Home National News Beware of wishy-washy politicians, subjective news reporting on abortion: Opinion

Beware of wishy-washy politicians, subjective news reporting on abortion: Opinion

Audience members listen to testimony in Dover at a March 2019 state senate committee hearing on two proposed laws aimed at limiting abortion in the state. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

It’s fair to wonder in partisan politics whatever happened to the landing place for working class people who oppose abortion.

Such a place existed not long ago when elected officials could profess their allegiance to the issues of the work-a-day man and woman and also stand in unison with beliefs of their faith.

That’s right. People who fought for higher wages, safer workplaces, better education and health care also stood up against abortion.

March for Life participants walk past the Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 24, 2012. The annual pro-life demonstration marks the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Peter Lockley) (Jan. 24, 2010)

It seems like a history lesson nowadays, but it doesn’t take too great a memory to recall the late Bob Casey Sr., the two-time Pennsylvania governor who valued his Catholic faith and stood his ground against the pressures of people who think it’s just fine to have an abortion, force taxpayers to fund it and stampede faith-based organizations who don’t believe they should be required to subsidize birth control and other means against their beliefs. Casey was not the only one to stay true to his beliefs, but he’s one of the few in the last quarter century.

He was about the last survivor of his ilk. The passing of people of faith who supported the working class – of whom there were many in the last century – ended any type of safe haven in political choices for people who shared Casey’s faith beliefs and also worried about where the next bag of groceries was coming from.

It was along about that time when people in elected office favored a way around the sticky question of whether or not they support abortion. So many politicians embraced one of the most wishy-washy stances any person can take. Yet they pretend as if it’s a genuine stance.

It goes like this.

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2017 in this file photo from New York City. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

“I am personally opposed to abortion. My wife and I have children and grandchildren and we very much love our family. But when it comes time to carrying the burden of public office, I do not believe it is right to impose my personal beliefs in public policy.”

Such a position is in fact no position at all.

Personal beliefs most certainly belong in your decision-making. They are part of who you are. They are part of what you ask people to buy into when you seek their vote.

Vote for me because of who I am and what I believe, not because I will bend my beliefs to satisfy a legion of others who believe something different. If you don’t like what I believe, then vote for someone else.

Heartfelt words have come from people who may be torn in their perspective, but most contentious issues typically come down to picking one side or the other. No middle ground.

It’s also fair to wonder if those reporting the news on this sensitive topic are as objective as they once were or if the news industry remains set up as gatekeepers of objectivity. Most news reporters have made painstaking efforts to write about such topics in ways that don’t subject one side or the other to more severe terminology.

Pro-abortion? No. Pro-life? No. Abortion opponents? Yes. Abortion-rights advocates? OK. Pro-choice? No.

But we have big problems in the news industry and among the landscape of less experienced journalists and fewer layers of prickly editors who safeguard against slouching into subjective terms. Too many people write straight from keyboard to screen with little-to-no review by editors with more experience. In some cases, the standards of news reporting rise to a sliver above a Facebook post.

Careful terminology isn’t as closely scrutinized. Even the Associated Press, once the most precise arbiter of language style, now says it’s OK to say to use anti-abortion when it once preferred abortion opponents. What’s the opposite of anti-abortion? Pro-abortion, of course, but you won’t see that term slip into reporting.

All of this suggests a difficult path for those who want their voices heard in equal and measured tones. Few elected officials stand by what they say they believe. Too many people who present information do not guard against a particular slant.

Wishy-washy and slanted.

It’s not a good combination.

Joseph P. Owens, former president of the New Jersey Associated Press Managing Editors association, is editor and general manager of The Dialog.