Tuesday 19 August 2008

The Times and blatant bias on life issues

The Times was once regarded as the UK's newspaper of record, a serious publication with high standards of journalism ... but those standards, in recent years, have slipped .

As a daily reader I could give many examples, but the newspaper's blatant bias on life issues is one of the most flagrant.

Yesterday, a full-page, public-opinion-forming, spread of reportage and commentary, headlined "Abortion does not harm mental health, says study" presented an American Psychological Association review as significant, authoritative research into the effects of abortion. The fact that this study has been shown (see my post yesterday), on the basis of good evidence, to be fundamentally flawed, is completely ignored. To add insult to injury, Nigel Hawkes writes dismissively in a short commentary piece : "Anti-abortionists would like us to believe that women who have abortions suffer lifelong regrets ... The bulk of the best available evidence suggests that a single abortion does not carry psychological hazards greater than does a single pregnancy ... " - again completely ignoring evidence to the contrary.

The Times report makes great play of the fact that there are impending votes in Parliament on abortion and that the American Psychological Association review [and their spin on it!] will influence "uncommitted" MPs.

Pro-life lobbyists and readers of this blog may recall that there was a similar situation back in June . Evan Harris MP had tabled extremely damaging amendments to the Abortion Act via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - to de-restrict abortions up to 24 weeks, and to empower midwives and nurses to perform abortion. Everyone expected the debate on these amendments to take place in July - until the government suddenly postponed the report stage of the Bill.

Lo and behold: The Times, on Friday, 20th June and Saturday, 21st June, carried no less than six stories on abortion, all of them clearly presenting a pro-abortion position with little or no comment from anyone who disagreed.

They included 'Rise in teen abortions prompts calls for reform of sex education' a story about the latest abortion statistics which completely ignored evidence that the government's style of sex education has completely failed, as Professor David Paton has shown.

Then there was "The ones I worry about are those who have the baby", featuring an interview with abortionist John Parsons, a director of BPAS. Not only does the story present abortion as an inviolable moral right which has no consequences worth mentioning, but Mr Parsons says, completely unchallenged: "It is not in the interests of any child to have a 16-year-old mother." (This is another way of saying that it is better to be dead than have a teenage mother, something which feminist author Germaine Greer, amongst many others, disagree with.)

Another article called secret abortions 'common sense'.

Then there was a particularly callous article from Caitlin Moran who showed no concern for the future mental health of the mother, let alone the unborn child. Whilst acknowledging that abortion causes problems that are, "emotional, social and [a] risk to future reproductive health", she says this "has an impact solely on the women having these abortions". What kind of editorial policy at The Times allows this kind of assertion to go unchallenged when there is so much important research to the contrary?

For my part, I acknowledge that in today's Times there's a sincere piece by their columnist Melanie McDonagh who makes a plea for women to be told that their baby is human and about the risks of abortion to their mental health. But, sadly, her column has far less impact than yesterday's full-page news reportage - because of its relative size, its positioning on a page headlined "Opinion", compared with yesterday's story which is written by the newspaper's science editor, and finally, because Melanie McDonagh suggests that objective research on the effects of abortion does not exist - which is saying to Times readers ... "This is my opinion - pure and simple - but it's by no means authoritative" - which is definitely not the message sent to the readers by the writers of yesterday's report on the American Psychological Association's review.