CyberAlert -- 05/15/1997 -- Partial-Birth Dearth; Advocating Scandinavian Socialism

Partial-Birth Dearth; Advocating Scandinavian Socialism

  1. ABC and CBS ignore partial-birth abortion debate; one newspaper says Clinton's new position "reignites fierce debate," but another suggests it will lead to a compromise.
  2. In a GMA segment on the wonders of Scandinavian government, Joan Lunden tells the VP of the Socialist International: "Hopefully, we can get some of those programs instituted in America."
  3. Actor Alec Baldwin says Bill Clinton was the best choice for President; singer James Taylor decries the free-market.

1) The abortion battle re-emerged Wednesday, but only one network covered it and two newspapers offered very different spins on the new position taken by President Clinton.

The Senate began debate on Wednesday over partial-birth abortion and the American Medical Association released a report condemning the procedure. The AMA recommended, the May 14 Washington Times reported, that "abortion not be performed in the third trimester except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life" and that there are no situations in which partial-birth abortion "is the only appropriate procedure to induce abortion."

So, the Senate takes up the most divisive issue in the land and the leading association of doctors issues a report on the procedure. Network reaction: Nothing about the subject on ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News. Only NBC Nightly News aired a story.

A little more reporting might have helped explain the impact of Clinton's new position. Those relying on Wednesday's Washington Post and Los Angeles Times would be a bit confused.

"Clinton Abortion Stance Reignites Fierce Debate," read the May 14 Los Angeles Times headline over the subhead: "Health: He appears to back alternative to proposed ban on 'partial-birth' procedure. Foes call it a sham."

Reporter Melissa Healy's story began: "President Clinton on Tuesday reignited an incendiary debate over late-term abortions, appearing to embrace a Senate Democrat's proposal that would outlaw all third-term abortions except those performed to avert 'grievous' harm to a mother's health."

Washington Post readers Wednesday morning were greeted with the news that Clinton's position will advance a compromise. The Post headline -- "Clinton May Ease Stand on Abortion: Late-Term Procedure Compromise Sought."

Reporter Helen Dewar's lead: "The White House signaled yesterday that President Clinton could support a Democratic bill to curtail late-term abortions in hopes of derailing a Republican proposal to outlaw 'partial-birth' abortions. A compromise could prevent another bitter veto showdown with an increasingly antiabortion Congress."

2) ABC's Good Morning America is broadcasting all this week from Scandinavia. And when a network reporter travels to Scandinavia stories on the joys of parental leave, "free" day care and unlimited access to abortion are always soon to follow. Just back on March 20 NBC Nightly News aired a piece promoting Finland's "family-friendly, government-paid programs, like affordable day care." (See Newsbites in the April MediaWatch: to read more.)

Monday and Tuesday GMA ran pieces praising the "innovative" and "progressive social systems" offered in Scandinavian nations. MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen identified these segments and passed the tape along to MRC intern Jessica Anderson for transcribing.

-- From Denmark on Monday (May 12) co-host Joan Lunden gushed:
"Yes, Scandinavia has a very unique place on the globe, but it also has a very unique approach to life, and at the center of it all is an extremely progressive set of social systems, and I think people would be surprised at just how much they provide, but Bill Ritter has been checking into that."

Reporter Bill Ritter began in equal awe:
"The benefits, Joan, are really amazing, and I think it's because Scandinavians seemingly have resolved the conflict that we Americans struggle with everyday, and that's the conflict between work and family. In Scandinavia, they have made a clear choice. In Denmark, and in Sweden and Norway, they have made their families their top priority, and believe it or not, their careers haven't suffered. Today is birthday number one for Clara and her twin brother Juaquin of Stockholm, Sweden. And their father Christer is doing something few American fathers would ever consider: taking five months off from his job as chief city planner to stay home with the kids. Last year, he took off eight months to be with his two-year-old son Simon, and for all this time off, Christer is getting paid -- 75 percent of his salary. And that's the Scandinavian way, with family-oriented benefits, like maternal leave, guaranteed by both the government and by private industry."

Ritter then did note the cost of all these wonderful forced benefits: "Of course, Scandinavians do pay for all of this; average income taxes: more than 50 percent. Now while that kind of tax might make most Americans cringe, most people here say with the benefits to the family, the taxes are worth it."

Ritter marveled: "You see this family-first philosophy everywhere. Shops even close early so workers can go home for dinner. And families get amazing financial benefits: time off for newborns, time off for sick kids, free child care, and a payment from the state of up to $1,700 every year for every child....The Scandinavian safety net also extends to parents who lose their jobs. Designer Mireille Bernard of Copenhagen, Denmark was laid off while she was pregnant. Now six months later, she's still drawing 60 percent of her salary, and will until she finds work, even though her partner, Anders, still has a job."

-- The GMA crew swung up to Norway on Tuesday and Joan Lunden found more government programs to praise, equating government mandates on private employers with caring about children.

Introducing her interview of former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, whom she failed to note led the Labour Party from 1981 to 1992, Lunden expressed her wonderment at what Americans are missing:

"Well, for centuries, I mean, Scandinavia has really been known, all these countries, for their innovative and their progressive social systems. But when it comes to protecting women's rights and children's rights, Norway could really teach most other countries a thing or two; they are the top priorities here. Largely responsible for this, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and she is the first woman to hold that post. She's been very instrumental in pioneering some of these sweeping changes that have really greatly improved the quality of life for women and for children in Norway. Nice to have you here. I think most women, when they hear that, they just want to pack up and come right over here, but these have been sweeping changes that really have improved life here for women and children. Why do you think it happened in such a short time?"

Referring to maternity leave, Lunden oozed: "You realize that in America, a lot of women only have six or eight weeks off. I mean, a year paid leave, to go away, have your baby, and you're not penalized at work at all. And even the fathers are required to take about a month off, right?"

The Web site for the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that Brundtland is the First Vice President of the Socialist International. Concluding the interview, Lunden wished that the U.S. would impose some of those great socialist programs: "And they also have the lowest crime rate in the world. This is a very, very interesting country that we could learn a little bit from. Hopefully, we can get some of those programs instituted in America. Thank you for having us here."

3) A couple of liberal celebrity soundbites.

-- On last Friday's Politically Incorrect on ABC Mary Steenburgen and husband Ted Danson were joined by actor Alec Baldwin. As a friend of Bill's, Steenburgen naturally spent the show defending and praising Bill Clinton. But Baldwin had no such excuse when he insisted that Clinton was the only rationale choice for voters in 1992 and 1996:

"And plus the system that we have, unfortunately, you know, you don't have any real choice. It's the choice between two men when all the dust settles. And I think both in '92 and '96 I don't see how you could have helped but make the choice that people in this country made."

-- Coinciding with a new album from singer James Taylor, the May 19 Time magazine carries a profile of the blues artist by reporter Sam Allis. The MRC's Tim Graham alerted me to this passage in which Allis describes Taylor's liberal politics:

"He remains proudly political, 'a lefty like my pop,' a genteel North Carolina physician who was an Adlai Stevenson Democrat and a strong advocate for socialized medicine. The doctor's son is appalled to think of the market as the answer to America's problems. It leads, he says, to 'an armed-camp mentality.'"

Nice that Taylor thinks so little of the market system that allowed him to become so rich.

-- Brent Baker