Last week an email circulated with a link to a call for CNN iReport submissions. The so-called assignment asked the question: “Have you had an abortion?” CNN framed the story this way:
“…As much as abortion gets debated politically, rarely do we read stories of women who have chosen to terminate a pregnancy. We want to hear from anyone who has had first-hand experience with abortion. How difficult was the decision? How do you feel about it now? How did it change your life?
We understand that abortion is a sensitive subject, and all submissions will be treated with discretion. You don’t have to show yourself on camera. But feel free to write your thoughts, record your voice, or make a video telling us about your story.
You could be part of a story for CNN.com”
I will share what I sent as my iReport (in part) on my abortion (full salvo can be read here):
I had an abortion and I am pro-abortion on demand. The conditions surrounding my decision are immaterial. Here’s all I will say – it was a complete and total relief to have an abortion. I don’t have any regrets.
I take issue with CNN’s set up for this story — “How do you feel now?” Is CNN a support group or a news outlet? “How did it change your life?” Really? And the claim that there aren’t voices out there sharing personal abortion stories is ludicrous. A thirty-second Google search would yield a wealth of results.
And prepare for the landslide of stories linking PTSD, sterility, and breast cancer to abortion: anti-choice advocates will present these things in this forum as fact. Be assured an email blast with this link has been sent to every anti-choice group in the country.
Will CNN do its due diligence in reporting [and] vetting these stories? Will your editors ensure that actual science vs. junk science “validating” some people’s “facts” about the effects of abortion will be debunked?
Perhaps CNN can get an intern on caveating these stories as containing erroneous information? Then CNN can link to real information on the truth about abortion as medical care from actual medical sources?
What you need to be focusing on is the cycle of poverty among women, the lack of access to reproductive health care, and the attack across the country on women’s right to a legal abortion. If CNN is interested in having a conversation about abortion, how about you make it the right one?
I will completely eschew the lack of credibility CNN has, the fact that a young producer posted this assignment and that iReport (much like say, Open Salon) is a way to drive people to the CNN website and send up hits and cull stories; why use good shoe leather if you can float this kind of call to action? I have reached out to the producer via LinkedIn, Twitter and email requesting an interview about this CNN iReport. I even called the CNN general number and was put to his general voicemail. As of this writing I haven’t heard back.
I will ignore that anti-choice groups reportedly sent out email blasts members to inundate CNN with stories of nothing but remorse and regret – their abortion survival stories. I will place on a shelf for a moment the fact that there is nothing but religious conversion stories, fear mongering and the ever popular anti-choice “fathers suffer too” testimonials being posted.
Instead, I go back to a blog post on the 2nd and 14th amendments I wrote a few weeks ago:
So what should this supposed “debate” over abortion be about? I would suggest enforcement of The FACE Act is a good place to start. The FACE Act could be expanded or re-interpreted to include the legion of anti-choice activists that terrorize women in front of abortion providers every day. Defending a woman’s right to abortion with the same voracity as some scream about the Second Amendment would be another option. How about mandatory reporting of the mentally ill and violent protestors who threaten abortion providers and staff? As we learned after Dr. Tiller was shot dead, his murderer was no stranger to authorities but ultimately nothing was done to protect him. Perhaps demanding a national database of people who threaten abortion providers?
There is no debate. Abortion is legal so please, take the best advice I’ve heard about abortion ever: if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. So, we are left with a tragic piece of garbage posted by CNN that will lead to yet another useless story on abortion at a mainstream (for better or worse) news outlet.
Wait, scratch that, it won’t be useless – it will be useful – to the anti-choice side. The poorly worded and ultimately ignorant call for submissions tees it up for the other side perfectly.
There were numerous comments on my story – the ultimate one was from an anti-choice iReport user who wrote, “Praying for you” as her offering. Obviously, what that person really meant was something like, “Screw you.”
For me, this is the highest compliment my post can be paid. If my probing of CNN’s motives, calling out non-science and lofting the premise that there is no (legal) debate when it comes to abortion resulted in a woman who has committed even a moment of her prayer life to my salvation, my work here is done.
Even though as I noted above that CNN has a credibility problem, that doesn’t mean we should count it out. Unfortunately, CNN’s viewership (although it has dropped in the last year rebounding only slightly over FOX News this last election cycle) is still significant. According to CNN’s own website, it claims north of 70,000 unique views a month.
So we should care about this crappy iReport thing. We need to make sure that we take to task producers who vomit garbage onto a page in hopes of getting something juicy to report at the cost of women’s reproductive health and rights.
Guest contributor Andy Kopsa is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Blog, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check and The American Independent. She is a native Iowan and former Iowa newspaper editor. She blogs at Off The Record and you can find her on Twitter @andykopsa. This essay is cross-posted with permission from her site, Mississippi: Religion in Policymaking and its impact on Sex Education, Teen Pregnancy and Poverty, where she is chronicling her research on that state’s new mandate to teach sex education in public schools and the sufficiency of that curricula.