The Media and the Question of Abortion

Dr. Ben Carson, one of the leading candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has been in the headlines in recent days for comments he made using slavery as an analogy for abortion. The main thrust of Dr. Carson’s argument was that opposition to abortion is much like historical abolitionism, in that simply “agreeing to disagree” on the issue would be a morally insufficient response to an action which strips basic human rights from others. It is an analogy which has been used in the past by pro-life activists to counter arguments made by pro-choice advocates when they attempt to side-step the ethical debate by claiming that abortion is at most a question of personal morality and should therefore remain a matter of personal choice.

The media response to Dr. Carson has, however, been disappointing in its superficiality and its unwillingness to address the content of his statements. Rather than engaging his pro-life views and the logic behind them, political commentators prefer to ignore them and shift the focus onto how they will potentially damage him as a candidate. There has been a general tendency from news outlets such as the Huffington Post and the New York Times to simply compare these recent remarks to a list of his other controversial statements and leave the discussion at that.

While such an approach is characteristic of our 21st-century, sound-bite media in general, it is a journalistic pathology which has been particularly pronounced whenever abortion is the issue at hand. The pro-choice viewpoint is accepted as doctrine and any pro-life political statement considered an electoral liability rather than a perspective meriting consideration or even logical refutation. In some cases, the criticism is less thinly veiled and any pro-life argument, however elegantly and respectfully constructed, is used as ipso facto evidence of the “crazy”, “mean-spirited” or “archaic” qualities of the individual in question.

However, this persistent side-stepping of the issue should not dissuade pro-life politicians from continuing to speak openly about their beliefs and the sound reasoning underlying them. In the hyper-educated and technologically advanced world of 2015, any individual with an internet connection can and will see these statements on show and can make his or her own decision about their validity, even if journalists are unwilling to tackle them head-on.

It is critical for all of us to continue to speak up like Dr. Carson, and expose the logical inconsistencies of a society which preaches a commitment to human rights but which has failed to honour them for some of its most vulnerable members.

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