Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Unintentional Irony: NPR, Abortion, and Maternal Devotion

I listen to National Public Radio all the time (as my kids can attest) because it’s informative, well produced, and convenient – radio is a terrific medium for those on the go and, what’s more, it’s free!

However, like most mainstream media outlets, NPR leans pretty far to the left, especially when it comes to social issues, and particularly concerning abortion. Probably they’d deny such editorial leanings, and they’d point to the numbers – like, maybe, the balanced amount of airtime they grant representatives from both the pro-life and pro-choice camps. But you can’t listen to NPR long without picking up on a subtle emphasis in tone and language that betrays their pro-choice bias. What's more, pro-choice adherents and their positions are rarely criticized, while pro-life spokeswomen are frequently patronized by their on-air NPR hosts.

This despite the fact that pro-lifers are speaking up for a marginalized and persecuted class of humanity that can’t speak up for itself – the very kind of sub-group that NPR likes to draw attention to and defend. Even so, sometimes the NPR editors make programming decisions that buttress the pro-life cause, despite what seems to be their intention otherwise.

Case in point: Two unrelated stories that appeared on two different shows on the same day a couple weeks back. In the afternoon, there was a story on All Things Considered about pro-choice pioneers in Chicago that provided illicit abortions prior to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The underground group went by the name “Jane,” and they developed an elaborate, clandestine system to evade the law, connect with women who sought abortion, and then perform the procedur themselves – despite a lack of medical training. The ATC segment featured early Jane enthusiasts, including Martha Scott:
Scott says she performed hundreds of abortions. It's a relatively simple procedure, but she acknowledges that there were risks to what they were doing. Some clients ended up in the emergency room; some had to undergo hysterectomies. “You're messing around inside somebody else's body. It’s not necessarily given that you won’t do harm,” Scott says. “It wasn't perfect, by any means. But we were dealing with women who really didn't have other options.”
By itself, it’s a typical NPR abortion puff piece, and it paints the pro-choice scofflaws in the best possible light. The members of Jane are what NPR’s largely progressive listening audience would call abortion heroines, after all, who risked jail time, unemployment, and social ostracism in order to facilitate the termination of unwanted children. Yet, in all the years (decades) that I’ve been listening to Public Radio, I can’t recall a single comparable story lionizing the peaceful pro-life activists who risked all the same things in order to bring pregnant women alternative, life-affirming choices.

Even so, NPR itself highlighted that alternative perspective earlier in the same day that the Jane story appeared. It was a Story Corps segment during NPR's Morning Edition that featured a conversation between April Gibson and her teenage son, Gregory. When Gibson got pregnant as an unmarried teen, she apparently didn’t consider abortion an option – or else she couldn’t. “I just took care of you,” she tells Gregory in the Story Corps segment. “I did what I was supposed to do.” Maybe she didn’t really have other options; maybe she didn’t have folks like Scott and her ilk proffering cheap termination services.

From an NPR point of view, that sounds like an injustice: Gibson shouldn’t have been compelled to any baby-related “supposed to do.” I’m guessing All Things Considered might’ve preferred to relate Gibson’s story as an cautionary tale: “See what happens when women don’t have choice? They have to take care of a baby.”

But Gibson tells her own story with confidence and joy, and she makes it plain that she has no regrets. “I couldn't believe what people told me about myself or about ‘those people’ like me,” she tells her son – and us. “This is my baby, and I love him, and I can feel something. It’s not a fairy tale, it's not a failure. It's just a process, and now we're here, 16 years later.”

It was a moving testimony, and I couldn't help thinking about Gibson and Gregory later in the day as I listened to the story about Jane. All those hundreds of abortions that Martha Scott and her friends performed, and the hundreds of Gregorys who perished as a result. Their moms might’ve been convinced that they were justified in resorting to a dangerous permanent solution in order to address whatever crises they were in at the time, but there’s no doubt that they also missed out on what Gibson calls “a process” – that is, the mysterious unfolding of lived life with all its tragedies and sorrows, its hopes and possibilities.

Gibson doesn’t mention abortion in her conversation with Gregory – she might even be pro-choice, for all I know – but it’s very clear that she’s glad he’s in the world. No doubt, all those many women who took advantage of Jane's abortion services were facing excruciating circumstances, or else they wouldn't chosen such an extreme solution. But how many of them had a chance to talk with somebody like April Gibson, who could've assured them that there was still hope? The hardships she endured as a single mom, the doubts and sense of failure – no fairy tale, as she says – were clearly well worth it. It’s an outcome she could’ve never predicted at the time of her pregnancy, but that makes her decision to “just take care” of her baby – to do what she was “supposed to do” – all the more valiant.

Happily, it's a valiancy that Gregory himself both recognizes and cherishes. As he told his mom at the end of their conversation, “You’re just the greatest person that I ever know. And I just want to be like you.”

Me, too. Thanks for your heroism, April, and for sharing your story – and your son – with the world.


  1. No doubt that NPR has an incredible bias.. In league with Banned Parenthood & the likes of Democracy Now... All the more for your online witness so that 'light might shine in darkness.' Thank you

  2. Why would anyone listen to pro-baby murder radio like NPR?

  3. I, too, turn on WYPR in Baltimore. Within a few seconds I discern the glee, hubris, and disrespect of all things President Trump and all things Republicans. Some statements are lies. For example, this morning's On Point's host stated that the Health & Human Services Director is part of "big pharm". I looked him up on and couldn't find that.
    Maxine Waters said that the President's State of The Union Speech should be rated PG. I agree; and I agree that WYPR is also PG. I have 4 grown children and 10 grandchildren. WYPR is always PG. If not, then it's child abuse. Only once did I call them to ask if they ever hear themselves. Besides, Rachel Martin is an organizer, if not, The organizer, of Black Lives Matter, a charitable organization that promotes "rent-a-mob", namely African-American people with nothing to do than chant "What do we want? Dead Cops!" So, as I do with TV, I vote with my remote! O, I'm remembering the one time they hung up on me. It was the day John Kerry was being honored by North Vietnam for his helping them to win the war. I called to ask if they heard the report and bang! Yes, WYPR must be rated PG. Let's be parents!

  4. I listen to WYPR in Baltimore. Within a few seconds, I hear the hubris, glee and discrimination of President Donald Trump and Republicans. Sometime there is a lie, such as in this morning's On Point who said that the director of HSS is 'big pharm". I looked it up and didn't see it. Once I called to ask if they ever hear themselves. Maxine Waters said that the President's speech should be rated PG. I agree about that & about WYPR. Any child listening to WYPR should have an adult doing the play-by-play. Only once did they hang up on me. It was the day John Kerry was honored by North Vietnam for his aid in their winning the war. When I asked if the heard the announcement, all I heard on my phone was a Big Bang! Rachel Martin is an organizer, if not The Organizer of Black Lives Matter, the charitable organization who hires unemployed African-American youth as "rent-a-mob" against police. At least she's contributing to the economy.

  5. My home has been NPR-free for over ten years. I bitterly resent that my taxes help keep it afloat. NPR is the official mouthpiece of the Democrat Party and is perennially hostile to non-liberals. It was an exquisite pleasure, however, to see the look on Joy Cardin's face the night Donald Trump trounced Hillary. Joy is a WPR program host brought in to call the election results on WPTV.

  6. NPR is "free"? It's political agenda is subsidized by tax dollars coerced from millions of people who disagree with everything it stands for.

  7. NPR has not been objective over anything that is of God, that is for sure. We need to dump all Federal funding for this group. Just more indoctrination. They may toss out a bone now and then to appease those with a conscience, and then it is back to the usual.

  8. Thanks for the great analysis utilizing the two worlds presented. Gregory's words are priceless at the end. Love wins out, if given a chance.

  9. With classical Western philosophy having been so successfully silenced in the last 50 years, folks like those at NPR are left breathless when they stumble onto the truth, assuming that in their brilliance they thought of it themselves. Of course, they mangle the concept and mis-apply it, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

  10. I appreciate this so much! Grew up with public radio in rural Alaska (it's how we knew there was a package waiting at the post office, to say nothing of the connection to national and world news, my husband and I spent our courtship in the studio doing volunteer late-night music shows), and my kids too appreciate that their mom is hooked. The political bias is egregious and unfortunate, but their illumination of the human condition is unmatched. Thoughtful pieces that provide so much to ponder and discuss are the highlight of our weekends. Thanks for sharing your perspective. And God bless the women who elude the abortion machine and are empowered by Motherhood

  11. After many years of listening to NPR, I finally had enough. I think it was the fifteenth Father's Day story that spotlighted the single mother. Or maybe it was the ethical debate on fetal stem cell research that didn't account for the possibility the fetus is a life. Or maybe it was the story line regarding the risk pro-life protesters pose to abortion providers.But it definitely came after years of writing responses and requests via email. I finally concluded their impeccable production value was simply serving to more deeply implant and more broadly disseminate story line and opinion hostile to life and to all I hold dear.