Accuracy in Media

On one side were those who relayed the story of Waskom, Texas – a town of 2,200 that lies 15 miles west of Shreveport, La., where the nearest abortion clinic is located – outlawing abortion in part because of fears that if Louisiana’s fetal heartbeat law takes effect, abortion providers may seek to open a clinic on the Texas side of the border to capture the business.

“Texas border town declares itself sanctuary city for the unborn: ‘Here we will no longer murder our babies,’” read the headline on Fox News.

“East Texas city council votes unanimously to ban abortions in town’s jurisdiction,” read the headline on the Fox26Houston website.

“East Texas town with no abortion clinic passes ordinance attempting to ban the procedure,” wrote the left-of-center Texas Tribune.

But for the mainstream media spin, one needed to look at the top of the Google News search page to see how major media outlets handled it. And a theme emerged.

 “’Sanctuary city for the unborn’: All-male city council in Texas town bans most abortions,” wrote USA Today.

“All-Male City Council In Texas town Votes To Ban Abortions,” read the headline on HuffPost.

“All-male Texas city council bans abortion, declares a ‘sanctuary city for the unborn,’” read the headline on Think Progress.

“Five men outlaw abortion in a Texas town, declaring a ‘sanctuary city for the unborn,’” wrote the Washington Post.

The detail was left hanging – none of the stories mentioned why it was significant that the city council of Waskom is all-male. The Post’s story, by Isaac Stanley-Becker, went a step further and identified the members as “all-male” and “all-white,” but he also never circled back to explain why the race or gender of the council members was significant.

Several of the stories mocked the council for outlawing abortion when it has no abortion clinic in town nor anyone expressing a desire to build one. But the fears are not irrational. “Supporters of the city ban are citing an article that appeared in a local paper in 1991 indicting that a crackdown in Louisiana at that time risked driving the clinic’s director out of town,” Stanley-Becker wrote.

Others focused on comments by the mayor and one of the aldermen – both of whom ultimately supported the measure – that it could bring lawsuits the city would be hard-pressed to find the resources to fight and mocked the response.

“Some residents who supported the measure weren’t concerned with the legal fees because ‘they say God will take care of them,’ according to local media,” wrote Amanda Michelle Gomez at Think Progress.

Jezebel wrote about it on its The Slot blog under the section labeled “Big Time Small-Time Dicks,” which is “explores local politicians, small-town scandals and everything else making life miserable at a local level.”

“This week, the all-male city council of Waskom, Texas, voted unanimously to outlaw abortion within city limits, exercising whatever power is apparently bestowed on a table of old white men when at least three of them are wearing checkered bottom-ups,” Frida Garza wrote for Jezebel. “The vote will turn Waskom into what they are calling a ‘sanctuary city for the unborn,’ a simply deranged set of words.”

The purpose of the ordinance, Garza wrote, “is more posturing and attempted intimidation tactic than anything else: Waskom currently has no abortion clinic to speak of. But should Louisiana’s restrictive six-week abortion ban go into effect, the five men hope that no one will come to Waskom, which is near the Louisiana border, to start a clinic that would serve as an alternative.”

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