A Tale of Two Tales About Planned Parenthood

On Sunday, Minnesota’s two leading daily newspapers both covered the #DefundPlannedParenthood protest and the #IStandWithPlannedParenthood counter-protest. The difference in coverage presents a showcase of the right and wrong way to cover lies when delivered as facts to reporters.

Here’s how the St. Paul Pioneer Press covered the claims of Brian Gibson, a spokesperson for Pro-Life Action Ministries:

“Planned Parenthood claims that American women rely on them for health care, but in fact four out of five women will never set foot in a Planned Parenthood facility,” Gibson said in a statement before the protest. “Planned Parenthood provides less than 1 percent of annual pap tests and zero mammograms, but performs 34 percent of annual abortions in the U.S.”

The Pioneer Press neglected to note how this statement cherry-picks dubious facts to paint a misleading picture of Planned Parenthood. The number of women (and men) Planned Parenthood serves is actually staggering. Furthermore, According to Snopes.com, Planned Parenthood focuses on preventive services, which far outnumber abortions:

In reality, Planned Parenthood provides more STD screenings (4,218,149), contraception services (2,945,059), and cancer screenings (682,208) than they do abortions.

Would it have been so hard for the Pioneer Press to provide this context to Gibson’s quote?

The Pioneer Press article also summarized the claims of an anti-choice protester like this:

Protester Mel Brandl of Mounds View shrugged off the larger counterprotest, saying half of them were paid and noting that the vast majority of them carried the same, pink, mass-produced signs.

The paid protester myth has become a common trope among right-wing pundits, grasping for any far-fetched excuse for why their leading man is so unpopular. There is absolutely no evidence that protestors are being paid—they just really hate Donald Trump, anti-choice politics, and the extremism coming out of the far right.

Again, the Pioneer Press let the sentiment stand uncontested.

Now, let’s take a look at how the Minneapolis Star Tribune subtly undercut the entire false premise of the anti-choice movement with its coverage by Miguel Otárola:

Both sides have been galvanized by the election of President Donald Trump, who opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Federal dollars don’t pay for abortions, but Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by Medicaid for other services it provides, including birth control and cancer screening. Still, abortion foes have long tried to cut the group’s funds, arguing that the reimbursements help subsidize abortions.
“Abortion should be illegal,” she said. “It is taking the life of an innocent human being.”
However, banning abortion isn’t enough, Willodson said, holding her 2-year-old daughter, Aurelia. “We need to work together connecting everyone to the one true faith. That is what will save us all.”
Planned Parenthood operates 18 clinics in Minnesota, 21 in Wisconsin, 12 in Iowa and one in South Dakota — only one of which provides abortions. Of the 9,861 abortions recorded by the Minnesota Health Department in 2015, more than half — 5,048 — were performed there.

You’ll notice that each lie put forth by the anti-choice right is met with a destabilizing fact or piece of context so as to provide the reader with a clear picture of the situation. The Star Tribune does not take a side on the issue of abortion and Planned Parenthood; rather, it sides with facts over falsehoods.

The media landscape in the United States is unfortunately lenient towards those who provide combative rhetoric on hot topics, regardless of the statements’ validity. Many outlets have proven ill-equipped to deal with the flood of lies juicy enough to generate clicks. When papers like the Pioneer Press choose not to pick the side of truth over lies, they do their readers a disservice. The Star Tribune, on the other hand, is doing its part to educate readers, which can only benefit society as a whole.