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As mainstream media loses ability to control abortion narrative, left-wing rage rises

In 1995, outside of a narrow talk radio audience, a few major networks controlled the cultural narrative about the pro-life movement. Things have changed dramatically in less than 25 years.

Yoi Reyes, who became pregnant through a rape by her stepfather when she was a teenager, joins a protest Jan. 18 outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Washington. Reyes escaped to the United States from Cuba and she and her husband started Mary's Pregnancy Resource Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Over twenty years ago, before Fox News, social media, or the widespread use of the Internet, I was a college intern attending a Senate hearing on new legislation to ban a procedure called partial-birth abortion. It had been brought to Congress’ attention after an abortionist named Martin Haskell bragged about the procedure in a speech to his colleagues at the National Abortion Federation.

One of the witnesses at the hearing was the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). He was a man who personally believed in Roe v. Wade, yet found himself in the odd position of testifying for the pro-life side. Planned Parenthood, with the cooperation of the national media, was publicizing the talking point lie that the baby coming out of the birth canal in partial-birth abortion was already dead from the anesthesia given to the mother. As a result, pregnant women across the country were afraid to take “anesthesia that might kill the baby.” Of course, as the president of the ASA stated, the only way anesthesia could kill the baby is if the doctor gave the mother enough to kill her too.

The Medical Director of Planned Parenthood for Metropolitan Washington, speaking on behalf of the national organization, defended this false assertion under oath. When pressed on this point, she finally broke and admitted it was a deception. The moment felt shocking in the hearing room. The representative of the largest abortion provider in the U.S got caught in a lie and caved before the cameras.

Across from me, the abortion rights side of the aisle put their heads in their hands and groaned. The hearing had turned into a train wreck for their side. But unless you were watching C-Span in the afternoon on a workday, you would never know about it. Only three major networks, plus CNN, existed at the time. The nightly networks heavily edited the hearings for their evening newscasts to present a false alternative reality to viewers.

They showed none of the anesthesiologist’s testimony whatsoever, still leaving pregnant woman throughout the country to wonder what mysterious anesthesia it was that could kill their baby. And Planned Parenthood? The networks showed the medical director’s boilerplate talking point testimony, but cut out the part where she acknowledged deliberately misleading the Congress.

I watched the news and read national articles afterwards and wondered: what hope would there ever be for the pro-life side as long as only four ideologically identical networks and a few establishment press institutions controlled the cultural narrative?

The answer to my question arrived rapidly in the following decade. Fox News launched a year after that hearing. Then the internet exploded and muckrakers like Matt Drudge suddenly one-upped the establishment press.

By 2004, “a guy in his pajamas” brought down a major network news anchor’s attempt to scam the public. New forces would be unleashed with YouTube and social media, sparking famous scenes such as Andrew Breitbart confronting Anthony Weiner at the congressman’s press conference.

In the pro-life world, undercover activists including Lila Rose and David Daleiden would explode the Planned Parenthood myths that had been so carefully constructed by mainstream media for decades. “Those tapes were edited! Those tapes were edited!” one fifty-something diehard once yelled at me about Daleiden’s investigative videos watched millions of times on YouTube. The woman could not recognize that the entire narrative she chose to believe about the abortion industry was in fact the media “editing” of reality for her consumption.

Now imagine if the same hearing I attended in 1995 had occurred in 2017. It would have been posted on YouTube and its most damning moments replayed on conservative websites and passed around social media. The more darkly comic clips (of which there were some) would have been turned into memes.

In 1995, outside of a narrow talk radio audience, a few major networks controlled the cultural narrative from the moment the hearing ended. In 2017, they would have lost control of the narrative the moment the hearing began.

And that is a significant reason for contemporary leftist rage. It is not political, but cultural. Politically, partial-birth abortion was a loser for the Democrats then, contributing to the exodus from the party of critical voting blocs like white Catholics. But culturally—when you turned on your television or opened your newspaper—the narrative belonged to them.

As John Zmirak and Jason Jones point out at The Stream, national news media also manipulated public perception of the anti-abortion movement in the 1980s. News cameras deliberately ignored police brutality against the non-violent, pro-life civil disobedience that emerged in that era. As long as nobody knew that pro-life activists, some as young as 14, endured dislocated wrists and cruel “pain-compliance” holds, such protesters could not receive national sympathy.

Today, many people simply opt out of left-wing news sources for their own alternatives online; old establishment presses no longer hold the same weight. The dog no longer fetches a morning city paper from the front stoop and most people cannot even name an evening news anchors anymore. The early television decades—when one anchor, Walter Cronkite, could command public perception of a story—are long gone. The fact that some liberals still talk wistfully of such a totalitarian idea is in and of itself disturbing.

As cultural control of national narratives continues to fracture, the left-wing psyche is fracturing right along with it. That is a big reason why at the extremes we are seeing violence against Republican legislators and conservative speakers on campus. Leftist delusions of control shattered in the past year and this has led to rage among some. And now Twitter and other social media platforms are increasingly trying to censor pro-life content.

This rage will likely only grow as establishment figures within media and other cultural institutions continue to watch their credibility crumble. Nobody controls the story anymore. That is good for the pro-life movement, bad for institutions like Planned Parenthood, and a guarantee of a wild ride for our country in the years to come.

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About Elise Ehrhard 1 Article
Elise Ehrhard has written for numerous secular and Catholic publications, including The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Times, UPI, First Things, and Canticle.


  1. God may grant you only one child. Will your decision to abort it be a painful memory years from now as childless old age approaches…

  2. I have been a witnessed to the atrocities of an abortion to graphic to mention. For pro-choice advocates let me tell you something life begins at the time of conception this is a living being defenseless with no voice to defend itself. I have witnessed women who go through abortion use this as a method of getting back at their partner or use this as a form of birth control. I have also witnessed women screaming for God to help them while going through this atrocity. I have prayed often for the babies that were killed…yes killed, murdered for they are defenseless unable to speak. Please reflect on this issue and save a life for every soul is precious to God.

  3. Ms. Erhard,I believe that the greatest way to destroy the abortion narrative is education. Just as the progressives have used the federal government to impose their agenda to the public through the school system by withholding money from those schools that refuse to adopt their ideas, I think it’s time the President use the same method by requiring a thorough education of exactly what an abortion is and its health effects to all schools that receive federal money. I think this education should start as young as the 4th or 5th grade showing the development of the human person in the womb. In middle school and high school actual images of the procedure and its aftermath should be made required study in Health classes. Nothing changes a persons perception of abortion more effectively than seeing what it actually is. Educating our young people to the truths about abortion would be the ultimate weapon in this battle.

    • I agree with your comments. I have but one criticism – your use of the word progressives. The root of the word is progress. This is too kind a word to call these people. They are left wing liberals and so far left as to be extremely close or intermingled with Communists. Just as homosexuals did not like being called homosexuals, a very proper word to describe them, they changed it to “gay”. There is nothing gay(happy-go-lucky)about those people . And how many billions of dollars have been stolen from straight Americans by way of taxes to research AIDS when the cure is just stop doing what you are doing with your homo partner. Why should we pay for your destructive habit? Look no further than our government.

      • You need to bear in mind that an increasing number of Gays (and Left-wingers, and Feminists, and Secularists (atheists) etc., etc.,) are moving towards the pro-Life stance. Consequently (apart from the Biblical injunction of ‘Do not judge’), it is not helpful to alienate any supportive groups.

      • “Gay” stands for “Good-As-You” (e.g., “I’m as good as you). Your comment is so inaccurate, it is meaningless.

  4. Excellent article, Elise. You give us all hope that some day soon the wheel will turn and the truth will be told about unborn babies: their humanity, their rights and the fact that they are all children of God.
    Sincere thanks.

  5. This article is almost but not quite shocking, in that it really doesn’t present anything new – we’ve long since lost any faith in the MSM to present any sort of balanced viewpoint of the events of the day.

    But the MSM still seems clueless to that fact.

    At the 1st White House Press Association dinner of the Obama Administration, President Obama stepped to the dais and said “I’m Barack Obama. Many of you covered me and ALL (em) of you voted for me.” The crowd reaction was laughter and applause – the incident is on film.

    The continuing cluelessness of the MSM was on spectacular display on election eve of 2016 – they couldn’t believe what was happening, and when they finally did acknowledge it their reactions were funny – no other word really fits.

  6. Every year my children attend The March for Life. One of the things they experience are the verbal atrocities heaped on them by the “pro-choice” counter-protesters, who are assigned to verbally abuse the marchers.

    This year, my 10th grade daughter was “face-to-face” with a particular woman who spewed an atomic dose of pro-choice venoms the her. She told my wife she couldn’t believe the evil that came out of this woman’s mouth. She said – “these are adults and they think they can talk like this even to children.” My daughter then recounted this: she told the woman “I will pray for you.” And the woman looked at her in horror, turned around and ran away.

    Happened yesterday.

  7. Thank you for your great article. Thank God, there are some honest news sources via the Internet, some TV, some print, and conservative radio. As a pro-life sidewalk counselor for many years, I’ve been disgusted with the dishonest Main Stream Media and their squashing or silence of pro-life issues and their total negative slant against anything pro-life. Because they do not report the evil of abortion, etc., countless babies are killed unnoticed, unacknowledged, abortion continues, countless women are hurt, and countless souls are at stake. They will one day be held accountable for their words and deeds of commission and omission, (their silence, inaction, and covering up of the truth.).
    Once I saw Brian Williams on a cable TV commercial bragging about how he has and will be the one to inform the public about what’s really happening in the world. I was so angry that I asked God to expose his dishonesty. Amazingly, a short time later, God answered my prayer and, throughout the world, news broke on his dishonesty! I’m not trying to pick on him, but would rather that those doing evil are exposed and repent now before it’s too late.
    I’m such an optimist that I thought when those pro-life investigative journalists exposed Planned Parenthood’s selling of baby parts, that people all over the world would be so upset and disgusted, they would protest PP and shut it down or at least try to limit it in some way. Sadly, most people did not and do not seem to care and there was a big “YAWN” over the exposure of evil PP. Even worse, instead of awarding the brave, pro-life investigative journalists, they were attacked and prosecuted for their so-called ‘crimes’, all while PP was basically left to continue their evil deeds. There will come a time when they call evil good and good evil. This is the time! It’s the time of itching ears and great evil. Please, pray for Life and against the culture of death and for people to wake up and see the evil and decide to repent and choose the culture of LIFE! Thank you.
    Thank you, Elise, for getting the truth out to the public.
    The Truth will set you free.

    • This a very good article and I Couldn’t agree with you more Gail,I think the key to success is prayer. They can’t stop us from praying for them.and with Gods grace the tide will finally turn on this evil.

  8. A fair minded sociologist–Mark Regnerus and William Donohue are living proof that such a thing exists–another one named James R. Kelly wrote extensively about preplanned media falsehoods in “Seeking a Sociologically Correct Name For Abortion Opponents”.

    One of the principle aspects of abortion Kelly documents is the late 60s alliance between population-controllers and sexual radicals–John D. Rockefeller III notwithstanding, they are separate and distinct motivations.

  9. The dirty little secret of the abortion debate is this: those that undergo abortion know full well that what they have conceived is another human being and that is precisely why they wish to terminate.

    For those at PP or “inside” the industry, we understand that you too know that those you are aborting ARE, indeed, autonomous human beings; otherwise, why would you be so willing to sell their precious body parts to research outlets manufacturing medicines for humanity??

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