This commentary by Ben Domenech, editor of the daily e-letter The Transom, appeared June 30 on Realclearpolitics.com.
Obviously the overall story about how Americans view the right to marriage is one of ever increasing majorities. From just a few years ago, when Americans were split on the issue at best, they now have marked majorities in favor of same sex marriage – 71% according to some polls, 86% according to others. The argument has been won, and cultural unanimity is virtually complete.
But that can’t be possible. Because if that was the case, wouldn’t we have heard about it, from the newspapers? Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to reporting it – a blind spot missed amidst all the other pressing news.
Except – it looks like Americans have thought this for almost two decades. The percent supporting a second trimester ban has never dropped below 64 percent, and the percent supporting a third trimester ban has never dropped below 80 percent in that time.
These positions are true elsewhere, too – once a baby starts looking like a baby, people tend to think it ought to be protected. That’s why most of Europe has bans on abortion ranging from 10 to 22 weeks, and the major countries have first trimester bans – Portugal at 10 weeks, Germany and Spain at 14 weeks, Italy at effectively the end of the first trimester. France is at 14 weeks as well, and they even mandate a one-week waiting period for all abortions.
Most of these countries also have conscientious objection clauses designed to protect those doctors with moral objections to abortion.
On such a divisive issue, you’d think the fact that this broadly popular position has endured in America and around the world to such a degree would inform the political analysis of the media. But last night we saw how personally invested many in the media are in the limitless, on-demand abortion regime in their obvious cheerleading for Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who was filibustering a Texas measure that would limit abortion to the 20 week mark and require a host of regulatory steps which would shut down most Texas abortion clinics.
Most egregious of all was the point in the evening when reporters were actually urging protesters on, encouraging them to scream and shout to delay a floor vote on the measure. This went well beyond the bounds of journalism – and indeed was indistinguishable from the single-issue abortion activists.
It was indistinguishable because the press is, by and large, unanimous on the issue. We saw this in the disinterested approach to reporting on the Kermit Gosnell trial (until pressured into it by Mollie Hemingway and Kristen Powers). Those who write about abortion as a political issue are only interested in reporting about abortion politics when they view it as an opportunity to press its agenda.
You will see a great deal of reporting in the coming weeks about Davis’s rising political star – she’s ambitious, with statewide hopes – because the reporters view her as the activists do: a heroic, courageous figure, assaulted by the GOP’s war on women.
But you’ll likely see little reporting about the fact that 62 percent of Texans support the 20 week ban she was filibustering. The agenda takes precedence.
Twenty weeks is, of course, an arbitrary mark to draw a line between protected under law and lump of cells. The general argument from the pro-lifers is that it is a point where the unborn obviously feel pain. Viability is a threshold that continues to move earlier thanks to medical science, and indeed some children born at 20 weeks have survived.
But there’s something else that happens at around the 20 week mark: the unborn can distinguish sounds. The first sound they will hear is the voice of their mother. In the weeks to come it will be a soothing and recognizable sound, distinguishable from all the rest. They will respond to it and react to it, to changes in volume and conversation. Much later, they will even be able to recognize tones of voice.
But at the 20 week mark, there is only the formless sound. The child cannot understand what she is saying. They cannot detect the difference in tenor when she makes the call, and schedules the appointment, and takes them from the waiting room into the operating room where they will die. They only recognize it as a mother’s voice, full of promise, enveloping them – familiar, reassuring, safe.