Family Research Council

January 23, 2014 - Thursday

March Madness: Media Bias Snubs Pro-Lifers

The media didn't need a sub-zero wind chill to freeze out pro-lifers. Most networks have had a lot of practice perfecting their greatest magic trick: making hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers disappear! If you weren't at yesterday's March for Life and missed the photos from Twitter, you'd probably never know the event took place. As usual, the outlets vied to deliver the least March coverage possible -- with some refusing to acknowledge it at all.

"NBC Nightly News" fared slightly better than CNN and MSNBC (who ignored the March altogether) -- but even its coverage, a whopping 22 seconds' worth, and ABC's (24 seconds) were barely a blip on the media's screen. With the exception of Fox, most networks (the same ones who spent days covering the Occupy movement) didn't think a few hundred thousand people on the National Mall were worth mentioning. Even the President, who never misses an opportunity to celebrate Roe v. Wade, managed to write an entire statement sidestepping the most important word in his vocabulary -- abortion. "We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman's access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom. And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children. Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams." (Everyone, apparently, but the unborn).

While the President might have been shy about using the word "abortion," his party's committee chairman certainly wasn't. Debbie Wasserman Schultz not only embraced the significance of the day, but blasted conservatives for using it to save lives. There "are so many pressing issues facing our country that deserve our attention," she said. "But still, the GOP places blocking women's access to health care at the top of their agenda, insisting we continue to spend... taxpayer dollars, refighting these battles." Of course, she'd rather spend those tax dollars on abortion -- over the objections of the people paying them.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus hit back, calling it "pathetic" that anyone, regardless of their views, would bash Republicans for using the event to highlight the alternatives to abortion -- like adoption. Fox News's Brit Hume took it from there, in an emotional appeal on his "Special Report," taking aim at the Left for using "absurd euphemisms" to describe what they support. "They're not really pro-abortion, they've long said, they're 'pro-choice.' This isn't about killing unborn babies, it's about reproductive health. And the biggest chain of abortion clinics in the country refers to itself as Planned Parenthood. In 2012, this organization says it carried out 'abortion procedures' 329,445 times. Whatever that number represents, it's not parenthood."

Although the March never seems to get the attention it deserves, FRC's ProLifeCon caught the eye of plenty of reporters, including the Washington Post and Slate's David Weigel. Both outlets seemed impressed with the subtle shift in pro-lifers strategy. "Pro-lifers are trading bloody fetus photos for a kindler, gentler message," Weigel wrote. "Will it work?" Judging by the sea of young people at yesterday's March, it already has. As former Senator Rick Santorum pointed out at ProLifeCon, the movement is making a key transition to be more about "love, not judgment." We believe it always has been about love, but we must be ever-mindful of perceptions and tone. And thanks to the influx of young people, Weigel explains, the March for Life "is friendlier and more media-ready than ever." Now, if we could just get the media to take notice.

Marriage Defense a Red Herring in VA

Someone should have handed Virginia's new Attorney General a job description before he was sworn in. With barely a month under his belt, the radical liberal seems to be completely confused about his role as the state's chief law enforcer. Despite his campaign promises on same-sex "marriage," the new AG is obviously taking lessons in lawlessness from President Obama, whose administration never met a marriage law they didn't ignore.

Like a majority of states, Virginia had overwhelming support (57%) to pass its marriage amendment in 2006. Now, under the new regime of Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring, the democratic process has been tossed out the window -- along with the votes of 1,328,134 Virginians. This week, the new attorney general announced his intentions to fight the constitutional amendment -- by not enforcing it.

Despite his campaign promise to "follow the law" on marriage, Herring had a change of heart, igniting a furious debate over the attorney general's role. "He may be personally, indeed passionately, against the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage," writes Paul Goldman of the local CBS, "He may have a reasonable, even correct, constitutional analysis... [But] like it or not, the job is different. His rights and duties are defined by different laws. He may disagree with such laws. But he lacks the power to unilaterally change them."

As the Virginia Constitution clearly states, the attorney general may refuse to defend a law "provided he takes appropriate steps to insure any General Assembly interest -- as representatives for the people -- in upholding their handiwork is properly represented in court." So far, the backlash from state leaders has been severe. Virginia House Speaker William Howell fumed that Herring had taken an oath -- less than two weeks ago -- to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution... This is not an obligation that can be taken lightly. The Attorney General's decision today demonstrates a great deal of disregard for that obligation, as well as the legislative and democratic processes by which those laws are adopted."

Sound familiar? It should. The Obama administration has been guilty of the same kind of criminal overreach since its first day on the job. And when it comes to marriage, the President's tyranny is legendary. State Sen. Richard Black left little doubt where he stands on the issue. "I don't know what the difference between a dictatorship and this." FRC's good friends, like Delegate Bob Marshall, are already looking into their legal options. "We appropriate money for people to defend the Constitution, not attack it. This is a complete dereliction of his duty." Of course, the irony is, if there weren't laws to defend, there'd be no reason to have an attorney general in the first place! If Mark Herring wanted to write legislation, he should have stayed in the state Senate. Instead, he's decided not only to ignore his responsibilities but trample on the people who gave them to him. (Contact the Virginia Attorney General's office and voice your displeasure here.)

Fortunately for conservatives, not every state is as mismanaged as Virginia is under the new governor. In Indiana, after a years-long slog, legislators inched another step closer to protecting marriage in the state constitution. Yesterday, thanks to the strong leadership of House Speaker Brian Bosma (who moved the bill out of a committee that threatened to kill it), the amendment sailed out of its new committee and onto the floor by a 9-3 vote. One person fortunate enough to be on hand for the victory was FRC's former Senior Fellow Ken Klukowski, who testified on the measure's behalf. Congratulations to everyone in Indiana who's fighting to make this dream a reality. Keep up the good work!

Pentagon Announces Rules of (Religious) Engagement

In the fight for military religious freedom, one of the biggest obstacles to troops' rights has been the Defense Department itself. Today, the DOD is trying to change that reputation by issuing new regulations on religious expression in the military. For persecuted service men like Master Sergeant Phillip Monk and Guardsman Layne Wilson, the announcement came as a relief. At the very least, the DOD not only recognizes the problem but is actively working to address it. Under the new policy, the military will accommodate religious requests of service members, unless they have a negative effect on military readiness and mission goals.

FRC's Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army-Ret.) was cautiously optimistic about the development, but realizes the Pentagon has a long way to go before the rights of service members are safe. "The key thing will be implementation," General Boykin explained. "Does the Pentagon understand that religious liberty is our core freedom and that curtailing its expression in the military is not only unconstitutional but also deeply harmful to morale and unit cohesion?" What's more, he said, "We have to ask if commanders at home and abroad will be encouraged to apply the new rules effectively and consistently, such that service personnel will be at liberty to express their most deeply held convictions without fear of reprisal."

As too many of our brave men and women know, careful phrasing only goes so far. Unless the new policy is backed by action, it will remain just words on a piece of paper. For now, FRC will be closely monitoring the situation to see how the rules are applied. During next week's House Armed Services Committee hearing on religious accommodation, we look forward to hearing from DOD about how the protection of religious expression will be implemented across our military.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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