Monday I joined 200,000 people at the annual ‘March for Life’ to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. My wife wasn’t feeling well enough to go this year (she’s pregnant — with twins!) and the weather accompanying Roe’s anniversary was typically frigid and miserable (if the Supreme Court was going to make such a colossal moral error, couldn’t they have at least done so in April?), so it was just my son and me. We were excited because the Family Research Council was distributing thousands of posters with my Created Equal logo and we hoped the signs might make it into the spartan coverage the march receives from the mainstream media.
I was thrilled to have the logo well-represented because I think it’s message is more immediate and compelling than other signs. Hopeful for a little exposure in the media, I was disappointed when we reached the Supreme Court to see the only news photographers taking pictures only of the few counter-protesters bearing signs with messages supporting abortion. 20,000 pro-life marchers were in the immediate vicinity, but the photographers were photographing the 10 pro-choicers. The only pro-lifers in the view of the cameras were those few who went to stand next to the pro-choicers. Knowing that large majorities of the media support abortion, I thought cynical thoughts while watching the photographers maneuver to get good pictures of the miniscule fraction of the crowd that agreed with them.
This lead AFP story from Yahoo — the first news story I’ve seen on the march — unfortunately justifies my cynicism. The only accompanying photo is of the cluster of abortion supporters I saw, which gives the impression that equal numbers of pro-life and pro-choice marchers attended.
In the story, the term “pro-life” never appears. Pro-lifers are called “abortion opponents,” “abortion foes” and “anti-abortion.” People in support of Roe v. Wade, by contrast, are called “pro-choice,” not “abortion supporters” or even “abortion-rights activists.” One side is called by their preferred label, one is not.
The story also perpetuates the lie that “abortion opponents” and “pro-choice advocates” have, according to the article “gathered annually in Washington” to commemorate Roe v Wade.
When I went to my first march in January 2000, I made placards that spoke to pro-choicers. Because I’d seen many news stories on previous marches, I wanted the throngs of pro-choice activists to see my compelling messages. As we gathered for the march near the Washington Monument, I looked across the mall for the pro-choicers. Where were they? — the hundred thousand marchers I could see were all pro-life. The pro-choicers must not start on the mall, I thought, they must take an alternate route to the Supreme Court. When we marched to the Supreme Court and there were only a handful of pro-choice counter-protesters among the tens of thousands of pro-lifers, I decided NARAL and Planned Parenthood had had a bad year. They’ll be here next time, I thought.
Now that I’ve been to the march five of the past six years, I know better. Only pro-lifers march on the court to commemorate Roe. I thought otherwise only because the media had deceived me.
One more example of bias — you might say it’s a textbook example of textbook bias. The best-selling textbook for entry-level philosophy courses is “Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy” by Harcourt Brace. It’s an anthology of materials about philosophical questions, with glaring biases in the chapters dealing with real-world controversies, especially the chapter titled, “How Should I Feel about Abortion?” To help college students grapple with that question and think about abortion, the book’s authors offer six perspectives. FIVE of those perpectives advocate for abortion, including one written by a Catholic theologian. The only essay opposing abortion relies exclusively on religiously-based arguments and is titled “Christians and Abortion.” Too bad the authors hadn’t already introduced their impressionable readers to the rhetorical trick of “stacking the deck.”