Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just the Facts, Ma'am

GetReligion had an interesting question posited by a commenter back on October 10. The story was about Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times Supreme Court reporter who gave a speech in June at Harvard in which she revealed her liberal opinions about a variety of issues:

The government, Ms. Greenhouse said on the NPR audio version of her speech, “had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world, the U.S. Congress, whatever. And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.” She later added, “I feel a growing obligation to reach out across the ridiculous actual barrier that we seem about to build on the Mexican border. . . .”
(All via GetReligion)

What's worse is that, when confronted, Greenhouse said these statements weren't her opinion but were fact, a dubious claim at best. The big question posed by a commenter was even if Greenhouse is liberally biased, does this affect her reporting?

It seems the answer now must be yes. Via Patterico's Pontifications, we find Ms. Greenhouse mischaracterizing the partial-birth abortion ban that is now before the Supreme Court:

The administration describes the [partial-birth abortion ban] as taking “only the limited step of proscribing a rarely used and inhumane abortion procedure resembling infanticide.”

“Infanticide” is a potent label, frequently used by abortion opponents. One brief describes the procedure as “killing a child in the birth process.” While this description is true in the sense that uninterrupted gestation leads to birth — “He not busy being born is busy dying,” in the words of the Bob Dylan song — it is well off the mark as a description of what actually occurs.

The standard procedure used by Dr. Warren M. Hern, the author of a widely consulted textbook on abortion and one of the leading providers of abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, is to “induce fetal demise” by injecting a drug one or two days before the abortion.

Of course, Greenhouse is describing a different procedure from the one which pro-lifers call infanticide. "Matthew J. Franck says:

Contrary to Greenhouse’s false depiction, “killing a child in the birth process” is an unquestionably accurate description of the act banned by the statute. One could ask, why can’t she get this right? But I suspect the real question is, why won’t she?

I think Greenhouse's earlier speech at Harvard which she characterized as being "statements of fact" explains exactly why she wouldn't be able to accurately describe which procedure the partial-birth abortion ban bans. I hope this answers the question about whether or not Greenhouse's personal bias colors her reporting.