The Sunday network talk shows ignored Georgia and Alabama's radical assault on Roe v. Wade
If Republicans hope their unprecedented legislative effort to overturn Roe v. Wade is largely progressing under the radar of the national media, they received confirmation on Sunday when none of the network morning talks shows addressed a dire, newly passed anti-choice law in Georgia that's specifically aimed at making abortion illegal in America. The Georgia bill, along with others pending in additional Republican-run states such as Alabama, represents a wildly ambitious GOP strategy to make legal choice obsolete in America. Indeed, the legislative victories represent "a watershed moment for the abortion debate," as Vox reported last week.
You'd think Sunday news shows, which supposedly cast a wide net to cover the day’s most pressing public policy issues and brewing political fights, would have acknowledged the Georgia story and shined a spotlight on what it means moving forward. Instead, the male-dominated programs completely ignored the stunning abortion developments out of Georgia and elsewhere last week. The blackout matters because the Sunday shows help set policy agendas and shape public debate on important issues. The lack of coverage also confirms a recent media study, which found "the news does not support public understanding of abortion as a common, safe part of reproductive health care." The study confirmed that abortion is covered as a political issue much more often than as a health issue, and that the personal experiences of people who get abortions are rarely represented in the coverage.
Last Tuesday, Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed one of the nation’s strictest anti-choice bills into law, setting the stage for a legal battle that could end up at the Supreme Court. The so-called "heartbeat" law insists that once a doctor can detect a fetus's heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, most abortions would be deemed illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until a fetus is “viable," which was defined as until about 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Additionally, the new law insists that in order to obtain an abortion after six weeks because of rape or incest, a woman would have to file a police report. The radical Georgia legislation "exposes a woman to criminal prosecution for getting an abortion, as well as the doctor who performs the procedure, the nurse who assists and a pharmacist who prescribes medication that terminates a pregnancy," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The law is so draconian that some movie production companies are already threatening to stop filming in Georgia. (In 2016, 17 of the year’s top 100 films were produced in the state.)
Yet none of the Sunday network news shows addressed the issue.
That includes ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday. (NBC's Meet the Press was pre-empted by a Premier League soccer match and did not air this week.) On cable news, CNN's Sunday morning show State of the Union made no mention of the Georgia law. The only exception was MSNBC's AM Joy, which aired an entire segment on the new anti-choice Georgia law over the weekend.
For the record, every featured guest on ABC's This Week, CBS's Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday yesterday was a man: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.
Note that the Sunday public policy shows this week managed to address a whole host of issues including Donald Trump's obstruction of Congress, the Mueller report, presidential politics, guns, health care, trade wars, and looming legislation from Congress. But there was nothing about Republicans' aggressive attempt to make choice illegal in America.
In Alabama, that includes a GOP push to make virtually all abortions illegal. That push sparked a shouting match in the Alabama state Senate last week after Republicans tried to remove exceptions for rape and incest from an anti-abortion bill that could send doctors who perform abortions to prison for up to 99 years.
Roe v. Wade confirmed that the right to privacy and liberty included a woman’s choice to continue her pregnancy while consulting with her doctor. What the Alabama bill tries to do by declaring that a fetus is a person is to make it a crime to then kill that "person." That eliminates the Roe v. Wade-based notion of privacy and liberty for pregnant women.
Radical Republicans are trying to rewrite the law of the land when it comes to choice in America. That deserves the attention of the Sunday morning talk shows.
Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.
This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.