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The abortion issue is alive and kicking

By Rob Ward - posted Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Deciding what is news and what is not is a big challenge for media gatekeepers in our fast-paced information world.

News values of events must be finely assessed and we rely on our media professionals to make these judgments in good faith so that we are properly informed of all sides of a story.

But news judgements employed last weekend call in to question whether or not there is interest in striving for accuracy and balance when it comes to controversial topics such as abortion.

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One must wonder this when we look at the reporting, or rather non-reporting, of the March For The Babies on Saturday, October 9, in Melbourne. Despite pre-event media notices being sent to every TV, radio and newspaper in Melbourne and the presence of a number of film crews and journalists, the event was subject to a virtual media blackout. What little reporting there was came via the published comments of opponents of the event.

Conservative estimates put the crowd at March for the Babies at more than 5,000, while a protest group representing the “pro-choice” side was between 30 and 60, the higher number coming from an ABC staffer who was present.

The Australian Associated Press news wire service, reporting from Brisbane on the small “pro-choice” rallies, appears to have relied solely on information from a “pro-choice” spokesperson and seemed unable to get anyone from the March For The Babies to comment. How hard could it have been?

AAP said March for the Babies in Melbourne attracted 400 people while the “pro-choice” demonstrators numbered 200. I was present at March for the Babies and witnessed the “pro-choice” protest. I counted around 60 but note the Herald Sun reported there were 30.

AAP was happy to have a “pro-choice” spokesperson speak on behalf of March for the Babies saying that the “cashed up pro-life movement bused people in from all over the State”.

If AAP had bothered to check, they would have found that both claims were false. Yet this was syndicated throughout the nation and picked up uncritically by several reputable news outlets including The Age.

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To accept blatant lies from one side without checking the facts is by any measure a failure journalistic ethics. There is after all some difference between 400 and 5,000. Considering the fact that the Spring/Bourke St intersection was blocked by the crowd for several hours, 400 is wide of the mark.

Perhaps we should expect this from the same group that bore highly offensive placards, such as the one that read “I F***ed Jesus”.

March for the Babies was held to remember the passing of the Abortion Law Reform Act almost two years ago to the day. While some may want to believe that the issue is dead, it is not. The crowd this year was up considerably on last year’s march and plans are already underway for the 2011 march. You may recall that this law, amongst the worst in the Western world, offers no protection for women coerced or pressured into having an abortion, allows for abortion on demand up to 24 weeks and thereafter with simply the agreement of two abortionists.

Furthermore the law requires medical practitioners, doctors and nurses to be complicit in abortion even if to do so is against their own conscience. This has been labelled totalitarian by prominent human rights advocate Frank Brennan.

The almost complete media silence on this major rally reeks of self-censorship of the worst kind. The babies might be dead and mothers grieving but the issue is alive and kicking. Just because abortion is controversial and divisive, doesn’t mean journalistic standards should not apply.

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About the Author

Rob Ward is ACLs Victorian Director. He was one of several speakers at March for the Babies.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Rob Ward

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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