The Times and Life

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Naturally, I agree with Ramesh that the peculiar TNR Online piece arguing that the New York Times's abortion coverage is undermining the pro-choice side of the argument is somewhat less than persuasive. The author's three main examples only prove her point if you think the Times has an obligation to treat their pages as an auxiliary wing of Planned Parenthood. (Which to be fair, does seem to be roughly her position.) Moreover, it isn't all that hard to find counter-examples - try here or here or here, to pick a few - where the Times' coverage was presumably more to her liking. Then there's the difficulty that if you're going to remark on how the Times Magazine covers abortion, it's tough to ignore the cover story they ran in 2006, all about the nightmare of El Salvador's abortion ban - in case anyone missed the relevance to the U.S., the piece was called "Pro-Life Nation - which didn't quite manage to get the facts all right. I expected the TNR piece to simply gloss over that incident; instead, the author brazens it out:

Then there was the disturbing flap at the Magazine two years ago, after a cover piece about illegal abortion in Latin America reported on a woman in El Salvador who supposedly was criminally convicted for aborting her 18-week fetus. Post publication, it turned out the woman was actually judged guilty of murdering her newborn, full-term baby. The reporter had never bothered to read the court records, and the Magazine's factcheckers hadn't either. In its eagerness to champion abortion rights in a country that has none, the paper had gotten sloppy. And on its own national turf, where long-established rights are being chipped at, sloppiness runs in the other direction.

So a prominent case in which the Times ran a factually-inaccurate, "too good to check" piece that just happened to double as a brief for the pro-choice cause is somehow an example of their supposed anti-choice turn. As I said, somewhat less than persuasive.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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