The Oklahoman

Editorial Deceptions

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Another anti-abortion editorial published in The Oklahoman is so excruciatingly disingenuous and so filled with false comparisons it deserves a mention if only for conducting a rhetoric analysis of juvenile argumentation.

The short editorial, titled “Health question:,” (Aug. 5, 2013), makes the point that a recently proposed Alabama bill and other similar bills throughout the country restricting abortion is really an issue about good health standards, which “would be noncontroversial if abortion weren't involved.” But the clear intent of the Alabama bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin and later blocked by a federal judge, is to essentially do away with the abortion procedure in Alabama, not protect women’s health. In other words, so this argument goes, to ensure good health standards we should do away with medical procedures. That’s setting good standards, isn’t it? Let’s do away with basic medical treatments in order to have good standards.

“The real purpose of this bill is to make safe and legal abortion in Alabama unavailable under any circumstance," said a Planned Parenthood official about the bill. Who would think otherwise?

The editorial then makes its way to this comparison:

It strikes us as odd that standards for humane treatment of animals headed to slaughter are widely supported, yet the idea of requiring that a women's health clinic be tied to hospitals in case of emergencies is seen as an unconscionable attack on women.

Note the “us,” as if that’s clear in an unsigned editorial, but especially note the illogical comparison between animals and humans. So, in other words, if you’re in favor of the humane treatment of animals, you should also be in favor of legislation that essentially stops access to the abortion procedure. It’s a non sequitur. Why not just say, It strikes us as odd that the same people who drive their cars to work each day also like to sing in the shower and mow their lawns. It’s absurd. There is no equivalency in the argument itself.

For good measure, the editorial gets in another false comparison AND bashes Obamacare. Here it is:

It's ironic that groups like hers [a reproductive rights activist] support the most intrusive health care law ever passed in this country (Obamacare), but want abortion removed from most any regulation or restriction. What's wrong with having high standards in place? For the abortion industry in this country, the answer is “Plenty.”

So, in other words, if you support the Affordable Care Act, then you should be against abortion because what all these draconian bills do is shut down places that perform abortions. See the logic behind that one? It’s incredible. No, even if you think the ACA is "intrusive,” it’s still about giving more people access to medical procedures not stopping more people from getting medical procedures.

Here’s more on McClurkin and the Alabama bill, which is pretty much similar to what was passed recently in Texas. The clear intent of these bills is to shut down medical clinics that perform abortions. To argue that it’s about women’s health is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. If you want to end legal abortion in this country, then just make the argument. Why hide behind rhetorical deception?

McClurkin also made the rather strange claim that abortion is “a major surgery that removes the largest ‘organ’ in a woman's body.” A fetus is not a body organ; it wouldn’t be the largest organ, anyway.

The Oklahoman doesn’t mention that gaffe, of course, in its relentless quest to end safe abortions for women in this state. Here’s the real irony: The editorial implicitly argues for a return to back-alley abortions as it claims to be the defenders of good health standards.

But Insurance Prices Went Down In New York

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Hardly a week goes by without at least one editorial appearing in The Oklahoman that rails against the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The editorials are filled with half truths, sweeping generalizations and predictions over what MIGHT happen, not what IS happening. Their overall purpose seems more about demonizing President Barack Obama, now in his second term, than providing rational arguments against the legislation, which was signed into law in 2010. I remain unsure how demonizing a second-term Democratic president is going to help Republicans in the next presidential election, especially since many voters have become so desensitized to the constant criticism, but there’s no doubt that remains one of the major focuses of The Oklahoman editorial page and GOP political strategy.

On Saturday, in its weekly Scissor Tales editorial column, The Oklahoman railed against the amount of money, $1.7 million, the federal government is spending in Oklahoma to help people find an individual health insurance plan. The mini-editorial also declares decisively, “Under Obamacare, health insurance prices are increasing dramatically in the individual market” and “It's telling that Obamacare is so expensive and complicated that even its backers believe that people without insurance will choose not to get any — unless some federal worker prods them along.”

Well, like most anything published on the editorial page in The Oklahoman, such sweeping conclusions need vetting and context.

In fact, last week New York state officials announced that health insurance premiums this year for individuals will drop by 50 percent and some health experts credited the new health insurance exchange in that state created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

To be fair, which is something The Oklahoman editorial writers choose never to be, New York had some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country so the drop can’t necessarily be considered a nationwide phenomenon. But it’s also quite clear that the editorial’s sweeping statement about rising health insurance prices needs some clarification and context. The point is that we’re just now learning how new competition in the health insurance market will affect pricing throughout the country. Even if some markets end up with higher prices it doesn’t mean they will stay that way.

By resorting to snarky generalizations, The Oklahoman does a disservice to its readers, who, whether conservative or not, deserve truthful information and not just right-wing propaganda when it comes to medical issues. In the case of health matters, it could literally be a life or death situation for some people, but The Oklahoman editorial page lacks this basic, humane moral commitment to its readers.

Here’s a bit of information that I wrote about back in 2010 that proves that last point is more than hyperbole: The Oklahoma Publishing Company, or OPUBCO, which publishes The Oklahoman, actually participated in an early retiree health insurance program created by the ACA. I wrote about it here. In other words, it’s okay for the newspaper to take advantage of Obamacare while it claims—to use its own rhetorical tone—that the world is coming to an end because more people will have health insurance and access to medical care.

Too often, the Republican debate over Obamacare leaves out the moral component and only focuses on costs. In the contemporary world, all people should have a basic right to health care. The Oklahoman editorial page, judging from its growing anti-Obamacare canon, stands against that basic idea. It wants winners and losers, some who suffer, some who don’t, some who die, some who live. That’s how the free market works, right? Let’s argue about that issue, which is the one that really matters.

Demeaning Conflations In The Oklahoman

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A recent editorial in The Oklahoman is a subtle but classic case of how the newspaper continues to demonize gay people as it panders to its right-wing readership.

The editorial, “On abortion, left's stance is far afield from U.S. general public” (July 9, 2013), is also a typical example of cherry picking evidence and drawing illogical associations between two non-related issues. The editorial does this, it appears, to criticize gay people and same-sex marriage, not just to make a supported argument about abortion.

Note the subtle association in the editorial’s first paragraph:

The U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage issues left liberals jubilant and proclaiming that conservative critics of gay marriage are out of step with modern life. Yet those same liberals are often unflinching supporters of abortion on demand, a position strongly rejected by the broad public.

Following the basic illogic of the argument is not difficult here. “Gay marriage”—not “same sex marriage”—is supported presumably by a lot of gay liberals and other liberals who crave “abortion on demand” for all, according to the newspaper. In other words, the newspaper’s logic implies, if you’re gay, you probably support the demanding of abortion anytime, anywhere. Give me my abortion, NOW!

Of course, that’s not the case. There’s even an organization, Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, that proves that assumption wrong. I’m unsure how viable this organization really is, but I do know people in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community and those who support and love them hold varying political and cultural views.

So the leap from “gay marriage” to liberals to “abortion on demand” makes the editorial not only a basic non sequitur but also a sleazy, lazy and stereotypical smear of the LGBT community.

The editorial then goes on to allegedly present evidence that the country is solidly against this “abortion on demand” concept by citing a 2012 Gallup that shows 64 percent of Americans want to ban abortion from the second trimester of pregnancy. It also cites another obscure poll and a Texas poll that shows there’s majority support for prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.

What the editorial doesn’t do, of course, is mention more recent Gallup polls, which show majority support for abortion in general terms. In May of THIS YEAR, Gallup published this on its site:

As Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell awaits the jury verdict in his capital murder trial, Gallup finds 26% of Americans saying abortion should be legal under any circumstances and 20% saying it should be illegal in all circumstances. The majority, 52%, opt for something in between, as has been the case in nearly every Gallup measure of this question since 1975.

In other words, support for the abortion procedure has remained steady for 38 years, which is a far more telling statistic in terms of where the country stands. Note as well that only 26 percent of Americans, according to the poll, believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance. I guess these would be the abortion on demanders (AODers). Yet more than 50 percent of Americans support same sex marriage, according to another recent Gallup poll. So about half of those people who support “gay marriage,” using the newspaper’s illogic, aren’t even AODers.

The newspaper also conveniently omits the fact that studies show that abortions are rarely performed beyond 13 weeks of pregnancy. One academic study showed that in 2007 less than 9 percent of all abortions were performed beyond that time and only 1.2 percent of all abortion were performed after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

In other words, second trimester and late-term abortions remain extremely rare in this country. The anti-abortion crowd often doesn’t note this small percentage when it makes arguments about banning abortion after a certain time in a woman’s pregnancy.

Frankly, I’m unsure how reliable polls remain in our culture today, but 38 years of steady support in Gallup polls for the abortion procedure means something substantial. The fact that second trimester abortions are rare shows that reproductive education is the answer to preventing them, not draconian laws pushed by religious extremists. Late-term abortions are often for medical reasons or when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

And, to reiterate, abortion has nothing to do with celebrating same-sex marriage decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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