Times for Intimidation – Irresponsible Acts of Media

19 Jul

I am writing today in response to an article that was recently written by Emily Bazelon and published by the New York Times online, The New Abortion Providers. An article that I read thinking it would be an encouraging and somewhat inspiring piece that showed an increasing access to abortion on tomorrow’s horizon. However, I quickly realized that what I was reading was more troubling than hopeful, and the deeper I read, the more the piece began to feel like a page out of the anti-choice intimidation tactic handbook. And the more I read, the more disturbed I grew.

Now Bazelon is someone who is known to be an advocate of choice, so her article took me by surprise, could even be said that it knocked the wind of out me. I am not saying that she was irresponsible in her journalistic pursuit of a story, but I do think that she was perhaps a bit blinded by the mission of the reporting the story that she missed the actual message that was being presented. In several cases throughout the article, Bazelon, in uncomfortable detail, exposes a number of sensitive areas without the responsible filter that you would expect from the media. Or perhaps, I should say, would have expected from the media. You know, back in the days when journalistic responsibility and integrity meant something, before news became fully commercialized an sought ratings and numbers over anything else.

Perhaps this is why Bazelon’s story hurt me as much as it did? Because she was someone who has been looked up to in the past for her work and stances, but in what could be construed as a total disregard for the well being of the movement she was supposedly reporting favorably on. The article took a look at the new wave of abortion educators and providers in training, and could have held the tone of a more hopeful tomorrow. But instead, what transpired through the article was quite the opposite. In the beginning of the article, Bazelon writes about the past intimidation tactics of the anti movement and chronicles how effective they have been in stifling access to this point.

She describes what horrible and misguided actions were taken in the past and explains how because of this not only has access dwindled, but that the Pro-Choice movement has had to kind of move underground in order to remain effective. How educating young doctors has become key for choice to win out and remain accessible to all women, at all times. How through this underground approach, hope has been reaching back into the medical industry to help get abortion back into mainstream practice. And then she shines a big bright warning light for the antis on all of these people and places that are working hard to ensure choice for tomorrow.

Now as was pointed out in the article by some of the doctors that Bazelon interviewed, this silence has in no way stemmed from any mixed feelings they have about what they are doing. But rather it stems from a desire to keep the people in the programs and the programs themselves from being targeted by these protests that leave many in the community feeling unsafe. They wish to provide a calm and comfortable environment and that tends to disappear in the wake of the antis descending to degrade the dialog and degenerate the situation. And I think it was an important point to make and to reiterate. Though I wish that Bazelon had paid more attention to what they were saying because she systematically uncovers facilities where the training is occurring.

Not only does she expose the centers, but in a shocking turn on two occasions in the article talks to two individuals who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, but then Bazelon describes them physically in such detail, also giving clues to their ties with people and places in the past to help further pinpoint just who they are to those they wish to remain anonymous from. Though, the most disturbing and hypocritical point in the article came when Bazelon discussed the funding source for these educational programs. Which she also pointed out needed its secrecy to protect the funding from outside interference and pressure from unnecessary protests. And then she outed the funding source.

Now, I am not a reporter, but that just felt like a completely disingenuous move to me, especially from a reporter who claims to be for choice. If she were actually for choice, wouldn’t she decide that the funding that has proven so instrumental in breaking down the stigma that society attaches to being an abortion provider, should remain as anonymous as it wishes too? But since the funding source had previously been discovered, and suffered repercussions as a result of this exposure, she would pull the proverbial band-aid from the wound and rub a little salt on it? To me, that makes little sense at all, and does not feel like the actions of an ally to the cause, but more those of the other side.

As I mentioned before, I do not think that the author intentionally behaved irresponsibly, but I do feel like she has. Even though the piece was intended to assist in removing the aforementioned stigma, as it even points out, we are not there yet. And now that this piece has further exposed the underground movement working hard to reach these ends, it may have opened the doors for so much more interference that progress slows even more. Perhaps in the future, journalists will think twice about how much is necessary to tell the story, and pay more attention to the point where they cross the line leaving responsible reporting behind. Given the climate around this volatile issue, and the violence perpetrated in the name of the anti movement, I think Bazelon completely overstepped the line in this piece, and I was deeply troubled by it.

What was your take?

5 Responses to “Times for Intimidation – Irresponsible Acts of Media”

  1. NewsCat_in_DC July 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m going to start reposting the hell out of this to see if Bazelon will have any kind of reply to the issues raised. I suggest people tweet at her @emilybazelon.

  2. Amanda July 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    I agree, the part that bothers me the most is that she all but gave the names of people who wanted to remain anonymous. Not only did she cross a line but people who would come forward and talk about their experiences or how they are trying to change the ways abortions are handled wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about because they fear for their safety. People who care about these issues should do their best to help protect other people who are fighting not serve them up on a silver platter.

  3. Katherine Kramer July 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    After reading the article, I was a bit perplexed too. Emily Bazelon is a pro-choice writer and knows the safety concerns of abortion providers especially after the murder of Dr. Tiller about a year ago, John Salvi’s terrorist attacks in Boston, Dr. Slepian and many others.

    While this article was an important one, it did a great disservice to abortion providers and to patients seeking terminations. Publishing providers’ names and pictures, or describing providers using very specific and detailed language exposes a lot of people needlesly.

    Although she means well and wants to bring abortion out into the open, there are many zelots out there who use this information to target physicians who elect to perform abortions. There used to be a Nuremberg project website, created by a pro-lifer, that listed the names and home addresses of providers (in blood letters), information about their families and kids and encouraged their murder (by a strike through their names). Although that scary site has been taken down, there are others like it. I have had some scary encounters in the recent past, but I wouldn’t want my close relatives or my family to be victims for what I choose to do. I know that I would have felt angry, upset, betrayed, exposed and more in danger had I been interviewed for that article.

  4. placenta sandwich July 20, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    NYProChoiceMD – I like your idea and nearly retweeted, but am freaked out enough by the whole thing that I decided against it, because even @ tweets are there for the world to see and I’m worried about contributing to the exposure. I might DM her in the morning though…thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Dhalgren July 26, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Some more info –

    Bazelon set out to do an article on PRCH (Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health). She attended a PRCH event and was introduced to some fellows. When the fellows told her about the nationwide Family Planning Fellowship, Bazelon changed her topic from PRCH to the Fellowship.

    There has been a lot of finger pointing since. PRCH has had to remind the fellows not to talk to the media. I believe NAF sent Bazelon a stern message, as has the Fellowship and several supporters (including myself…I called her an ‘idiot’).

    Still, had the names been kept anonymous in the article, it would have been a fantastic piece on how the next generation of providers are over 90% women, and that the practice itself is moving back into teaching hospitals where it belongs, for everyone’s privacy and security. The news that the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake is building a family planning division has made some Anti’s heads spin. It’s a blow to what they thought abortion is like in this country, as well as who they think providers are (they still envision providers as being old men).

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