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Evening News Greets GOP's Extreme 20-Week Abortion Ban With Virtual Silence

  • Broadcast evening news programs have been virtually silent on Congressional Republicans' repeated efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive health care by pushing an extreme 20-week ban on abortion. 

    House Republicans voted this week to ban the majority of abortions after 20 weeks. As The New York Times reported, the legislation is a new “version of a bill that Republican leaders had abruptly pulled in January amid objections from some of their own members”  over a provision “that would have required women who became pregnant through rape to report their assault to law enforcement authorities”  in order to gain an exemption from the ban.

    Such legislation would have dangerous implications for women's health should it become law, as many serious health conditions for both mothers and fetuses cannot be discovered until around the 20th week of pregnancy. The latest version of the legislation requires sexual assault survivors to attend counseling 48 hours prior to receiving an abortion, a requirement that, as ThinkProgress noted, “appears to closely resemble the mandatory counseling and waiting period requirements that are already popular on the state level” which have been roundly criticized by health experts and medical professionals for being unnecessary and harmful to women.

    Yet broadcast evening news programs have been all but silent in covering the Republicans' abortion ban. 

    According to a Media Matters review of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS' nightly news programs since January 1, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News have completely ignored the legislation, while CBS Evening News ran one segment highlighting the GOP proposal on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. PBS' Newshour devoted four segments to the legislation this year, and was the only network to cover the House's passage of the latest abortion ban.

    The virtual silence of the broadcast evening news comes amid an unprecedented push by Republicans at both the national and state level to restrict women's constitutional right to abortion. An April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state. 

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS evening news programs from January 1 to April 13, 2015 for the terms “abort!” or “reproduct!”  We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the keywords.