July 15, 2022
(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) – America has been bracing for the end of Roe v. Wade since early May when a brief by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito outlining how and why the court decided to overturn the landmark 1973 decision leaked to the political news site Politico.
That decision became official on June 24 and sent a relatively slow news week into overdrive not seen in 50 years — or possibly ever.
It’s obviously an important decision for both pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates, but it is also a vitally important decision for journalism. It is unlike anything the craft has ever seen, and what has become quite clear in coverage across all media, is that a large portion of the news media is taking a side. But in doing so, they are not necessarily going pro-choice or anti-abortion so much as they are anti-rights removal. It is, after all, the first time in America’s 245-year history that the Supreme Court has removed a right that it gave to the populace a half-century before. This outlines how the politics of the latest judicial appointments have sent the U.S. into a divisive tailspin from which it may never recover.
While some of the journalism has given equal play to both sides of the issue, some organizations have taken a pro-choice stance. There are dozens of articles about which states provide abortions, how to get one, what phone numbers to call for pills, and further guidance. It is doing what journalism is supposed to do — inform the public with important information. As a journalist, I think it’s acceptable to take that stance, given that every woman whose reproductive rights are now limited does not know what it is like to live in a world without Roe. The removal of the right to body autonomy really only has one side, and I can easily sleep at night with outlets firmly standing on that side of the debate versus trying to straddle the line for “objectivity’s sake.”
And that brings me to this article from Vox, titled “It’s important to talk to kids about abortion. Here’s how.” To me, this is the best form of advocacy journalism because it puts out an important call to action that not every parent takes into account. Yes, abortion has been legal for 50 years, but very few parents speak to their kids about it — whether or not they are in favor of it. In fact, I’d posit that parents who are anti-abortion likely speak to their kids about it more than those who are pro-choice. Regardless, it’s not an easy subject to discuss, but given the intense news coverage of the decision, it’s a topic that no teenager with a connected device can avoid — no matter where they may reside.
What struck me about this article is that it’s strictly about engaging the topic. It’s not about discussing celibacy or abstinence or even birth control. It’s about having an open discussion about abortion and how to build that discussion into a positive narrative with your children. It presumes that we all know someone — or are someone — who has had an abortion. It advocates for open discussion not based on belief systems but on information systems built toward a level of comfort around reproductive rights and body autonomy that has been taken away. It is not lost on the reader that there is a veiled narrative that future generations will be the ones to take Roe — and body autonomy — back.
In my opinion, that’s what makes this the best kind of advocacy journalism. It doesn’t get into the politics of the issue per se but simply sets out a way in which the reader can engage a very important conversation openly and with a positive outcome.
I’ll close with a bit of an aside because it suits the point about the difficulty the subject and talking about it can present. I texted the link to this very article to my family group chat, of which four of my teenage nieces are a part. My family is in Canada, where abortion is legal, and it looks to remain that way based on statements from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the wake of the overturning of Roe.
My two younger siblings and their spouses are all pro-choice, but the private texts I received from both of my siblings about sending over that link reinforced to me how important an article this is.
From my brother: “Bro, why would you send a link like that to the group chat? Leave the parenting to those of us who have kids.” (I do not have kids.)
From my sister: “While I appreciate that you are a journalist and want to send over information to us, this is HIGHLY inappropriate to send to teenagers who are 13-18 yrs old. You should have cleared this with us first.”
There is merit in what both of them had to say, but my reply was simply, “read the article, digest what it says.” I added that having this discussion now is better than having it when they come home and tell you they might be accidentally pregnant. I have yet to get a reply, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to make the next time I see them both — at Thanksgiving dinner — all the more entertaining.