Thursday, May 14, 2015

Houck A Babe-in-the-Woods On Abortion Ban Blackout

MRC Watch Dept. - Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the "Pain-Capable Uborn Child Protection Act," which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the premise that fetuses can, by that stage of development, feel pain. It's retread legislation that's been kicked around congress before. Passed on a near-party-line vote, it now moves to the Senate, where it will die.

Over at Newsbusters, Curtis Houck is, again, a babe-in-the-woods, complaining that the major network evening newscasts "showed no interest in covering the news" of the bill and left its passage entirely unreported.

The premise of the bill, that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, is, for all intents and purposes, medically baseless. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that "pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester." That's the conclusion of a survey of the medical literature on the subject conducted by Dr. Mark Rosen and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2013, the New York Times talked to Rosen and summarized the findings in his article:
"It concluded that fetal pain was unlikely before the third trimester, which begins at about 27 weeks. The report said pain sensation required neural connections into the cortex. The cortex begins emerging around the 23rd week, is not functionally developed until the 26th or later, and continues developing after birth, Dr. Rosen said."
The Times continued:
"In 2010, another large review, by a diverse panel appointed by Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said 'most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception' so 'the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior' to 24 weeks.
"In 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed this reasoning, saying studies cited by fetal-pain law supporters were not persuasive 'when weighed together with other available information.'"
The Times quoted researchers whose work and theories had been used by advocates of "fetal pain" laws -- one said neurological research had changed his mind on the subject, another that his research had only "marginal bearing" on fetal pain. Another, whose theories are marginal, seemed to regret that his work had become entangled in the abortion matter.

Only about 1% of abortions are performed after 20 weeks. Late abortions tend to be a consequence of extreme medical problems.

[Disclosure: a very dear friend of mine once faced a pregnancy that rapidly turned into a major crisis -- legislation like that just passed by the House puts the government between women and medical care in a way that is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. It nearly killed the lady in question.]

In short, the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" is legislation that wouldn't withstand public scrutiny. Curtis Houck complains about the evening newscasts ignoring the House bill but if it wasn't being considered under the cover of that kind of press blackout, it's unlikely it would ever be allowed to pass. Alexandria Boguhn at Media Matters has a much clearer view of this matter. Houck whines about the indifference of the press now and indignantly compares it to how the legislation was covered four months ago:
"Not surprisingly, when the legislation was originally put before Congress on January 22 and pulled due to opposition from female Republicans, the CBS Evening News was all too pleased to promote the 'unforced error' by the GOP and how it had 'stumbled' on the issue in the past."
Boguhn at Media Matters puts that CBS segment in its proper context:
"According to a Media Matters review of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS' nightly news programs since January 1, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News have completely ignored the legislation, while CBS Evening News ran one segment highlighting the GOP proposal on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. PBS' Newshour devoted four segments to the legislation this year, and was the only network to cover the House's passage of the latest abortion ban.
"The virtual silence of the broadcast evening news comes amid an unprecedented push by Republicans at both the national and state level to restrict women's constitutional right to abortion. An April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state."
This kind of unsupportable legislation (and the extremism that fuels it)[1] thrives in darkness. A "liberal media" wouldn't allow that.



[1] The author of this legislation is Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a birther who claimed Muslims were using congressional pages to spy on congress. He's called Obama an "enemy of humanity" who has an "ideological commitment" to "weaken America." The sort of depressingly common right-wing fringe crackpot who can only wield any influence because the press declines to scandalize his antics.

[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that critiques dumb things said by those at the Media Research Center.]

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