'Choice' Requires The Facts

CAL THOMAS

April 27, 1992|By CAL THOMAS

WASHINGTON. — In their arguments before the Supreme Court last week and in television and newspaper ads, those who advocate ''a woman's right to choose'' might have a stronger case for their position if they also favored full disclosure so that women would be fully informed about their choices.

Some recent incidents offer additional evidence that, sloganeering notwithstanding, ''choice'' is clearly not what most pro-choicers'' have in mind for women with unplanned pregnancies.

Among the dictionary definitions of ''choice'' is this one: ''a sufficient number and variety to choose among.'' That is not what most pro-choicers favor. In fact, they seek to restrict access by women to information that could lead them to make choices other than abortion.

Network television -- the medium with the greatest impact and power to inform, distort and motivate -- refuses to carry pictures of the consequences of abortions. Never have I seen a picture of an aborted child on national TV, and rarely does one hear from women who regret having ''chosen'' to abort and who say they would not had been given more information.

Much politics is involved in the censorship of some pictures and the broadcast of others. On last Monday's ''CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,'' a story was carried about the Indiana congressional candidacy of Michael Bailey.

He is running commercials that show pictures of aborted babies. Under Federal Communications Commission rules for political ads, local television stations are required to run them as is, but CBS News placed a large electronic blob over the pictures of the dead babies.

A CBS News spokeswoman, Donna Dees, told me the pictures were considered ''too graphic'' to show at the dinner hour. I noted that pictures of dead American soldiers during the Vietnam War, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and even baby harp seals clubbed to death during hunts were broadcast during the dinner hour. When I inquired as to the difference, Ms. Dees said such decisions are made on a ''case-by-case basis.''

Surveys have shown that most network journalists opposed American involvement in Vietnam, oppose Israeli policy in the occupied territories and favor animal and abortion rights. It is fair to ask if personal political preferences, rather than supposedly objective editorial judgments, are responsible for which pictures are shown and which are censored.

With pictures go policies, and there are policies associated with pictures of dead babies that some pro-choicers don't want us to see. As Michael Bailey says in one of his commercials, ''When something is so horrifying that we can't stand to look at it, then why are we tolerating it?''

What about images that are not horrifying at all? Some pro-choicers are so fearful of women receiving information that might lead them not to abort that they are campaigning against tasteful and uplifting commercials underwritten by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation.

These commercials, professionally produced at an estimated cost of $20 million, are built around the theme ''Life. What a beautiful choice.''

One shows children dressed in school uniforms and Halloween costumes. The announcer says these children might have been aborted because of unplanned pregnancies. The other commercial centers on adoption as an alternative and depicts a couple about to meet their new baby daughter.

So afraid are some pro-choicers that women might view these commercials and decide not to have abortions that the CNBC network, the cable television division of NBC, stopped running the spots after 100 of its employees complained.

If employees can influence which paid commercials are aired, it makes one wonder how much political influence they are exerting over news programming.

Lifetime cable network has also stopped running the commercials. To his credit, Ted Turner, who favors ''choice'' on abortion, continues to run the spots on all of his cable networks.

Some pro-choicers claim that to assert women need more information before making their decisions is to insult women's intelligence. In fact, it is to increase their knowledge with additional facts.

It says that, like truth-in-labeling and truth-in-lending laws, we all need more, not less, information if our choices are to be informed and if, in fact, they are to fit the definition of choice.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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