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Media Bias 101: CNN’s coverage of abortion

CNN had five pieces about abortion on its home page on November 21st, none of which provided any sort of pro-life perspective or context.

Screenshot of CNN.com taken on Wednesday, November 21, 2018.

We all know that the mainstream press is biased. Such bias, however, is usually a bit more subtle than that displayed by CNN last Wednesday.

As seen in the screen shot above, CNN had five pieces about abortion on its home page on November 21st. The pieces, respectively, focused on the allegedly lower abortion rate, a biased headline which didn’t acknowledge the humanity of unborn children, claims that abortion is taboo in America, a judge’s sexist commentary when blocking a pro-life law, and a column claiming that supporting abortion is pro-life.

Let’s fact-check each of these, shall we?

Proposed law could treat abortion like murder

This response to CNN’s biased headline about a proposed Ohio bill is easy. Abortion is murder. It ends the life of an innocent child. CNN clearly doesn’t view unborn children as human beings despite science showing exactly that truth.

The real reasons for decline in the abortion rate

The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) annual study on abortion centers always gets major headlines—and it’s almost always wrong. CNN’s article acknowledged two of the CDC’s major limitations (three states didn’t report their numbers and information provision is voluntary). However, the article a) quoted only abortion advocates, b) quoted those advocates uncritically, and c) did not acknowledge that many contraceptives double as abortifacients.

One quoted abortion advocate works for The Guttmacher Institute. The Institute is a pro-abortion research group which claims that increased access to contraception reduces abortion. There is a great deal of evidence that this is not the case.

Charlotte Lozier Institute scholar and Catholic University of America professor Dr. Michael New told CWR that CNN’s article “only gives scant consideration to” non-contraceptive “potential factors” for the CDC’s report on the lower incidence of abortion.

New also noted that “increases in contraception use” don’t “fully explain America’s abortion decline.” Citing “good evidence that contraception use has increased” in the past several decades, New noted that “the unintended pregnancy rate has been fairly stable for most of” that same time period.

“A better explanation for the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is that fewer unintended pregnancies are aborted,” New concluded. “Data from Guttmacher shows that between 1981 and 2011,” abortion after “unintended pregnancies…fell from 54 percent to 42 percent. This provides very solid evidence that pro-life educational, legislative, and service efforts have been successful at preventing abortions. Unfortunately, the mainstream media takes great pains to avoid giving pro-lifers any credit for the 50 percent decline in the U.S. abortion rate since 1980.”

CNN misrepresents Catholic teaching about abortion; says abortion is “taboo” in America

The “taboo” link goes to a short CNN video article published in March 2017. That video uncritically cites the claim that “not even the Catholic Church believed life existed before” the year 1880. However, the Church has always opposed abortion.

As Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, told CWR, the world simply didn’t know the biology of unborn life. “The Church has always understood abortion was wrong,” says Fr. Schneider, “from the moment the fetus was fully human. The Didache, the first Christian writing outside the Bible, says, “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” He added:

However, the Church doesn’t claim to have a special knowledge of biology, so must go on the best biology of the day. Ancient biology thought of pregnancy very differently from we understand it today: pre-modern biologists thought that the man placed the seed in the appropriate soil, the woman’s uterus, which grew in stages before becoming fully human. Quickening was generally considered by these pre-modern biologists the moment we had an individual different from the mom or dad. However, the discovery that reproduction happens by sperm and egg to produce a genetic and biologically separate individual meant that that the fully human life began then. Thus, abortion was banned from that moment.

CNN’s video isn’t just wrong about the Church’s teaching. It also errs in describing how abortion is viewed. The video is titled, “Abortion wasn’t always taboo in America.” This is a common argument from abortion advocates, but nearly one million women choose abortion every year. Those are just the official numbers reported by Guttmacher, and totals nearly one in five pregnancies in America. Again, that number does not include abortifacients.

The “taboo” argument also fails because most Americans support first-trimester abortions. This is when 90 percent of abortions take place.

CNN promotes judge’s sexism and leftism

Federal judge Carlton Reeves declared a pro-life Mississippi law unconstitutional in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The law bans almost all abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation.

Reeves’ decision and CNN’s largely one-sided report are bad enough. But in choosing to headline their article with Reeves’ claim that it’s a “sad irony” that men are making pro-life laws, CNN is misleading readers with Reeves’ sexism right from the start.

Abortion isn’t pro-life

The final link in CNN’s five-fecta goes to a May 2018 column which claims abortion is pro-life because it saves women’s lives. There are a lot of issues with the column; a lack of acknowledgement of the unborn child’s humanity is just one. Here are three others:

  1. Assuming that the columnist and the United Nations are right that tens of thousands of women’s lives would be saved from fully legalized abortion, this means millions of more aborted babies would find their lives prematurely ended.

Clearly, math is on the side of life.

  1. Most women who have unplanned pregnancies could have prevented the pregnancy through agreed-upon abstinence with their sexual partner. Abortion activists tend to pretend this option doesn’t exist. Case in point, it appears nowhere in CNN’s article.
  1. Finally, CNN’s article cites several sources to prove that illegal abortions are unsafe for women. Fair enough. Maybe women should stop hiring people to kill their children.

CNN only provided pro-abortion context

The CDC report and Reeves’ decision are legitimate “news” items. The Ohio bill article was less critical because the bill is opposed by Republican Governor John Kasich, so it’s not likely to become law.

That said, the bill is one of the most anti-abortion pieces of legislation in the country.

But the “taboo” video and the aforementioned column are not news. They are old pieces picked to provide readers context to the wider abortion debates. This means that CNN chose exclusively pro-abortion context for readers. There was no guide for readers to understand the pro-life point of view.

CNN may not be the enemy of the people President Donald Trump claims it to be. But it clearly is an enemy of unborn children.


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About Dustin Siggins 3 Articles
Dustin Siggins is founder of Proven Media Solutions, a communications and business strategy firm. He is a former political journalist who is widely published on issues of public policy, culture, and politics in outlets such as USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Roll Call, and National Review Online. He has appeared on television and radio across the country.

4 Comments

  1. We all know that the mainstream<(sic) press is biased.

    The DLEMM – Dominant Liberal Establishment Mass Media – is anything but mainstream. Siggins et al need to stop perpetuating the lie that that cabal of extremists is mainstream.

  2. I can’t watch Fox and now it is CNN. Fox is blatant and CNN is not. If the story you tell was carried on their TV channel I don’t remember seeing it. You paint with a broad brush when you say that CNN is the enemy of the unborn… forget about the liar-in-chief. His words mean less. If it were true that CNN displayed an abortion bias I would surely change channels.

  3. Not sure what possessed me, but I watched Wolf Blitzer for a bit the other day. My suggestion is that CNN should now stand for the Conditional News Network. Over and over again Wolf and guests said (to paraphrase) “if this is true, then…” In the short time I watched it I could not glean one solid news fact. In other words, the truth of the news for them is what could possibly be the outcome if some prior event actually occurred or if some prior fact was actually true.

  4. Bias is nothing new with CNN as well as many other news outlets. Its a politically driven world view of news that unfortunately plays to audience and alienates anyone else. Its debatable whether confronting them with argument is productive but rather hosting alternative viewpoints and calling them out is perhaps the best thing. I have never seen such partisan driven media as we have today. I’m sure part of it is being more aware but I also believe is its doubling down by perpetrators.

    Of course abortion vs prolife is itself inherently partisan so its not the best topic to point out news bias. However, as the article brings out CNN spins and cherry picks what they present – or do not e.g. calling abortion prolife in relation to saving a mother’s life in some unusual circumstances involving abortion and e.g. presenting misleading context.

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