What if the Washington Post Valued Babies as Much as Dogs?
This morning, as I scanned the news, I saw a disturbing post on Twitter. It wasn’t from some leftist activist or a random troll. It came from a good reporter, Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein. Take a look below to see it and my response.
“We will all answer to the good Lord one day” — Mississippi’s governor signs into law a ban on abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat during an ultrasound — one of the most restrictive in the US https://t.co/PZZQ4ov3Ym
— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) March 22, 2019
Or you could call the law “protective.” Would you call a law banning spousal rape or domestic violence “restrictive”?
— John Zmirak (@JZmirak) March 22, 2019
I’ve made a similar argument before, but with reference to dog-fighting. Last year I wrote:
Let’s say you were talking about laws that banned this vicious practice. Would you call them “harsh”? Do you think you’d describe laws that imprison dog-fighting promoters as “restrictive”? Would reporters describe opponents of dog-fighting as “anti-sports” “zealots,” who favored “strict” bans on “animal owners’ leisure time rights”?
Of course not. Certainly mainstream reporters, who weren’t in the bag for criminal franchises that sponsor vicious dog-fights, wouldn’t use such language. Nor would we speak of “harsh” laws banning spousal rape, domestic violence, or child porn. A reporter who turned in a story that used language like that would not be long for his job. And rightly so.
But news organizations whose staff overwhelmingly favor legal abortion, from bottom to top, use such language about laws intended to protect unborn children. (See what I did there? I didn’t use any agitprop terms like “pro-choice.”) That shocks me but doesn’t surprise me. Not only do most journalists agree on abortion; most of them don’t even have any pro-life friends.
And that’s why reporters like Reis Thibault, who wrote the Washington Post story, and Boorstein, who Tweeted about it, blithely use heavily biased language.
To make this point more vividly, I’m going to rewrite Thibault’s piece, but with a few tiny tweaks. The only places where changes appear are to alter the subject matter from a practice that kills small humans, to one that kills dogs. Throughout, “women” are replaced with “dog-owners,” etc.
GOP Governor Signs Law Banning Dog-Fighting, Even for Very Small Dogs
By Reis Thibault, The Washington Post
Mississippi’s governor has signed into law one of the strictest dog-fighting bans in the country, making it even more difficult for owners to fight their dogs in a state where only one dog-pit still operates.
The bill, set to take effect in July, bans dog-fighting for any animal over 12 pounds. Some ninety percent of the dogs in Mississippi weigh more than that.
Mississippi’s new restrictions are part of a reinvigorated nationwide effort to limit access to dog fights, propelled by Republican-dominated state legislatures and an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. This year alone, at least 11 states have introduced “Dachshund bills,” including Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri — some of the country’s most populous states.
Kentucky’s governor signed a similar measure last week, which a federal judge quickly blocked, questioning its constitutionality. In January, an Iowa state court did the same to a 2018 law.
Challenging Fido v. Wade
Left-wing and animal rights groups have said that they hope this rash of legislation will eventually force the Supreme Court to reconsider Fido v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized dog-fighting nationwide, and that they will find a sympathetic audience in recently confirmed Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Even before Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed Mississippi’s bill, advocates were planning their legal challenge.
“This ban is one of the most restrictive dog-fighting bans signed into law, and we will take Mississippi to court to make sure it never takes effect,” Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney at the Center for Pet Owner Rights in New York, said in a statement.
Owners Rights Activists Mobilize
Schneller, the American Combat License Union and the dog-fighting group GROWAL have called the law unconstitutional and reminiscent of another recent Mississippi measure banning dog-fighting over 15 pounds. Last year, a federal judge declared that law unconstitutional.
“Lawmakers didn’t get the message,” Schneller said. “They are determined to rob Mississippians of the right to fight their dogs.”
Bryant said he’s ready for the court battle.
“We will all answer to the good Lord one day,” Bryant said in a tweet. “I will say in this instance, ‘I fought for the lives of innocent pups, even under threat of legal action.’”
Dogless Legislators Wrote the Law
Mississippi’s legislature, where just under 14 percent of lawmakers are dog-owners, is the most pet-negative statehouse in the country. Both chambers passed the bill in a mostly party-line vote. In all, 99 petless and 11 pet-owning legislators supported it. Just one Republican, Rep. Missy McGee, voted against the bill.
“I cannot support legislation that makes such hard-line, final decisions for other dog-owners,” McGee, who considers herself “pro-dog,” told the Clarion Ledger.
But David French, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, argued “it’s time to throw down the gauntlet” and abandon the strategy of limiting pet owners’ rights through “incrementalism.” Writing in the institute’s magazine, French said dog weight limits represent the best opportunities to overturn the Fido decision and establish “a dog-fight-free zone in the United States of America.” One state senator said the bill made Mississippi “the most pet-friendly State in the Nation.”
A Wide Array of Restrictions
For Mississippi’s pet-owner rights activists, however, the weight limit law is simply the latest offense to pet owners in a state that already makes it extremely difficult to fight dogs. Chief among these roadblocks: a severe shortage of dog-pits. For at least eight years, there has only been one.
That usually means a long wait list.
Then, when an owner actually schedules a fight, the state requires him to wait at least 24 hours for the match. During that time, he also needs state-mandated counseling and canine ultrasound. If he’s under the age of 18, both his parents or a court must also consent.
“In short, it is already nearly impossible to fight your dogs in Mississippi,” said Kelly Krause, a Center for Pet-Owners Rights spokeswoman. “And this law acts as an outright ban given all the other laws.”
On Twitter, a reporter at the Jackson Free Press, a local magazine, took stock of the state’s standing with a handful of pet statistics: Mississippi has among the highest rates of dog mortality, he noted, along with some of the worst veterinary care for its smallest dogs.
“But,” reporter Ashton Pittman said, “we did pass some dog-fighting bans.”
Back to Reality
I think we can agree that Reis Thibault would never file such a story. The Washington Post would never run it. And a religion reporter like Michelle Boorstein would never share it.
The pro-choice bias in the media class is so overpowering, however, that I’m willing to bet that everyone involved thought he was being even-handed. That this news story didn’t really belong on the op-ed page. Because it gave both sides, equally. And the language they chose? Well, they never gave that a second thought.
Stop Using the Enemy’s Language
I don’t expect Thibault, Boorstein, or anyone at the Washington Post to read this column. (Though I promise to Tweet it at them.) Instead I hope that pro-lifers learn a lesson about the power of language and word choice. As I wrote last year:
From now on, whenever you talk about the issue, remember to correct people who (wittingly or not) have adopted pro-abortion or pseudo-neutral language.
Don’t speak of “banning” abortions. Talk about “protecting unborn Americans.” Hence we should say that a law “protects unborn Americans starting at 20 weeks after conception.” Or that a law “denies protection to unborn Americans conceived by rape.”
Don’t call a good law “harsh” or even “strict.” Call it “principled” and “comprehensive.” Don’t call a weak law “liberal” but “lax.” Describe our current situation, where a child may be aborted for any reason all through the nine months of pregnancy as “chaotic.” It’s a “Wild West,” “Darwinian” legal climate where women and doctors have “the power of life and death over every unborn American.”