So Karl du Fresne has joined Right to Life in piling on Sunday Star Times journalist Marika Hill over her article this past Sunday titled “Family Planning Association’s Charity Status Comes Under Fire”. Although he hasn’t gone as far as Ken Orr of Right to Life, who says the article is a “slanderous and libellous attack on Right to Life”, du Fresne accuses Hill of having been “captured by the pro-abortion lobby” and writing something “straight from the feminist propaganda handbook”.
What offended du Fresne and Orr so much was the lead paragraph, which said this: “Anti-abortionists are taking aim at the charity status of the Family Planning Association in their latest assault against women and pro-choice organisations.” In particular it was the “latest assault against women” the prompted du Fresne’s, um, assault against Hill.
I have to admit, I was surprised when I read that lead. As someone steeped in mainstream media speak myself (disclosure: du Fresne was actually my boss at the Dominion many moons ago), I just know you can’t write things on issues like abortion or women’s rights or reproductive justice (well, on anything really) that tread as closely to the truth of the matter as that phrase does. And I’m sure du Fresne’s outrage on behalf of the “objective” news media will have its supporters.
But why such outrage in this particular case? I suspect it’s because du Fresne himself is a committed opponent of abortion rights, something he didn’t point out in his post, and he doesn't care much for feminists. If this were on any other issue, I wonder if his commitment to “unbiased” journalism would be quite this fierce. (Though, to be fair, he’s recently written about the “objectivity” issue in more general terms.)
For my part, I found the lead utterly refreshing, because in this case, that statement actually did reflect the truth of the matter. Yes, despite the women du Fresne apparently knows who are hostile to Family Planning (fellow anti-choice travellers, perhaps?) and the endless claims by Orr that he is motivated in his efforts by his concern for women.
(It was also a bit amusing to see how much of the material in du Fresne’s post itself came straight from the anti-abortion propaganda handbook – like “feminist propaganda handbook”, “pro-abortion lobby”. Where is that feminist handbook? I want a copy!)
To assess whether or not Hill’s lead had more truthiness than not, I’d advise (or not, maybe) readers to take a spin through Right to Life’s Web site, (at www.righttolife[dot]org[dot]nz) which is filled with highly inflammatory material that attacks not just women, but anyone who isn’t in a straight, church-sanctioned marriage that has or will produce (and not via ivf) children. (I wrote about that here.) Among other things, in attacking Family Planning’s “Keeping it Safe” guide, RTL essentially calls “same-sex attracted women” amoral, and their sexual practices “unnatural and degrading”. Not an attack on women?
Or how about this curious classic from the RTL site: “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg. No one has the right to choose to kill another human being.” (That first part about the ice cream and the Porsche is actually a quote from a U.S. anti-abortion activist. I don't know if it says what RTL wants it to say, but then again I don't really know exactly what it's trying to say. Pregnant women as trapped animals? Porsches? Murder?)
Or, considering how widespread the use of contraception is among all New Zealanders, this: “Contraception is the ‘mother of abortion.’” (Then re-read above on abortion.)
And of course, those of us who are pro-choice are frequently attacked, if not libeled and slandered – though we are quite used to it. We’re likened to Nazis, to supporters of genocide, to championing a “culture of death” – Orr even suggested Alranz may have “contrived” a recent threat it received “with the objective of discrediting the pro-life movement”, and said Family Planning “regularly smuggles girls out of school to have an abortion”.
The truth of the matter is that the truth of what Right to Life is calling for is actually never expressed in the mainstream media. It is tip-toed around, avoided, sanitised. Right to Life (I don’t know about du Fresne) wants: No contraception. No abortion. No homosexuality. (And that’s just for starters.) All of which, presumably, should be legislated for and enforced by the agents of the state. Think about what that means for just a second? Actually, it’s quite unthinkable. It’s so unthinkable that it never makes it into articles about Right to Life’s campaigns.