It’s election season again, and our country’s ongoing debate over abortion is raging. In watching newscasters and reporters comment on the abortion debate, I’ve pinpointed three common myths about abortion perpetuated by people in the media.
MYTH #1: Believing abortion should be outlawed in most or all cases is an extreme position.
The pro-life position is not extreme. It is the view held by a majority of Americans today. Consider this recent poll from CNN:
CNN has released the results of a new poll showing a majority of Americans want all or most abortions prohibited — a clear pro-life majority.
The survey asked: “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under only certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” Some 62 percent want abortions illegal in all cases or legal only in certain instances while just 35% want abortions legal for any reason.
When it comes to extremism on this issue, President Barack Obama has demonstrated his firm commitment to abortion rights. He even bucked other staunch pro-choice Democrats like Barbara Boxer to vote against a bill that would protect the lives of babies who survive abortion. According to the transcript of the discussion, then Senator Obama was concerned that the bill would put undue pressure on the abortionist:
As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it — is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that it’s nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved. Is that correct?
People in the media continue to paint the pro-life position as an extreme minority position when, in fact, the majority of Americans want strict regulations on abortion. At the same time, they let the President’s radical commitment to abortion rights go unchallenged. (Not to mention other radical positions, such as Thomas Friedman’s.)
MYTH #2: A pro-life position is unpopular with women and risks losing their votes.
Many of the talking heads on TV bring up Romney’s pro-life position as if it were a liability with women. They speak of his views (and especially Ryan’s) as inherently alienating to women. Being pro-life risks losing the women’s vote. But this is another myth, as recent polls show women want more abortion restrictions than men do.
The polling firm asked:
Unless an abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, do you think abortion should be permitted after the point where substantial medical evidence says that the unborn child can feel pain?
63% NO, ABORTION SHOULD NOT BE PERMITTED [women:70%; men:55%]
21% YES, ABORTION SHOULD BE PERMITTED [women:18%, men:25%]
8% DEPENDS (VOLUNTEERED)
4% DO NOT KNOW (VOLUNTEERED)
3% REFUSED (VOLUNTEERED)
MYTH #3: Abortion is one of many women’s health issues.
The third myth perpetuated by the media concerns the framing of the abortion issue. Reporters usually speak of abortion in terms of “women’s health issues” and “women’s reproductive choices,” as if abortion were similar to breast cancer, contraception, or other challenges unique to women. Those who oppose abortion are then described as people who oppose women’s health.
This framing of the abortion issue is biased. For pro-life people, abortion is not, first and foremost, a women’s health issue. It is a human rights issue. At stake is our commitment to cherishing and protecting human life at all stages of development.
Interestingly enough, the same media personalities who frame the abortion issue as dealing with “women’s health” choose to ignore recent opposition to bills banning sex-selection abortion, including the recent “sting” operations that show Planned Parenthood employees assisting women who want to abort their babies if they are female.
Pro-life politicians often get tongue-tied when speaking on this subject because of these three unchallenged mythical assumptions of those in the news media. (For example, here is how Todd Akin should have answered when pressed on the legitimacy of abortion in the case of rape.) When the subject of abortion comes up, we would do well to bust the myths and reframe the conversation.