The repeal of Roe has vast consequences, but the news coverage is constrained

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An extremist right-wing majority of the Supreme Court is preparing to repeal abortion rights, dealing an enormous blow to women’s autonomy, clearing the way for 26 state governments to dictate the decisions of pregnant women, and presaging an assault on other hard-fought liberties that have made the country more tolerant and humane.

But the country’s major news organizations instead are focused on process. On the leak of the draft opinion itself. On how this could affect the midterm elections. On partisan strategy. On “politicization” of the court. On senators who tried to have it both ways. On “both sides” getting emotional.

Even from a purely journalistic perspective, that is hideously poor news judgement. An enormous, course-altering social change is now officially on the brink of happening, and you blither about process?

But it’s the lack of humanity in failing to recognize the stakes, the cost, and the momentousness that simply boggles my mind.

How could the most esteemed editors of our leading national publications decide, upon learning that Roe v. Wade is presumably about to be repealed, that the most important second-day story is “Roberts directs investigation into leaked draft”?

How will this ruling affect women? Talk to women who’ve had abortions and ask them what it would have been like for them if becoming pregnant – even by rape or incest – had cost them their autonomy? Explore how Roe v. Wade changed the course of the nation. Track the origins of the anti-abortion movement and examine its real motives. Discuss how radically out of sync with the rest of the legal community and the country the court has become. Tie this into the ongoing authoritarianism of the Republican Party, which threatens our very democracy.

Those should have been the front-page stories. Caviling about the leak and punditry about the politics should have been secondary elements.

It took until Day Three for a story like this to make it into the top of the Washington Post homepage — by women, about women.

The word “women” didn’t even appear in Peter Baker’s lead New York Times story on Wednesday’s front page until after the jump, six long paragraphs in, and even then it was in a paragraph about how the ruling “would represent a devastating defeat for liberals who sought to guard women’s right to choose the procedure against years of efforts to chip away at the ruling.”

As it happens, there were a lot of stories about the true, profound implications of the loss of reproductive rights, but they weren’t on the front pages, they weren’t done by news reporters. They were in the opinions section, the features sections, and even in the metro sections.

I feel like the years of stolidly refusing to stand up for themselves — despite a deluge of disinformation, attacks on the press, the rise of white nationalism, and the growing threats to democracy — have cost the people writing and editing national news their humanity, their souls. If they didn’t sound the alarm before, why now?

But something very big is happening. Let yourself feel it, people. And crank up the font sizes.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Many have suggested this country has regressed to 19th century emotion and sympathy with the past as prologue, so why should journalism be excluded from sociology?

    That’s not sufficient evidence for their professional confession and contrition to offer forgiveness from past sins, but certainly doesn’t give permission to continue their sins of omission or commission.

    https://theconversation.com/amp/think-journalisms-a-tough-field-today-try-being-a-reporter-in-the-gilded-age-103420

  2. I completely agree about the idiotic media focus on process rather than the dire consequences of overturning of Roe. I am particularly frightened by the attacks on the Griswold ruling that there is an implicit right to privacy in the constitution. Will Texas be allowed to spy on women’s phone calls and internet communications to see if they are contacting out of state abortion providers? Privacy is a sine qua non for freedom. Totalitarian states always use invasion of privacy to control their populations.
    The other thing the media almost never addresses is the fact that the opposition to Roe is based on a blatantly faith-based belief that a fetus and even a fertilized ovum is a human person. Alito and the other rightwing judges were brought up Catholic as I was. We were taught that God infuses a soul at the moment of conception, making even a fertilized ovum a full human person. Outlawing abortion based on that personal religious belief, one that is not held by most people, is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Our media needs to stop shying away from addressing that fact.

    • Hey, forget about abortion a second. What about murder of, say, an adult? That’s based on the Sixth Commandment. You may well be an atheist, so try looking that one up. Don’t believe in burglary, robbery, embezzlement, or fraud? Have a peek at the Eighth Commandment. I know, I know. Terrible about religion. Good liuck to you.

    • I need to say more about your concept of the separation of church and state. I am a secularist, but the older I get the more I believe in the Divine, even if I can never define it. I don’t think America was ever founded as a “Christian Nation,” but our history and contemporary culture shows that America is predominantly a Nation of Christians. Honored in the breach in so many ways, but America is not a Nation of Atheists.

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Then this: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. ”

      Yep, the prose of Thomas Jefferson, that slave-owning, science-believing hypocrite. Tear down those statues! No more Jefferson-Jackson Days for you!

      Ah, you say, they were deists. Yep, the Founders were, or at least most of them. The late 18th Century was a time of ferment, and especially a reaction against the divine right of kings. The words of James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and our fourth president, railed against the establishment of religion. It’s in Article VI, and the First Amendment, which the first clause in the Bill of Rights without which that Constitution never would have been ratified.

      Those same deist Founders began that Declaration with this: “WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”

      Still think they didn’t believe in God? Maybe the Democratic Party should put atheism into their 2024 platform. See what happens. As you go there, make sure to mock the beliefs of the vast majority of this country’s voters. Good luck with that; you’ll need it.

      Let’s dive deeper into Original Sin. Oh my God! (Oops.) That one is embodied in the Adam & Eve allegory, which I think is the only reason to bother with Genesis. Theodora, you will probably focus on the misogyny, and miss the point: Human beings are fallible by our very nature. Our job is to see our failures, face our failures, and correct our failures. Think the Abolitionists were atheists? Think again, and crack a history book. We as Americans are driven by Original Sin in a never-ending quest to improve ourselves and our society.

      It all goes back to that pesky God thing. Musing about the nature of God is a sport as old as mankind, but not a lot of people in our society are willing to deny that there is something more than ourselves. Our Founders explicitly rejected government by Bible, but they did not reject in any way, shape, or form the idea that we are part of a universe of divine creation — even if the science-oriented culture hints at the randomness embodied by Darwin’s masterwork.

      That said, if the “progressives” who will cement their control of the Democratic Party after this fall’s defeats have a rare honesty attack, I suggest having the courage of your convictions. Deny the divine. Mock faith. See just how well that works out for you.

      As for abortion, please make it crystal clear after that Supreme Court opinion is issued that you demand that abortion on demand be legal up to the moment of birth, as encoded by law in your bluest states. Drop the ambiguity. Be honest.

  3. Unlike Froomkin and his acolytes, the American majority embraces neither faction’s purist views. The national numbers show much support for limiting abortions to the first trimester. Only the political junkies specify a number, so there’s some wiggle room. But only the extremes support a complete ban or the complete lack of restrictions embodied in the laws of the bluest states.

    I happen to side with the “progressive” worry that the decision might turn out to be what’s in the Alito draft. I fervently hope that this will change between that February first draft and the final opinion. I can say this much: The “progressive” shouting will backfire. Every riot (like the one in L.A.) and every raucous demonstration outside of a Supreme Court justice’s home will work against the Democrats.

    Even the Atlantic, not generally a fountain of wingnuttery, has constructive advice on how to make the case. It will be ignored, just as “progressives” have ignored the pleadings of Ruy Teixeira, once a kind of patron saint of ethnic alignment for the party. Think an abortion ruling will save you? Better think again. Where I live, diesel is now $5.59, and all indications are that it’s going a LOT higher, and soon. Gasoline is a hair under $5.

    Been to a restaurant lately? A grocery store? Of course you have, but you probably haven’t paid attention to the prices. This morning, breakfast for two of us at a humble Mexican cafe in town was $55. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns for one of us; huevos rancheros (three eggs with salsa and tortillas), and orange juice. Coffee for both. 55 bucks. Baby formula is in shortage in much of the United States. Any of you have babies? Probably not. Bought any chicken lately? How about beef? Real people are trading down on that front.

    The Democratic Party was once the Kitchen Table party, the voice of the working and middle classes, now pretty much one in the same. Think your outrage over abortion will come to the rescue? Not likely. Those who are motivated by abortion were already “progressives” in blue states. Everyone else is thinking about feeding their families. You don’t want to believe that, but what will you believe on the morning of November 9, 2022? My prediction: You will blame your steep losses on Trump, racism, and Fox News. Anyone but yourselves, your smugness, your myopia, your disconnected arrogance.

    Ah, you might say, there goes that nasty wingnut again. We shall see. Well, maybe not “we,” because I don’t think you’ll want to see.

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