The media plays a fundamental role in framing and influencing the discussion around abortion care. Who covers the issue, how they choose to cover it, and who they choose to include in coverage, matters.
Nearly 1 in 4 people who can get pregnant will have an abortion by the age of 45. 77% of people in the United States support Roe v. Wade. Yet, coverage of abortion is driven almost entirely by politicians and the latest legislative or legal fights. As a result, abortion coverage is largely disconnected from the realities of healthcare, people’s lived experiences, and the general public’s actual views on the topic. This can have an insidious impact on how readers understand the issue of reproductive freedom, with the dichotomy between a real-life situation of someone seeking abortion care and news coverage farther apart than ever. At a time when our country is reckoning with entrenched racism and rising against white supremacy, more inclusion of stories from people in marginalized communities is especially important.
The Tell the Whole Story initiative provides educational resources and calls for more accountability of reporters, editors, and columnists covering abortion and reproductive freedom. Specifically we are working to change news coverage in three distinct ways:
- Include the voices and perspectives of medical experts, pregnant people, and impacted communities: Those most impacted by abortion and restrictions to it are the least likely to be included in coverage of the issue. In an analysis of news coverage of abortion, just 14% of articles quoted a physician, 8% included a real person’s lived experience, and just 2% included the lived experience of a Black, Indigenous, or person of color (BIPOC). Anti-choice restrictions disproportionately hurt those already marginalized by our healthcare systems, including BIPOC communities, young people, and transgender and non-binary people. What’s more, only 5% of articles even acknowledged that restrictions to abortion access have a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities. To understand the health implications and real-world experiences of those closest to the issue, these voices must be incorporated more into coverage — not just the voices of politicians.
- Add context to charged rhetoric: Charged rhetoric straight out of the anti-choice playbook is routinely used without explanation or qualification. Consistently using medically accurate terminology and intentionally clarifying charged terms used to describe aspects of abortion and reproductive freedom is imperative.
- Mention majority support for abortion access: Though a significant proportion of abortion coverage is focused on legal action related to abortion, few articles include data or research on public opinion about the right to abortion. Polling and data has consistently demonstrated majority support for Roe v. Wade and abortion access — an important fact that when obscured or omitted, obscures the truth that Americans are in fact not nearly as divided on this issue as often believed.
Born out of our comprehensive media analysis on abortion coverage, “Accurate and Unbiased? A deep dive into how the media covers abortion in the US,” Tell the Whole Story is dedicated to educating reporters, educators, experts, and the public about the impact biased coverage has on public knowledge and best practices for ensuring fair, accurate, and inclusive coverage. Through briefings and collaboration with educators and experts in this field, we are working to reach the people who shape news coverage and make coverage more accurate and accessible.
Join us in calling for media to #TellTheWholeStory!
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