False Balance in Establishment Press Coverage of Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade

by Vins

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling out the constitutional right to abortion. States can now prohibit pregnant women and girls from receiving an abortion, forcing them into involuntary servitude regardless of psychological, social, or economic circumstances. How this decision will impact women’s economic freedom and ability to self-govern in our democratic republic is an important question, and one that the establishment press is failing to address.

Various scholars have fought to understand what the Court’s decision signifies and the establishment media’s influence in presenting these debates is a complex political issue. The media frames the ruling in terms of what Dan Froomkin at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) describes as “both-sidesism.” In doing so, the establishment press attempts to “be fair in a way that doesn’t alert readers to what the real stakes of the situation are,” Duke University professor Nancy McLean told FAIR.

In addition, Froomkin reported that controlling women’s rights—including basic choices about whether and when to have children—undermines women’s equal status and will produce damaging impacts on the economy. “Only if we see how women are hampered in having a truly fair playing field in the economic sphere will we recognize the true burden of forced parenting—and parenting without social and financial support,” Caroline Fredrickson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told FAIR.

According to Brookings’ Caitlin Knowles Myers and Morgan Welch, research has shown that abortion access has had profound effects on women’s economic and social lives. Legalization of abortion has reduced cases of child neglect and abuse and improved the likelihood of entire generations of college-educated children.

In the most recent survey of abortion patients conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, Myers and Welch stated that 97 percent are adults, 49 percent are living below the poverty line, 59 percent already have children, and 55 percent are experiencing a disruptive life event such as losing a job, breaking up with a partner, or falling behind on rent. Eliminating abortion access will diminish women’s personal and economic lives, as well as the lives of their families.

Some corporate media outlets addressed these issues. MSNBC opinion columnist Kate Bahn compared the link between women’s bodily autonomy and economic opportunity, claiming that over nearly 50 years of abortion access, women obtained “greater assurance and control over when and whether to start a family, allowing them to better share in economic growth.” Furthermore, Forbes reported that a 2020 study concluded that the salaries of individual women ages 15-44 would be $1,610 higher if all abortion restrictions were eliminated. However, these studies do not address the long-term repercussions that women will face as a result of Roe’s overturn. The research underestimates the full economic impact of the Court’s ruling  for women and their families.

Sources:

Dan Froomkin, “Misogyny, Theocracy and Other Missing Issues in Post-Roe Coverage,” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, June 30, 2022.

Caitlin Knowles Myers and Morgan Welch, “What Can Economic Research Tell Us About the Effect of Abortion Access on Women’s Lives?” Brookings, November 30, 2021.

Student Researcher: Lauren Reduzzi (Drew University)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)