Over a fortnight last December, 33 pro-choice articles appeared in national papers, with a solitary
pro-life article appearing in the same timeframe. This is the type of media “balance” we have come
to expect whenever abortion makes the news. It is typical of the pretend debate our fourth estate
presents as neutral and incisive.
Last Wednesday, RTÉ broadcast what can only be described as abortion propaganda dressed up as
debate. The fact that our state broadcaster is failing to provide balance is one thing, but now RTÉ, is
openly campaigning for abortion. The programme entitled ‘Abortion, Ireland’s Guilty Secret’ followed the story of a women from Ireland undergoing an abortion in England.
Will RTÉ air a documentary that tells the story of a woman who regretted her abortion? Or a woman that considered abortion but continued with an unplanned pregnancy? I doubt it.
What happened last Wednesday is the rule, not the exception. I’ve participated in several discussions on radio and TV in recent years where the panels were 4-1 against the pro-life position.
That’s pretty shameful bias on an issue as fundamental as the right to life. It has now reached a point where some radio and TV producers don’t even bother inviting any pro-life representative on the panel at all.
An irony to all this is that the narrative propagated by the media often portrays pro-life citizens as collectively burying their heads in the sand for not accepting the reality of abortion. And yet media groupthink on the issue conspires to silence genuinely critical discussion of this reality. It’s almost as if there is a realisation that the more people are given the opportunity to reflect on what abortion actually entails the more they will oppose it. Critical discussion is to be avoided. Better to anaesthetise the grim reality, safer to trade in euphemism.
But citizens have a right to be treated with more respect. That is why several thousand people turned out at a media bias rally in Dublin on a Wednesday evening in March, to take a stand against how ridiculous media manipulation on this issue has become. They represent tens of thousands more citizens – all capable of voting not only with their ballot but with their pockets too. There is growing anger among a sizeable chunk of the population at the grossly unfair representation of
the pro-life position, a representation than encompasses lazy and snide caricatures of people who publicly identify as pro-life. Rampant media bias on a matter of acute importance does a disservice to public discourse. The media has not only taken it upon itself to “re-educate” the pro-life majority in the country but to effectively lobby the political class for extremely permissive abortion laws. This skews political debate massively. Abortion “news” often comprises reports of how politicians respond to being pressed on their support for a law reform wish list. The wish list, funnily enough, almost always reflects the reporting agency’s own agenda. It’s viciously circular.
Politicians who play ball get protection. The overwhelming majority of journalists and reporters gave cover to the Government in 2013 when they introduced an abortion law that allows two like-minded psychiatrists to sign away the life of an unborn child while safe in the knowledge that there is no legal obligation to produce evidence that the intervention was necessary to save the mother’s life.
Leo Varadkar, our Health Minister, wasn’t questioned by a single journalist when he recently expressed support on the floor of the Dáil for aborting children diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Indeed, pro-choice campaigners are protected from scrutiny too. The same journalists and reporters facilitated the cover-up of the scandal involving a tax-payer funded pro-choice counselling agency giving what the Master of a Dublin maternity hospital described as “life-endangering” advice to pregnant women.
We wouldn’t accept any of this if it affected the presentation of issues such as fiscal planning or transparency in political office. Indeed we have recently seen the print and broadcast media shine a light on alleged bias in relation to water charges. The right to life of unborn human beings is hardly a less important matter yet after thousands gathered to highlight bias on this issue, it hardly got a mention. More so than virtually any other category of marginalised human being, the unborn are particularly vulnerable since they are powerless to remind wider society of their humanity and dignity. Curtailing debate on the legal protection they deserve as brothers and sisters in humanity saves no other purpose than to dehumanise them.
The media are the guardians and facilitators of public discourse. For them to affect neutrality on this issue while systematically lobbying for one side is to show complete disregard for public debate, not to mention the unborn.
Cora Sherlock is a solicitor and Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign
This article appeared in the print edition of the Sunday Business Post on 5th April, 2015
Note: Link below is to story mentioned above on pro-choice pregnancy agency providing life
endangering advice to pregnant women: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/revealed-the-