NARAL Pro-Choice America (NARAL) and Global Strategy Group recently conducted a coverage analysis of Georgia’s highly restrictive anti-choice bill, HB 481, building on insights we identified in Accurate and Unbiased? A deep dive into how the media covers abortion in the US,” a comprehensive analysis of abortion coverage in top-tier media outlets.
In an analysis of 29 news articles published from March 4, 2019 – July 14, 2020 in both local and national outlets in which the main topic was abortion restrictions in Georgia, we found:
- The vast majority of articles quote a politician, while only five articles (17%) included the perspective of an impacted Georgian, medical doctor, or pregnant person. The lack of the perspectives of two key types of stakeholders most impacted by abortion restrictions – pregnant people and doctors – is even more stark than in our original analysis, where we found that 14 percent of articles included the perspective of physicians and 8 percent included the experience of an impacted person.
- A majority of the articles (24) include some variation of the phrase “heartbeat bill” — both in and out of quotes — which is an inflammatory and medically inaccurate term used by anti-choice activists.
- Most articles mentioned the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, usually in the context of efforts to overturn the decision. However, only one of those articles mentioned widespread support of abortion access and none mention the overwhelming support of Roe nationally (77 percent in NPR/PBS/Marist poll).This aligns precisely with the broader trends we’ve seen in reporting nationally, that just one in 10 articles from our sample mentioned the fact that the majority of Americans support Roe.
- Only 9 of the 29 articles analyzed mentioned the disproportionate impact these bills have on BIPOC communities in Georgia and the systemic barriers many vulnerable populations already face when seeking an abortion. It is worth noting that Georgia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country — especially for Black people.
- This particular bill is uniquely controversial because of its lack of clarity around the criminalization of abortion, and in turn, miscarriages. However, only five of the 29 articles mention the criminalization of pregnant people and/or doctors that may occur if this bill becomes law.
Our coverage analysis of Georgia’s proposed abortion restrictions uncovers gaps and inadvertent language traps in media coverage, such as the use of disinformation-based rhetoric like “heartbeat” bill without context, the omission of the fact that the vast majority of Americans support reproductive freedom, and the disregard for the unique challenges BIPOC communities face when seeking reproductive health care.
NARAL’s Tell the Whole Story initiative provides educational resources and calls for more accountability of reporters, editors, and columnists covering abortion and reproductive freedom. Visit tellthewholestorynow.com to learn more.