Associated Press Pressured Into Anti-Choice “Correction”?

Posted on May 29, 2012

RH Reality Check, May 29, 2012 by Robin Marty

The Associated Press appears to have caved into pressure from anti-choice activists, issuing an erroneous “correction” that sounds exactly like a line from the National Right To Life Committee media guide. brags about the change in language, stating:

All too often the pro-life movement is grossly misrepresented in the mainstream media. Pro-life advocates never expect, or even hope for, favorable coverage, but rather aspire just to be covered fairly. In a May 17th story on the DC Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Associated Press not only missed the mark on the purpose of the bill but printed blatant factual errors.

…In fact, abortion is currently available on demand in the District of Columbia. In Roe vs. Wade and its companion case Doe vs. Bolton, the Supreme Court legalized abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.

But “in fact” abortion is not “available on demand in the District of Columbia… for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.”

The original story read:

In the district, abortion is legal before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb and after viability to protect the life or health of the mother. In 2004, the D.C. Council wiped an outdated criminal ban on abortions off the books. Anti-abortion activists have claimed that makes the city unusually permissive on abortion. District officials and abortion-rights supporters say the district law follows the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.

But the APcorrected” itself, stating:

In a May 17 story about a bill that would ban abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by district officials, erroneously reported that abortion of a viable fetus is legal in the district only to protect the life or health of the mother. Abortions for any reason are legal in the district.

Claiming that abortion is legal for any reason up until the moment of birth is a favorite talking point of the anti-choice movement. One of the “expert witnesses” at the 20-week ban claimed as much himself, despite the fact that under the Roe v Wade decision that simply isn’t the case at all.

If the AP was somehow “wrong” to rely on information from district officials, how is it a “correction” to use anti-choice activists’ false assertion that the law of the land includes abortions for any reason?

In D.C., an abortion post viability is allowable for the exact same reasons it is allowed under the established criteria in Roe v. Wade: life or health of the mother. But anti-choicers take the fact of the condition, “health of the mother,” which includes mental health exceptions, to claim that abortion is legal for “any reason up until birth.”  When the media repeats this, they perpetuate a falsehood, and also the notion that a pregnant woman or girl who needs an abortion for a reason that includes but is not limited to mental health — such as a later discovered anomaly, or dealing with a rape, is simply a frivolous “excuse.”


Posted in: D.C.