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by John Carmody, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Washington Post, October 30, 1989

In network news stories on abortion reported by women, the opinions quoted were 58 percent in favor of abortion rights, 42 percent antiabortion. In stories reported by men, the opinions quoted were 60 percent for abortion rights, 40 percent against.

Those are some of the conclusions of a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs that examined 118 stories on abortion that appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31.

The study also found that abortion-rights activists are more visible on TV than their antiabortion opponents.

CMPA co-director S. Robert Lichter said Friday that "surveys showed that most journalists personally favor the pro-choice position, but they are trained to report the news objectively. The heightened salience of this issue for women may have created a 'gender gap' in reporting."

The survey also found that abortion-rights activists were quoted almost twice as often as their antiabortion counterparts (178 to 92) and the groups most often quoted were the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), quoted 26 times each, followed by National Right to Life (18), Operation Rescue (14) and Planned Parenthood (11).

Most frequently quoted on the air were NOW president Molly Yard and NARAL executive director Kate Michelman (16 quotes apiece), followed by President Bush (12), Operation Rescue head Randall Terry (8) and Norma McCorvey (6), the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade.

When identifying their own causes, activists usually called themselves "pro-choice" and "pro-life, " respectively. TV reporters tended to accept the first designation but not the second. Reporters selected the " pro-choice" label 74 percent of the time and "abortion rights" the other 26. But they used "pro-life" or "right-to-life" only 6 percent of the time, preferring "antiabortion" the other 94 percent.

The CMPA study found a similar difference in print stories by male and female reporters at major newspapers (The Washington Post and the New York Times).

The full study appears in the current issue of Media Monitor, published by the Center.

Copyright 1989 The Washington Post