by Kathleen M. Gallagher
I recently signed an online petition at change.org. I’m not ordinarily a petition person, but this one caught my eye. It asked media organizations to show the diversity of the pro-life movement when covering the issue of abortion. It was developed by a group called The Consistent Life Network, and it took issue with the media feeding false stereotypes.
I attest that I am “frustrated that news organizations, who would never think of discriminating against women or ethnic minorities in other contexts, do so with abandon by not selecting them as spokespersons” for the pro-life cause.
I have been active in the pro-life movement for more than 40 years, and I have witnessed the diversity of the cause. I’ve attended conferences sponsored by Concerned Women for America and seminars organized by Feminists for Life. I’ve worked with the Knights of Columbus and Atheists for Life. I’ve marched alongside the Thomas More Society and the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. In the state legislature, I have worked hand-in-hand with both Democrats and Republicans, women and men, to advocate for laws to protect the unborn.
I recently became aware of a group called the ‘New Wave Feminists,’ an edgy new-age bunch of millennials with brightly colored hair and sharp wit who say “Sometime before we were born, our womanhood was traded for a handful of birth control pills, the ‘privilege’ to degrade ourselves in Playboy, and the ‘right’ to abort our children.” They aim to take feminism back from those who have corrupted it. You go, girls.
I can personally swear to the media bias. Back in the early ’90s, I was seven months pregnant, and testifying at a legislative hearing in Albany about the need for better maternity leave policies. I knew the AP reporter who covered the Capitol, and I also knew he was planning a feature on “the face of the pro-life movement.” “Here I am,” my expectant body seemed to say as I waddled up to the microphone.
No such luck. The reporter’s syndicated piece ran that weekend. It featured an angry old man who often stood outside the Senate chamber holding large graphic photos of dead unborn children.
Then there was the time I handed my business card to the New York Times reporter so that he would get my correct spelling and title when the paper printed my quote. You know, the card that reads “Director of Pro-Life Activities” for the Catholic Bishops. Except when the story ran the next day they quoted me as the “Director of Anti-Abortion Activities.” Apparently they can’t even read without bias. They were forced to publish a correction.
We need to shatter the stereotypes and discourage the media from typecasting the pro-life cause. Yes, it’s an uphill battle. But it needs to be done to bring balance and fairness into the public conversation surrounding abortion, a conversation that’s showing no signs of ending, even after 44 years.
Gallagher is the director of Pro-Life Activities and director of Catholic Action Network for the New York State Catholic Conference.