- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

Now that a federal judge has ruled the law banning “partial-birth abortion” is unconstitutional, there is certain to be much media coverage of the issue as it makes its way up the appellate chain to the Supreme Court of the United States.

How that will turn out legally is anybody’s guess but the process will reveal at least as much about the media as it does about the law.

Many in the media resent any suggestion they are either politically biased or that journalists’ personal views stop them from doing a good professional job of accurately reporting the news. The way the issue of partial-birth abortion has been reported — or not reported — gives the lie to such protests.

Whether you or they are for or against abortion in general or this specific procedure in particular, if the much proclaimed “public’s right to know” means anything, it should mean the readers and viewers should be told what it is. Much of the liberal media fail that simple test completely.

Some in the media use only the opaque expression “late-term abortion,” while others refer to the fact some people call it a late-term abortion and others call it a partial-birth abortion. But all this reporting about semantics is not telling the public just what is being discussed in the first place.

Neither the defenders nor the critics are talking about semantics. They are talking about what is actually done — and that is what a major part of the mainstream media refuses to tell us.

Even a quality news program like “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” featured a debate earlier this year, with both sides represented — at the end of which the viewer still had no way to learn just what is a partial-birth abortion or a “late-term abortion,” as the liberals prefer to call it.

What happens is a baby in the process of being born, with part of his body outside his mother’s body and part still inside, is deliberately killed. One method of doing this is to use a device to suck his brains out of his head.

Although this is called an abortion, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said to him it seemed too much like infanticide. What prevents it being murder, under the law, is that part of the baby’s body is still inside the mother, so this procedure can be classified as an abortion.

The American Medical Association some years ago said there is no medical necessity for such an unusual procedure. Its purpose is not medical but legal: to keep the doctor and the mother from being indicted for killing a newborn baby.

Whether you are for or against this, you ought to know what it is. But there are newspapers, TV programs and whole networks you could watch for years without ever finding out.

They have decided what you can be allowed to know. That is the real problem of media bias. If they report the news straight and let you make up your own mind, then what the journalists themselves do in the voting booth on Election Day is their own business.

The partial-birth abortion issue is just one of those issues in which major parts of the media filter out facts that might lead you to take a position different from the journalists.

When a white racist commits an atrocity against some black person, that is headline news across the country. But when a black racist does exactly the same thing to some white person, that is unlikely to get the same publicity, if it is reported at all.

The liberal view that white racism is a major problem and explanation for other social problems is not allowed to be undermined by news that might suggest it is a curse of the whole human species. You cannot even assess where racism is worse when only one kind is reported by much of the media.

Similarly, atrocities committed against homosexuals are big news but atrocities committed by homosexuals, including against children, are unlikely to see the light of day in much of the media. Neither is any statistical information on how homosexuals differ from the general population in lifespan, diseases or costs to taxpayers for dealing with their diseases.

Filtering and spinning are not reporting. The public has a right to know that, but that right is too often aborted.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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