For Immediate Release: July 14, 2020
Video Comes on the Heels of Tennessee Governor Signing Sweeping Abortion Ban and Judge Striking Down Georgia’s Abortion Ban
Today NARAL Pro-Choice America released a new video, “The Accounting,” illustrating the overwhelmingly political nature of media coverage of abortion, which can lead to medically inaccurate language that goes unchecked and impacts public understanding of the issue.
The video, which is narrated by NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, exposes the broad exclusion in coverage of the voices of medical experts and people directly affected by abortion policies. In the video Hogue says:
“The media too often tunes out the voices of the people affected, like women, people who can become pregnant, and medical professionals. And ignoring facts, like nearly 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45. To hear it from the press, you’d hardly know that 77% of Americans support the basic protections outlined in Roe v. Wade. These aren’t opinions – they’re facts.”
The new video comes just one day after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law a cruel and sweeping measure that effectively outlaws abortion in the state of Tennessee. That same day, a federal judge in Georgia struck down the state’s extreme ban that would have outlawed abortion before many women even know they’re pregnant.
“The Accounting” video captures findings from a new report called “Accurate and Unbiased? A deep dive into how the media covers abortion in the US,” that was released last month by NARAL and Global Strategy Group. The comprehensive analysis of more than 300 randomly selected articles on abortion in 10 top-tier media outlets during a six month period found:
- Abortion is covered as a political issue not a health issue. More than 77 percent of all abortion-related articles were written by political, general assignment, breaking news, or legal reporters. Reporter credentials impact whether abortion is accurately described in a medical context and what voices are included in the coverage, with health care reporters more than three times more likely to include the voice of a physician and four times more likely to reference medical research in their reporting than political reporters.
- Abortion coverage follows legislation and litigation. Coverage of abortion peaked on days when there were major legislative or legal events resulting from political actions involving elected officials or interest groups. Otherwise, coverage of abortion remained relatively flat.
- Political coverage elevates political voices and excludes those most impacted by abortion: doctors and women. While 65 percent of the articles analyzed quoted a politician, only 13.5 percent of articles analyzed included a quote from a physician, 11 percent referenced any medical research, and just 8 percent featured a real woman’s story.
- Coverage obscures or omits majority support for Roe v. Wade. Only 9 percent of articles analyzed mention that a majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade and abortion access generally even though the vast majority of articles referenced the landmark ruling.
- Charged rhetoric from anti-choice advocates is included in coverage, oftentimes with minimal context. Nearly half of all articles analyzed included terms such as “infanticide,” “partial-birth abortion,” and “heartbeat bill,” but only a fraction of those articles provided an independent definition of the term. This trend is exacerbated on Twitter.
The report also provides advice and recommendations for how to improve coverage of abortion, centered around including more context and explanation around charged rhetoric used to discuss abortion, and including more perspectives from medical experts and people who are actually impacted by abortion. This is especially important given that restrictions on abortion devastate reproductive freedom many people in the United States, particularly BIPOC, rural, and lower-income communities who already face prohibitive barriers to abortion.
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NARAL Pro-Choice America and its network of state affiliates and chapters are dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom for all. For more than 50 years, NARAL has worked to guarantee that every woman has the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. Since 1969, NARAL has made history, grown to over 2 million members, and met the moments that have defined this fight with action, power and freedom. In recognition of its work defending our constitutional right to choose, Fortune Magazine described NARAL as “one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America.”