Roe Warriors: The Media's Pro-Abortion Bias

Updated and Revised

Executive Summary

The January 21, 1998 version of this Special Report has been updated with additional research and analysis. The MRC re-released the revised copy on July 22, 1998.

As the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade fades and the Congress and President engage in another passage-and-veto cycle on partial-birth abortions, the Media Research Center asked: Do the national media report fairly on abortion? In a broad overview of five years of studies, a team of MRC media analysts has documented five ways in which the media tilt the abortion story:

1. One side is presented as ideological, the other is not. Abortion advocates are rarely labeled as liberal, and are described in the "abortion rights" argot they prefer, while pro-life groups and spokesmen are often described as conservative and never in the "pro-life" language they prefer. A survey of 1,050 news stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today in 1995 and 1996 mentioning any one of four pro-life or four abortion advocacy groups found the pro-life groups were labeled as "conservative" in 47 percent of stories, while abortion advocates were labeled "liberal" less than three percent of the time.

2. The abortion issue is a divisive matter in only one political party. In the 1996 elections, network reporters harped on the struggle within the Republican Party over platform language on abortion, but not on disagreement among Democrats. In the three months before the conventions, the GOP struggle drew 60 TV stories, while the Democrats attracted only one.

3. Reporters have shown little interest in the facts behind partial-birth abortion. In the rare instances of reporting on efforts to ban this procedure, almost always in conjunction with a cycle of congressional passage and presidential veto, network reporters have offered inaccurate claims and statistics in almost one-third of their stories.

4. Pro-life protests and activities are not news. The annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe has been ignored or given a few seconds on network newscasts, while liberal protests and marches (sometimes involving far fewer protesters) draw more attention.

5. Pro-abortion violence is not news. While network newscasts presented more than 500 stories on violence against abortionists and clinic workers since the shooting of Dr. David Gunn in 1993, including the manhunt for bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, the violence of abortion is ignored, as well as violence and harassment committed by abortion advocates and abortionists.