Media Exclude Pro-Life Women in Coverage of Iowa Abortion Ban


“Women” doesn’t include all women, at least according to the media’s latest coverage of abortion.

On May 4, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed into law a ban on abortion if there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, or around six weeks into pregnancy. Although the law makes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and life of the mother, news sites recognized it as the “most restrictive” abortion ban in America. They also warned of a possible “nightmare for women” – “women” minus those who identify as pro-life.

Though a woman signed the bill, many in the media framed the legislation as an attack on “women.”

In an NBC News op-ed, writer Maureen Shaw concluded that “Women’s lives and health do not matter to Iowa’s Republican legislature or governor.” She called the law’s potential to later overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, a “dystopian nightmare for women.”

But who are these “women”?

It wasn’t Gov. Reynolds, who argued, “[I]f death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life?”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini didn’t fit the description either, as she applauded Iowa for recognizing “personhood has inherent dignity from the moment of conception.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser also doesn’t qualify, as she stands with Gov. Reynolds for “advancing legislation that recognizes the humanity of the unborn child.”

But if by “women” Shaw exclusively meant “writers for online women’s news sites,” she would be correct.

For Refinery29, writer Andrea González-Ramírez covered the “latest attack against a woman’s right to choose” while The Cut senior writer Gabriella Paiella warned the bill “could have seriously adverse repercussions for Iowa women.”

“Basically, if you were planning to move to Iowa in the near future, you might want to reconsider,” added Marie Claire editorial fellow Alex Warner. “Maybe somewhere where your state politicians will actually take women’s rights into consideration?”

This isn’t the first time pro-life women have been excluded from the term “women.” When the Women’s March began in 2016, the organizers made clear that pro-life women weren’t welcome to officially participate – by removing women-led pro-life groups from the partner list.

Like media figures, leaders of abortion organizations also exclude pro-life women when talking about women.

NARAL President Ilyse Hogue called the bill signing a “sad day for women and families in Iowa” in a statement to Refinery29, while Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens told Teen Vogue in another statement that “Politicians in Iowa are hell bent on controlling women’s bodies.”

In a May 8 interview with Democracy Now!, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards found herself “shocked” that Gov. Reynolds “signed this bill,” and added that “this is going to have an impact this November.”

“That’s why women are turning out in droves,” Richards said, “because they understand that their – their rights, as well as affordable healthcare, are under attack.”

Yes, women’s rights are “under attack.” But not in the way she thinks. If only she and those in the media would take a moment to contemplate that pro-life women champion women’s rights too. It’s just that their definition of “women” includes baby girls in the womb.

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Katie Yoder serves as the associate culture editor at NewsBusters and is a columnist for She is also the Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow for the Media Research Center’s culture division. Follow her on Twitter @k_yoder.

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