would not get as much play as others when weighed on the news values of impact, magnitude, conflict, oddity, proximity, or prominence. Moreover, Shaw's reportage is stellar, but it is 23 years old. Since 1990, many states have imposed stricter abortion laws, a sign that Americans are increasingly uncomfortable with unrestricted abortion. Could it be that the success of stricter abortion legislation has reduced the pro-choice pressures on coverage?

From the little I've read about this, it seems that it's asserted that the reason the trial wasn't being covered was because of a pro-choice bias in the press. But I don't know if that's really accurate - Gosnell's acts and trial are no more a good example of the pro-choice movement than, for instance, the acts and trials of those who murdered abortion providers would be a good example of the pro-life movement.

Rep. Chris Smith (Rep, NJ) gave a speech yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives. He accused the national news media of a cover-up of the brutality and violence of abortion methods. If Dr. Gosnell had walked into a nursery and shot seven infants with an AR-15, it would be national news and the subject of presidential hand-wringing.What a nasty comment politicizing the horror of Gosnells abortion clinic!

It seems to me that the basic issue about the reporting or non-reporting of the Gosnell case has been articulated best by Gordon Sekulow and Matthew Clark in the Washington Post:"But the question remains: How can killing a newborn infant be illegal and shocking to the collective conscience, yet ending that same life moments, days or weeks before be perfectly legal and socially acceptable as long as the baby is still in the womb?"Yes, Dr. Gosnell seems to be a psychopath -- he kills easily and without concern for the dead. But the question is not "how can a person be such psychopath?", the relevant question is the one that Sekulow and Clark are approaching: what's the difference between ending the life of a child in a womb and ending the child's life outside of a womb? The ending of the child's life is the central moral issue, not the mental health of the person who kills.

Prof. Kaveny,Every abortionist is a serial killer.

Over two years ago over at Slate, Will Saletan and Amanda Marcotte wrote about the grand jury report on the Gosnell case. Saletan took some heat for it from liberal reporters, or so says this article.. Gosnell is found guilty, it seems to me that this question should be raised: can such a person possibly be sane?By the way, the District Attorney of Philadelphia who persisted in forcing the sexual abuse cases into court, was none other than Seth Williams. I assume he is the same Seth Williams who is behind this prosecution of Gosnell. If he is the same person, I say make that man the Attorney-General of the USA. Also by the way, Williams is African=American, which undercuts Gosnell's claim the case is racially inspired.

Thorin --What you say is true -- all abortionists are serial killers in a literal sense. But if they do not think they are killing human beings, then they are not murderers. It is unjust to call them and other pro-choice people murderers. No, you haven't done that, but the qualification should be made, or it will seal off the minds of such people against persuasion that they are wrong. We don't change minds by calling unjustified names.

A few things ...It is my understanding that the judge in this case long ago put a gag order on attorneys on both sides, presumably to ensure a fair trial for the accused. I suppose it doesn't matter now.When I did a search for this story as conservatives were breaking it earlier this week, I learned the trial has been going on for about 3-4 weeks, and that indeed outlets like The Nation and Slate have been covering it.As for the corporate media, I find it hard to think of them as little more than pawns for the Selling of Product. This case is disgusting, but it doesn't seem to have an attractive set of victims--only poor and desperate women who were preyed upon because a GOP governor thought that abortion clinics didn't need to be bothered with regulations.It seems there's a lot of blame to pass around on this horror, but I'm not sure conservative, corporate Americans are going to want their helping of it.

The Judi Arias murder trial is on 24 /7 on HLN i think for three weeks. ..

From Operation Rescue:"The conclusion drawn by the few media outlets that have bothered to cover the grisly Gosnell case is that this never happens elsewhere. Not according to Alisa LaPolt Snow, a lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, who made headlines just last week with her testimony in opposition to a bill before the Florida legislature that would protect infants born alive during abortions.Florida State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, had asked Snow, If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?Snows shocking response was that at Planned Parenthood, We believe that any decision thats made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician."

Every abortionist is a serial killer.Thorin,If this is true, then it makes little sense for pro-lifers to complain that the Gosnell trial should be getting more national coverage (which I think it should be). They should instead be saying, "Why even put Gosnell on trial? He's just doing what other abortionists are doing. Maybe he's doing it a few months later, but they are all serial killers."In a way, those who are anti-abortion are, I think, hurting their own case against abortion, since they believe that an abortion at 9 weeks is just as much murder as abortion at 30 weeks. To make such a fuss about late-term abortions can't help but give the impression that if they are especially heinous, early abortions are not so bad.

The conclusion drawn by the few media outlets that have bothered to cover the grisly Gosnell case is that this never happens elsewhere. Not according to Alisa LaPolt Snow . . . Ann,This is egregiously unfair propaganda. I had an exchange with Charles Camosy about this on Catholic Moral Theology, which I am not going to repeat here. Snow was not there opposing medical care for born-alive infants, but two provisions of the bill that had little or nothing to do with its core provisions. She was asked questions she clearly was not prepared to answer, and even in the video that so many pro-lifers find so damning, she spends most of her time backing away from her initial statement. And finally, Planned Parenthood put out a clarifying statement about their position that made Snow's testimony irrelevant. One of the things that was so frustrating about the alleged reporting of this story was that there was actually no attempt to put the video clip in any kind of context. If you google the story, you see site after site repeating exactly the same thing in exactly the same words.

" But if they do not think they are killing human beings, then they are not murderers."Ann, by that logic Nazis ought not be called murderers, since they were convinced their victims were sub-humans.


If Gosnell is found guilty, it seems to me that this question should be raised: can such a person possibly be sane?

This, of course, gets into the thorny issue of mental illness and what is considered a mental illness, strictly speaking. From a psychiatric point of view, there is no evidence that Gosnell suffers from a psychiatric disorder that would make him not criminally responsible (like for example the young man who shot Giffords in Arizona and quite possibly the young man who shot up the theatre in Colarado).I heard a forensic psychiatrist one time explaining psychopathy and he did lay out the criteria, and it sounds like Gosnell. He may suffer from that clinical syndrome but that does not make him insane the way most people understand that term. FWIW, I think that there is no question that the lack of coverage is because of concern over the implications of this case on the pro-choice side. And, it does therefore raise the question of media bias.

Thorin,we disagree.

Richard S. --If that were true of any of the Nazis, then they would not be murderers. But is that true -- did they really think they weren't dealing with human beings? I find that difficult to believe. Too many Jews have distinguished themselves in all their intellectual pursuits to think they're an inferior group. But it is also true taht we are sometimes responsible for our ignorance. If we suspect we are wrong about a serious mater, and we don't look into it to try to establish the truth, then we're responsible for our ignorance and at least to some degree we are then responsible for the consequences of our ignorance. If, say, you are hunting and you don't know if that thing ahead is a deer or a human being, but you suspect it is a human, but you don't try to find out. If you then shoot the thing and kill it, then you are responsible for the person's death. But if we don't know we're ignorant,if, say, if from where the hunter stands, the thing doesn't look like a person, and he honestly thinks, "That's a deer!", if he shoots it, he has made a terrible mistake, but he has not sinned.

David N. --That's one way to look at it. Another way is to think that, Yes, she said it because she meant it, and she know what she was talking about. But when she realized that it would shock others, she and Planned Parenthood tried to spin it to.My question is: why would she say such a thing if she didn't mean it? The question was clear, and so was her answer.

Mr. Nickol,No, it's not unfair propaganda. It is a clear expression of the first instincts of the Planned Parenthood representative, an instinct that is perfectly consistent with what Planned Parenthood believes--that babies can be disposed of whenever they are deemed inconvenient.The fact that all abortion is evil does not excuse Gonsell's actions, and no pro-lifer would argue that it does. The reason the Gonsell story should be getting attention, and hasn't been, is that it provides clear proof of what pro-lifers have long argued--that abortion logically leads to infanticide.

I also notice that the liberal press seems to be ignoring the main moral question: why is it wrong to kill a 20 week old fetus in a womb, but not outside of a womb? At least I haven't seen any of the liberal press get into the question. True, the AP reported on the trial daily, the Washington Post did have that one article about it. Slate tried to raise the issue at the beginning of the trial, and there have been a few other reports on the trial. But many of us (including both conservatives and some liberals) think that the *main* moral issue (the morality of choosing to kill and killing 20 week old fetuses) has not been addressed.We can also interpret all this blah-blahing about coverage/non-coverage of the story as a way of distracting the public from the central issue. True, we don't really know the motives of the reporters or the media companies, and not doubt some of the reporters didn't know there was a huge story going on, but surely some of them must have seen the daily AP wire reports. It's quite obvious that an extremely important story has mainly, though not entirely, been ignored by the liberal press. And even Fox picked up on it 3 weeks or so after the trial began.

"what Planned Parenthood believesthat babies can be disposed of whenever they are deemed inconvenient."Really? Why then do they offer pre-natal care? I've known people who worked at a Planned Parenthood - they were nice normal people, not baby-hating monsters.

Thorin, it is homicide under the law of PA to kill babies born alive-that is why Gosnell can be tried. Even people who assume abortion is unjustifiable homicide should not say that all abortionists are serial killers. Not even all mass murderers are serial killers. It is a special category bringing in motive and manner, not just body count. But Gosnell was, it seems to me.He reveled in cruelty, and took souvenirs (baby feet). So the question for me is what sort of attention do the papers give to other serial killers? This thread is about the coverage by the press- and that seems to me to be the salient comparison

" I can think of several reasons why this story would not get as much play as others when weighed on the news values of impact, magnitude, conflict, oddity, proximity, or prominence."Jean - to what extent do business criteria drive editorial decisions?I would think that the arc of the Gosnell story wouldn't be attractive to upscale young women, whom I perceive to be the uber-demographic - They have disposable income! They shop! They're susceptible to advertising! - for newspapers and television networks, and who of course are relatively pro-choice.

Ms. Olivier,You are exactly right about the main moral issue in the Gosnell case, and you are exactly right about why the media has ignored it.Ms. Watson,Planned Parenthood kills hundreds of thousands of unborn children every year, and it lobbies to kill even more around the world. It is a thoroughly evil institution. Prof. Kaveny,Yes, all abortionists are serial killers. That's what they do--they kill large numbers of unborn children for a living. They may not believe they are killing human beings, but they are, whether they believe it or not. Thankfully, the Catholic Church teaches clearly and authoritatively that abortion is the taking of human life, and the Church deserves great credit for its strong and prophetic voice on behalf of the unborn being done to death by the millions by abortionists around the world.

'I also notice that the liberal press seems to be ignoring the main moral question: why is it wrong to kill a 20 week old fetus in a womb, but not outside of a womb??"OOPS -- I must learn to edit better. This should have been:Why is it wrong to kill a 20 week old fetus OUTSIDE a womb, but not wrong to kill it INSIDE a womb?

Ann, it's a good question but you have to add several weeks to your example to make it meaningful. Apparently 20-week old fetuses who are live outside the womb do not exist:

By the way, while we are considering the grisly "details" of the Gosnell case, should we not also consider the grisly details of killing 20 week old fetuses inside the mother by tearing them apart, sucking out their brains, or sort of pickling them with saline solution?Someone also remarked that because we don't like to think about abortion, we don't, and that includes journalists. Hence the Gosnell "boycott".

My question is: why would she say such a thing if she didnt mean it? The question was clear, and so was her answer.Ann,Alisa LaPolt Snow was asked a question about abortion she was unprepared for, and she answered with the mantra of the pro-choice movementdecisions should be left to the mother and her doctor. If it is actually her position, and the position of Planned Parenthood, that an abortionist should have the right to kill an infant born alive as the result of an abortion, why did she back away from it, and why did Planned Parenthood issue a statement saying the opposite? If Snow was there representing the position of Planned Parenthood, do you think as a lobbyist she took it upon herself, or was instructed in advance, to back down if Planned Parenthood's position seemed to trouble the legislators?What kind of abortion advocacy group would Planned Parenthood be if its true position was that born-alive infants could be killed, but it keeps its true position to itself and denies it when there is a controversy? Planned Parenthood clinics don't do late-term abortions, and almost nobody else does, either. It is impossible to find accurate data on how many late-term abortions are performed (and I mean here abortions at the point which an aborted baby would be able to be saved by the best technology), but one estimate from Guttmacher was 0.8%, or a little over a thousand per year. Why would Planned Parenthood even have a policy on what happens if abortionists, outside their own clinics, performing 0.8% of the nations abortions, "botch" the job and the baby is born alive? It's important to remember that Snow was testifying in Florida, and it is already Florida law that if an abortion is performed past the point of viability, the doctor is obliged to use the abortion technique most likely to permit the baby to survive, and is further obliged to give the baby lifesaving care if it is born alive. That is the current law, not the proposed law. So Snow was being asked purely hypothetical questions. Even if she and Planned Parenthood were trying to defeat the new bill, it is already Florida law that doctors are obliged to save viable babies born alive as the result of abortion. Why in the world would Snow have not only opposed the new bill, but testified to the legislature that existing abortion law should be thrown out?

Many pro-lifers want to blur the distinction between abortion and infanticide. If they want to argue that there is no moral difference between killing in the womb and killing outside the womb, then it seems to me that's a perfectly legitimate position. But to argue that abortion is infanticide is to ignore the definitions of the two. I think that perhaps if there is a "political" reason why there is less coverage of the Gosnell trial in many major media outlets than one might expect, it is because there is a fear that pro-lifers will use a trial about infanticide as anti-abortion propaganda. If so, shame on the media. But it is not because the media is pro-infanticide.

"Planned Parenthood ... is a thoroughly evil institution. "I think it's easier for some people to dismiss all those at PP as evil - it's too much effort to try to figure out how normal people might work there. The fact is that just a fraction (3%) of what PP does has to do with abortion, and those abortions would not happen if women did not come there to get them. Maybe you might ask why so many women, about 20% of them Catholic women, decide to get abortions, instead of demonizing the doctors they go to.

"Ive known people who worked at a Planned Parenthood they were nice normal people, not baby-hating monsters."Crystal, this is an interesting distinction. It reminds me of a radio interview I once heard during the waning days of apartheid, in which a veteran South African journalist remarked that it could be difficult for a journalist, or anyone, to reconcile the charming and cultured beneficiaries of apartheid with the gross injustice of the system.We've seen the same sort of reconciliation difficulty (category error?) here on dotCom in the past, when considering how teachers unions subvert school reform in failing school systems, and yet so many teachers we know, including members of our own families, are talented and dedicated professionals who give generously to their children.People who seem normal enough are capable of banding together, organizing, and foisting monstrous injustices on victims. And their participation in these systems of injustice really is culpable to one degree or another.

The fact is that it has not been demonstrated that the fetus is a human person. There is no science to it. Human DNA yes but not a human person. Nor is this de fide. This doctor is being used to paint a broad brush over all abortions. The frequent posts for a weekend show the attraction of this issue---the constant easing of the Catholic conscience while avoiding those live children dying in squalor.

Jean to what extent do business criteria drive editorial decisions?I would think that the arc of the Gosnell story wouldnt be attractive to upscale young women, whom I perceive to be the uber-demographic They have disposable income! They shop! Theyre susceptible to advertising! for newspapers and television networks, and who of course are relatively pro-choice.Jim - Young women are not the demographic for commercial evening news broadcasts, which were the focus of my comment. (The best indicator of audience is the commercials, and evening news broadcasts are rife with ads for arthritis, constipation, ED, and low-T nostrums--things that appeal to folks my age). A North Korea with a nutbar leader and nuclear warhead (maybe); gun violence that continues in the wake of Sandy Hook. and the attendant political debates about gun control roiling in a dysfunctional Congress; the civil war in Syria with hundreds of thousand of people dead or forced into refugee camps and that continues to hold out the possibility of U.S. military intervention--all these stories arguably have more magnitude and impact to demographic of these programs than an abortion clinic in Pennsylvania.I don't want to talk with Catholics on here about abortion per se, though I do follow and think prayerfully about what I read on these threads. So, just sticking to the issue of coverage, I will say that I think it is very easy for news outlets to dismiss Gosnell's operation as a "rogue clinic" and not typical of most clinics that offer a variety of reproductive control services because a) it was run by a black doctor, b) the employees were largely foreign, and c) the clientele was largely poor and non-white. No, that doesn't say anything very flattering about editorial decisions, but I think trying to chalk up lack of coverage to pressure from the pro-choice contingent (which seems to be less able to block abortion restriction laws) fails to look at all the angles and complexities here.Sorry for the length of the post.

Clarification: "variety of reproductive control services" is not meant euphemistically but to acknowledge that most abortion clinics also offer condoms, diaphragm fittings, pelvic examinations, and prescriptions for birth control pills. The fact that Gosnell's clinic seems to have offered only abortions, and many of those to women desperate to circumvent Pennsylvania's 20-week limit, makes it very different from most other clinics of this type.

Crystal, this is an interesting distinction. It reminds me of a radio interview I once heard during the waning days of apartheid . . . Jim, Please note that Crystal was responding to a statement that Planned Parenthood believes "that babies can be disposed of whenever they are deemed inconvenient. First of all, how do we even determine what Planned Parenthood believes? Is there any official document from Planned Parenthood saying that "babies can be disposed of whenever they are deemed inconvenient"? Does anyone suppose there are secret, internal documents that say such a thing? Does Planned Parenthood believe that if parents want to go out for dinner and a movie and can't find a babysitter, they can dispose of their baby?While it's certainly correct that nice people can band together and support evil causes, considering the preposterous statement by Thorin that Crystal was responding to, her response was a reasonable one.

While it seems true that people can self-deceive for various reasons (we pro-lifers are quick to point out the incongruity of PP (for example) "caring" for women, yet ready to steer them to permit greater profitability for the medical and pharmaceutical establishment) the same is also true for many people who oppose abortion, even for very good reasons.The challenge to be able to oppose abortion, yet be willing to work, and yes, even sacrifice, for those people who find their life choices very limited by poverty or any host of issues is a valid one thrown back at the pro-life movement, especially its political arm.People have been accusing pro-lifers, and often wrongly, of not caring for babies after they are born. The way to address this perception is not to stomp our ideological foot and yell, "Do too!" The option is to enter into dialoguye and discussion. Not for the purpose of converting or being converted. But simply to understand.And if one considers pro-life neighbors to be the enemy, it would make more sense to get a better handle on why so many tens of millions of Americans can look the other way while hundreds of thousands of fetuses are being aborted.Playing the Shoah card hasn't worked too well the past forty years. Isn't it time to find another approach?

People have been accusing pro-lifers, and often wrongly, of not caring for babies after they are born. Todd,In my very biased, bleeding-heart liberal opinion, this charge is fair when made against political pro-lifers. We see a lot of emphasis from pro-life politicians on putting roadblocks in the way of women seeking abortions, but we do not see a "fair and balanced" approach from them to helping women with unplanned pregnancies. To be fair, I haven't done a survey of all the anti-abortion bills introduced in states recently, but I would be amazed if a significant number of them on the one hand make abortions harder to get, but on the other hand have provisions to help women with unplanned pregnancies, or to help prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place.The pro-life movement in general bends over backwards to absolve women who procure abortions of any culpability for their actions. Such women are acknowledged to be "between a rock and a hard place," and absolved (of course) as dupes and victims of the abortion industry. No pro-lifer will suggest a woman who has an abortion should be held legally responsible in any way whatsoever. Such understanding and compassion may be commendable, but when pro-lifers realize what a difficult position women with unplanned pregnancies are in, and then offer no other solution than making it ever more difficult to procure an abortion, one has to question whether what appears to be compassion for women in difficult situations is merely political expediency. The American people simply will not accept holding women legally accountable for procuring abortions, pro-lifers know it, and so they claim sympathy and compassion for women in difficult situations but propose nothing whatsoever to help them.

Mr. Nickol,No, my comment isn't preposterous. Planned Parenthood's slogan is "evey child a wanted child." If you want to figure out what Planned Parenthood thinks should happen to children who aren't wanted, I suggest examining the severed limbs of unborn children that Planned Parenthood consigns to the garbage after it is done killing them. That is what Planned Parenthood does; that is what Planned Parenthood believes. (And, yes, it is appropriate to refer to the human beings killed by Planned Parenthood as "babies" or "children." Normal people refer to an unborn child as a baby unless a decision has been made to kill it; it is only then that it becomes a "fetus" or an "embryo" or a "product of conception" or whatever euphemism will be used to mask reality).

Mr. Mazzella,Pope Francis disagrees with you: "The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code is written in a person at the moment of conception. A human being is there. I separate the topic of abortion from any specifically religious notions. It is a scientific problem. Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself."

This is a conflicting subject for me. I don't like killing or suffering. I'm pretty much a pacifist, I'm against the death penalty, I'm a vegetarian, and if I find a bug in the house, I catch it and put it safely outside. I don't like the idea of abortion and I support what I think will keep people from wanting or needing one - contraception and sex ed and prenatal care. But I think PP is a good place - it helps poor women get cancer screenings and birth control and treatment for infections - that's 90+% of what they do. Maybe closing down all the PPs in the country will lessen professionally done legal abortions, but it won't do away with abortion and women will suffer, especially poor women. PP is not the origin of abortion, it's a response to a desire/need that many people just don't seem to want to address straightforwardly.

Thorin,To the extent that it makes sense to say what Planned Parenthood "believes," I have no objection to saying the organization believes in abortion. But in the context of a discussion of the Gosnell trial or any other legal aspect of abortion it is indeed preposterous to say Planned Parenthood believes that babies can be disposed of whenever they are deemed inconvenient. It is to blur, either willfully or through fuzzy thinking, the distinction between abortion and infanticide. As I said above, even if you wish to claim abortion and infanticide are morally equivalent, they are not identical. As much as you may object to the distinction, killing an unborn child is abortion, and killing a child that has been born is infanticide. There is no evidence to claim that Planned Parenthood "believes in" infanticide, and no evidence that the promote or excuse it. If you want to invent your own definition of infanticide, go ahead, but make it clear that it is your own definition and not the definition as understood by the law, by dictionaries, or by the average person. I personally think your rhetoric alienates people who would like to support at least part of the pro-life agenda but who do not want to be seen as aligning themselves with those who make extreme statements and wild accusations.

Ann,It seems to me that the Gosnell case, looked at dispassionatelywhich is admittedly difficult for almost anyone to doshows that just like any other medical providers, abortion clinics need to be watched by state and local health authorities, and when there are complaints about them, those complaints should be investigated. Gosnell's clinic wasn't inspected for 17 years, and complaints against it were ignored. In New York City, 26,000 restaurants and other food establishments are inspected yearly, and each one must display the grade it received prominently in its front window (provided it is not shut down). How hard can it be to inspect abortion clinics?Unquestionably Gosnell was doing ghoulish things that should never happen anywhere. But he was breaking the law. I think many pro-lifers would like to see extensive media coverage so they could say, "See! This is the abortion industry!" But of course Gosnell is in no way representative of abortion providers in the United States. Many pro-lifers, in my opinion, want to make pro-life, anti-abortion propaganda out of the Gosnell case, and there really is no rational basis for doing so. The way people use words is relevant, because abortion is not infanticide. I don't want to get into the debate again about whether or not it is legitimate to call an unborn child a child or a baby. In some cases it is perfectly natural to do so. But I hope think you may agree that when pro-lifers call abortionists "baby killers," they have crossed a line and are no longer engaging in civil, rational discourse. And abortion is not infanticide, no matter how some pro-lifers want to confuse the two. Exactly why Gosnell got away with what he did (or allegedly did, since he has not yet been convicted) is a separate question, I think, than the lessons from the Gosnell trial. If pro-choice officials didn't want to expose abuses in the abortion industry because they were concerned it would hurt their cause, than that is reprehensible. But I do think there is some truth to the idea that the pro-life movement, by demonizing abortionists, caused many doctors to shun abortion not for their own moral reasons, but because they feared the pro-life movement, and that is partly responsible for the fact that women go to "abortion mills" rather than put themselves in the care of their own obstetricians and gynecologists.

In today's NYT Ross Douthat reflects on two conflicting ideals of the American journalism profession: the necessity to remain neutral in presenting stories with more than one side and the necessity to crusade for the truth of one side or another. He thinks that the Gospel reporting/non-reporting brouhaha is a product of this tension. is it the function of the press, including reporters, to report *both* on the facts of a story and on the purported morality involved in the story? Is the choice whether or not to report on a story *itself* a moral decision?

My first newspaper editor used to say that there are two unheralded editors at every newspaper, Whim and Caprice. Fifty years in the business proved to me he was right. Back at 10:22 Jean Raber noted some decisive factors as far as conscious decision-making is involved in Gosnell coverage. I would add that a long court trial -- which the prestige media think they have to staff with their own people -- is no longer the fun it was during the 1930s. The bean counters mumble about hotel and restaurant bills, and readers no longer have an attention span, so the reporter has to keep repeating herself every day, at the cost of "precious" space.Ann Oliver's 5:57 question about the choice of whether to cover the story is a good one. That (as opposed to how the story is written if it is written) is where unconscious bias will lie. I have never seen either Whim or Caprice spend much time thinking about the morality of that decision.

"The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code is written in a person at the moment of conception."The genetic code is there, but conception does not automatically produce a single unique human being. Twins and multiples can form after conception. And twins can also fuse back into a single individual."A human being is there. I separate the topic of abortion from any specifically religious notions. It is a scientific problem. Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.How do we define "human being"? Does it require brain activity as we might define it at the other end? That's 20-24 weeks. A heartbeat? That's eight to ten weeks. The sad truth of abortion is that people are desperate for many reasons. But abortion is a choice millions of women have made freely. How to persuade them not to in the future? It seems that pro-lifers, especially political pro-lifers may have a choice between being right and imposing that correctness by law, or by helping to create a society where it is easy and desirable to protect the innocent. Do they want to be right, or do they want to be successful?

I think Tom Blackburn raises a good point: The news biz is in a state of flux. Newspapers and news gathering syndicates (e.g., AP, Reuters, anybody remember UPI?) have fewer resources to pay for professional coverage.If you include the blogosphere and citizen journalists, there is far more opinion and analysis of many stories than there is actual reportage.Interesting sidebar: Checked the NCR home page. No links to the Gosnell trial that I saw. When I searched for "Gosnell" using the NCR search engine, I got two hits, one filed in January 2011, and the second one filed Friday (April 12). I don't know anything about NCR's budget resources or staff, but it strikes me as odd that a news outlet that claims it is a "source that stands as one of the few independent journalistic outlets for Catholics and others who struggle with the complex moral and societal issues of the day" would have less coverage than the secular commercial evening news broadcast media.

I think it's true, as Tom Blackburn says, that the cost of dispatching a reporter to Philadelphia for six to eight weeks would discourage some news organizations from covering this case. Also, having covered quite a few trials of national interest back in the 1980s, I think it would be more difficult to hold the public's attention nowadays for a lengthy case. That, too, would make it less likely that any trial will receive daily coverage, whether locally or nationally.Keep in mind, though, that the AP coverage is available to most American news organizations. A check of LexisNexis and Google News showed relatively few news organizations using the AP coverage. Also, Deacon Greg Kandra, an experienced TV newsman, notes that the networks can get footage from their Philadelphia affiliates: Oliver, I think Ross Douthat misses the mark on this particular column. The tension he describes certainly exists, but it has nothing to do with the coverage of this story. It's a news story, to be covered in an evenhanded way so that readers can reach informed opinions of their own.

A really hot topic this one. Rightly so. I am not convinced it is at all possible to have a rational discussion of this one. Perhaps we can come closer to an understanding the real issues if we replace the terms "pro-life" with "unable to believe abortion is defensible in any circumstance" and"pro-choice" with "able to believe abortion is defensible in some circumstances".By "understanding" I mean we apply a bit more rationalization. Somewhat similar to the rationalizations that have allowed so many of us for more than half a century to defend the mutilation and killing of tens of thousands of utterly defenseless human beings in a matter of moments in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It usually goes like this: "Those were awful, tragic events but they saved so many lives".If one truly wishes to be taken seriously as "pro-life" one cannot expect anyone to allow them the luxury of choosing which lives they cherish. I wishI could in all honesty ascribe the term "pro-life" to myself. While I am obviously as capable of as much wishful self-perception as anyone, seeing myself as that remarkable is beyond even my arrogance.As for the fellow on trial, this is yet another media feast. He will be convicted or not.To my often confused mind the primary question this trial raises is how much more can we turn over to our voyeuristic selves the issue of justice. Trial in the public squareseems a reasonable notion. All that is needed is the conviction we are all perfectat all moments and in all places. We'll make up the rules as we go.Is there media bias on this topic? Yes. It is identified by its inconsistency.

"Its a news story, to be covered in an evenhanded way so that readers can reach informed opinions of their own."Paul M. --It is indeed it *is* a story to be covered. And the big question now is: why *hasn't* it been properly? Why have complaints about the clinic gone on for many, many years, but the clinic hasn't been inspected in 16 years. Even tatoo parlors are inspected every year. Hmmmm.Is Seth Williams, the DA who has pushed this case and the abuse case against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the reason something is finally being done about it? Nobody else seems to have shown any real interest.