Usually, there are two sides to an issue in political debates. In BuzzFeed News’s latest longform article, it was abortion rights versus the anti-abortion community.
The article painted a desperate situation for abortion rights with the headline, “The Last Decade Was Disastrous For Abortion Rights. Advocates Are Trying To Figure Out What’s Next.” The subheading for the article was also full of hyperbole and read as follows: “This year, the battle over abortion rights reached a fever pitch. That’s what this entire decade was building toward.”
BuzzFeed News’s first line followed the hyperbolic headlines and said, “As the decade draws to a close, the national right to abortion is in the most vulnerable place it’s been in decades.” The article noted the decrease in abortion clinics from 2011 to 2017, without specifying that 133 clinics had closed. Instead, it framed it in the following manner: “The US has gone from having around 1,720 facilities that perform abortions in 2011 to 1,587 in 2017.”
Usually, news articles include both figures, the number of clinics closed and the overall number of clinics in operation, to give the reader a big-picture view. It was odd for BuzzFeed News to omit the specific number of clinics closed in a six-year period.
But BuzzFeed News ignored how polling has been close on abortion issues and whether certain types of abortions are supported by a majority of Americans. According to Gallup, 46 percent of Americans consider themselves “pro-life,” or anti-abortion, and 49% of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, or sympathetic to abortion right. Adding to that, 53 percent of Americans think abortions should be legal only under certain circumstances, with 25 percent favoring abortions under any circumstance and 21% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
Instead, BuzzFeed News cited polling of Democratic Party voters believing that an abortion-rights candidate is a “must-have” in an ideal presidential candidate, in addition to increased references to abortion rights in pop culture and television. BuzzFeed News failed to give important context on the American public’s views on abortion and the circumstances to have an abortion and heavily relied on liberal biases to reinforce its pro-choice slant in the article.
In one of the more glaring omissions in the article, BuzzFeed News praised former Texas state senator Wendy Davis as a “national figure” when in 2013, she filibustered a proposed bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks or five months of pregnancy. But BuzzFeed News omitted that in 2014, Davis ran for governor losing by almost twenty percentage points and has been out of politics since.
Also, contrary to BuzzFeed News’s panicked message on the future of abortion, anti-abortion activist Tom McClusky told the alternative news website that he believed that abortion rights scored several victories on the state level. McClusky runs the March for Life group, which holds an annual march in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision, said that “it’s not all doom and gloom” for the abortion rights movement.
Overall, BuzzFeed News omitted important contextual information in order to frame the abortion issue as being in a desperate situation. The article was a one-sided perspective of the issue and did not adequately address the concerns of those in the anti-abortion community.