Jim Davis, a county editor with the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, recently published a commentary called "Perils and pitfalls of a story that makes no one happy." And I have to say that I admire the man for his candor.
Davis wrote that abortion "is, frankly, one of those can't-win types of stories where people have especially strong opinions — on both sides of the issue… Some of the displeasure even comes within our newsroom."
With that, Davis nailed it. There is no gray area, middle ground or compromise on abortion. So while journalists may claim objectivity, they cannot claim neutrality.
His struggles in covering the abortion controversy came to a climax over Planned Parenthood's construction of an abortion center in Aurora, Illinois. There, residents and neighbors (including members of my family) are outraged. As the story goes, pro-lifers helped to close an abortion business in that community some time ago; but then our nation's largest abortion chain sneaked in by disguising its huge Aurora building as some benign medical office near a popular Dominick's grocery store.
At first, the Daily Herald tried to be objective. Davis said, "The story our reporter wrote for Sunday's [August 26] paper initially used the well-known terms ‘pro-life' and ‘pro-choice' to describe the combatants. But an editor at the end of the editing process realized our practice — not just at the Daily Herald, but any newspapers following Associated Press guidelines — is not to use those terms."
Consequently, the politically correct trappings became a comedy. As Davis explained, "in making the substitutions, the editor made portions of the story incorrect. The result was a lengthy correction, including clarifying the name of the group leading protests, the Pro-Life Action League, which had been inadvertently changed, too."
The AP code labels pro-lifers as "abortion foes" and abortion advocates as "abortion rights proponents," as if these terms are neutral.
As editor of a pro-life magazine, I don't have to struggle with wordplay on abortion. Our policy is to be direct. However, when I worked in mainstream media, there were certain frustrations.
For example, one of my former employers has an explicit policy against its workers voicing their so-called political positions while on duty. That's fair enough, I thought. Nevertheless, abortion proponents were boldly outspoken on the job. Some individuals further expressed hatred for the Catholic Church because it defends the human right to life for all innocent persons. One coworker, knowing full well that I am Catholic, wished death upon Pope John Paul II. Another loudly scorned actor/director Mel Gibson because he's "anti-choice" and he has more than two children. Yet another defended the practice of partial-birth abortion as often as he could. My only option was to leave that company.
Now I can publicly write the word "pro-life." In truth and fairness, that's what we call ourselves. By the way, pro-lifers don't merely oppose abortion; we combat every murderous act, such as snuffing out seniors and the disabled. Thus, AP's term "abortion foes" is incorrect.
If the term "abortion rights proponents" isn't biased, what is? After all, no one has found a natural, moral or constitutional "right" to take an innocent person's life.
Prior to "abortion rights proponents," those individuals were widely called "pro-choice." Despite or maybe because of that rhetoric, more and more people are thinking critically and pondering what the "choice" is.
However, if a news company uses terms such as "pro-choice" and "pro-choicers," it shouldn't apply double standards. In other words, it should fairly apply the terms "pro-life" and "pro-lifers" to those who oppose the choice of abortion.
Moreover, when a newspaper allows pro-lifers to be labeled "anti-choice" and "extremist" without any explanation of those claims, the publisher's stance becomes obvious.
In reality, pro-lifers are all about choice — legitimate choices that harm no one and may even help to advance our civilization. For pro-lifers, real choice is defined in "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." So the question is: How has the bloody sacrifice of 48 million American children balanced that?
Such haunting questions explain why pro-lifers are fighting against the opening of Planned Parenthood's Aurora abortion business. At last count, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America killed 264,943 innocent Americans by abortion in just one year — and, adding insult to injury, it got government awards of $305.3 million from taxpayers like you and me. So, if journalists want to be "fair and balanced," Planned Parenthood's own numbers beg the question: Who are the extremists?
Although the Daily Herald stories on Planned Parenthood have upset some, there is reason for hope because the good people of Illinois are trying to prevent further injustice there. No matter what newspapers and TV networks say, pro-lifers nationwide will continue exposing the ugly truth about abortion in order to make our great country the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Meanwhile, Daily Herald editor Jim Davis inquires, "Have we been fair? Balanced? I leave that for you to decide, or feel free to let me know what you think."
Now, at least one reader has weighed in.