In what President Trump said would be “remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress,” the Senate voted earlier this week not to proceed with legislation that would have imposed criminal penalties on doctors if they failed to take care of babies who survived an abortion.
The mainstream media was not shocked and indeed seemed to find the matter not particularly newsworthy at all.
“Network coverage of this vote in the first 24 hours? Zero,” wrote Brent Bozell and Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, which does TV news content analysis.
“Hours after the vote, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders [of Vermont, one of five announced presidential candidates to vote against the bill] appeared in an hour-long “town hall” on CNN without a single question on this. [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren [another 2020 presidential candidate who opposed the measure] was interviewed by Chris Hayes for 11 minutes on MSNBC, and no question.”
Print journalists reported on the measure, but many characterized the legislation either as unnecessary, improper or a political stunt.
CBS News labeled it unnecessary, improper and a stunt. Reporter Kate Smith led its online coverage with “The ‘Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,’ a piece of legislation that echoed existing laws and medical practices, had little chance of passing in the Senate on Monday evening. And as predicted, it ultimately failed.”
Then why introduce it?
“Its introduction and subsequent debate underscore something larger and more substantial than the bill itself: a push by the conservative right to reframe the reproductive rights debate toward third-trimester abortions,” she wrote.
Abortion advocates “rebuked the legislation and the rhetoric surrounding it,” Smith wrote, because it is rare for late-term abortions to be performed and even more rare for infants to survive them. “’When you’re providing abortion care, this isn’t something that happens,’” Smith quoted a senior manager for the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute as saying.
The Washington Post said little about the bill other than to size up its political ramifications.
A story from the Post’s Eugene Scott wrote that a “key component” of Republicans’ 2020 election strategy appears to be “painting Democrats as radical baby-killers.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) “went so far as to suggest that a vote against the bill was a vote in favor of infanticide,” Scott wrote of a measure designed to protect babies from infanticide.
It was the same political play that Republicans used on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who “found himself in hot water after he appeared to suggest that doctors cold ‘abort’ infants even after birth.”
But Northam did not appear to suggest this; he outright said it.
“The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired,” Northam said on WTOP radio. “And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Scott chided Trump for not including a key Democratic talking point in the president’s discussion of abortion during the State of the Union speech.
“Trump’s speech did not acknowledge that ‘late-term abortions’ are very rare,” Scott wrote. “Instead, he looked to capitalize on their unpopularity. That will probably work in the president’s favor in 2020, especially with white evangelicals who see abortion as a core issue.”