WashPo Makes Amends on Cuccinelli Fail, Sort Of

Jodi Jacobson

Yesterday we critiqued the Washington Post's front-page article on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's efforts to justify his ideological war on women's rights by professing a concern for their health and safety. Today, a Post editorial addresses the issue.  It's not enough.

Yesterday we critiqued the Washington Post’s failure to provide the facts in response to assertions by anti-choicers on efforts by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to restrict women’s access to abortion care to “protect” their health and well-being.

Cuccinelli and others are pushing for regulations that would dramatically reduce access to early abortion in Virginia.  These restrictions would make it harder for women facing untenable pregnancies to access a first-trimester abortion–one of the safest of ALL medical procedures–and would likely increase the number of second-trimester abortions. The later the procedure, the more complicated and the higher (if even then minimal risk) of complications.  Cuccinelli’s claims to be concerned about the health and safety of women are false and misleading. Moreover he is pushing for restrictions that he and others could not get passed through the legislature.

Yet the Post repeatedly quoted anti-choice supporters and members of both the far right in the Virginia legislature and on Cuccinelli’s staff espousing their “concern for women.”

We called BS.

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Today the Post ran an editorial indirectly calling itself out by actually citing medical evidence (!):

[D]o the women of the commonwealth need additional protection? Has the state experienced a spike in abortion-related complications, including those that, as Mr. Marshall suggests, imperil future pregnancies? No, and no.

State medical and health boards already provide oversight of abortion facilities and the medical personnel who perform roughly 25,000 abortions each year. The Virginia Department of Health does not keep statistics on the number of medical  complications associated with abortions. But the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on reproductive health and supports legal abortion, reports that less than one-half of 1 percent of abortions performed in the country result in complications that require follow-up medical treatment. The earlier the abortion is performed, the fewer the complications. The Virginia clinics in question perform only first-trimester abortions — the safest of all procedures. The institute provides compelling medical information that a woman’s decision to have an abortion has little to no impact on her ability to give birth later. [emphasis added].

This is a laudable step by the Post.

However, it needs to go much further.  The Post has developed a habit, running from poor coverage of the failures of prevention policies under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to coverage of abortion care, of giving ideologues equal space and equal credibility on sexual and reproductive health issues, even when they skew the evidence or ignore it altogether.  Most recently, for example, another front-page article on FDA approval of ella gave extensive space to anti-choicers spreading outright lies, and this is what they are.

To retain its once-lauded credibility on providing facts, the Post needs to run a front-page article examining the actual science and medical evidence on abortion and contraception and stop trying to placate or provide free advertising for the a fundamentalist political agenda.  People who pay for the news and expect a free and informed press deserve nothing less.

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