In the hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, CNN brought Mary Szoch, the director of the center for human dignity at the anti-abortion rights and anti-LGBTQ rights Family Research Council, on air.
Szoch, asked if she supported criminalizing people who cross state lines and get abortions, replied, “The abortion industry should be targeted for the work they have done over the last 49 years to place unborn children—over 60 million unborn children’s lives have been taken by the abortion indsutry … that is something America needs to reckon with today.”
Jeffrey Toobin followed soon after with legal commentary about the Supreme Court decision. Toobin, of the infamous Zoom-dick incident, exposed himself to colleagues at The New Yorker while he masturbated during a meeting.
Featured after that was the Democrats for Life, an organization that, according to their website, “seeks to elect anti-abortion Democrats.”
A lot happened Friday: The Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide; Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurrence, wrote about reconsidering the national right to same-sex marriage; and Nancy Pelosi read a poem to apparently express her concern about the state of U.S. abortion rights.
And yet, these are some of the people CNN decided to focus on in the immediate aftermath of the decision.
National news outlets, particularly those that only cover abortion when it’s at the Supreme Court or when some extreme ban gains traction, often treats abortion like it’s a political issue. And it is: Politics is what got us here. But it is also a healthcare issue, an access issue, and a control issue. (After all, abortion has long been rooted in the right to privacy.)
Outlets should work to focus on those most impacted by Roe’s downfall, just as they should in reporting on any story. Why aren’t we hearing from more abortion providers? From past patients? From people who have had abortions? Why aren’t we hearing researchers who have studied abortion and can tell us what happens when someone is denied one?
And why, oh why, are we hearing about an issue that will disproportionately reshape the lives of women and LGBTQ+ people across the country from a man who whipped his dick out during a work meeting? Does CNN not know any other lawyers? Could they not ask a production assistant to wander around Manhattan until they found a lawyer, any lawyer, who hasn’t recently been caught jacking off on the job?
The issue of abortion stretches across law, politics, and medicine, as well as countless other issues, and national coverage should reflect that.
Democrats for Life may have a non-intuitive position, since our modern political system demands that Democrats are universally pro-abortion rights and Republicans are always anti-abortion. (In reality, people across the political spectrum have lots of nuanced opinions on abortion! Because people in general have nuanced opinions on abortion!)
But Democrats for Life isn’t really a major player in the anti-abortion political or organizing world. The vast majority of Democrats, like a majority of the country, opposed overturning Roe and believe that abortion should be legal under some circumstances.
Representatives from organizations like Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and the National Right to Life Committee would likely be able to speak much more about what will happen next in the post-Roe United States, since they helped make it.
What is the news value of having minor league political groups on television—beyond being able to point at them and say, “Look, we've got both sides on-screen”?
Over the last several years, the nation has panicked out, time and time again, over splashy abortion restrictions—in Alabama, in Georgia, in Texas. Then the national outrage machine moves on. And when the next state replicates that splashy abortion restriction, people ignore it because it sounds like old news, or it's confusing, or it's just not angering enough.
Months after Texas enacted a law that let people sue one another over illegal abortions, Oklahoma did the same. And while the Texas ban blocked abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, the Oklahoma ban was even more encompassing: It blocked almost all abortions from the moment of fertilization. But the public, weary or bored, paid far less attention to the more extreme ban. And news coverage often reflected that.
Meanwhile, abortion providers told VICE News today that they felt physically ill, and terrified of the days and weeks and months ahead. The end of Roe v. Wade isn’t something that can be chronicled within 24 hours. There’s more to come, and Democrats for Life or Jeffrey Toobin won’t, and shouldn’t, be the only voices to break the news to you.
It matters who we put on TV, who we write about, whose voices we amplify–especially when people are paying attention to abortion.