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Headlines matter.

The skewed portrayal that several "family-minded" news media sites are employing in depicting the closing of Hope Medical Group has come to my attention recently thanks to more information provided by RH Reality Check, a blog that focuses on women's reproductive health issues in the United States and abroad. Hope Medical Group, an abortion clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana, that has been operating for 30 years, was recently shut down by the state under Act 490 of the 2010 Louisiana Legislature. Several different sites have covered the story with views on reproductive health rights ranging from obviously anti- to inclusively pro-choice. Before the clinic was shut down, Hope Medical Group was the subject of more than six state-supervised inspections, something that articles on sites like LifeSiteNews and others are completely failing to mention. Maybe because on all of these visits, the clinic has taken the suggestions of the inspectors seriously and made changes to their medical center to comply with the state's regulations.

If inspectors had recently come to visit the clinic and kept it open after their visit, it seems highly suspicious that the clinic would soon after be shut down. And even more suspicious that the mandate to shutter the practice would come in the form of a fax to the clinic "after business hours." Another interesting, not-so-savory tidbit left out of the LifeSiteNews piece is that officials alerted the media before alerting the employees of Hope. Also left out - the fact that the clinic founder, Robin Rothrock, believes that the claims that these efforts are to protect the health of women "could not be further from the truth."

This article on LifeSiteNews was published three days after the Associated Press covered the story from the point of view of Rothrock, completely failing to add her story or the AP's objective voice to their coverage of the event. One would assume that they - and sites like them - would want to gather as much information as possible especially if their plan is to publish a story three days after it has broken into the media. With a sensationalist, partially true and eye-catching headline claiming that the clinic was "shut down for ignoring 'most basic' medical practices," I suppose we can't assume that everyone acts in the interests of responsibility. Those who already have a negative view of abortion will read that headline, be disgusted with the idea that abortion clinics operate like poorly equipped 19th-century medical torture devices, and will thus have their opinion of the procedure and the women who administer and receive the procedure tainted even further in their minds. Which is, I suppose, exactly what sites like LifeSiteNews are intending to do.

Headlines matter. They grab the attention of the reader and ask them to read more. But sometimes, all they do is grab the reader's attention, who then move on to make a snap judgment based solely on the information (accurate or not) in that headline. Notice the difference in the headlines listed below and tell me that one doesn't color this perfectly legal, perfectly safe, and perfectly normal medical procedure in a horrible, negatively persuasive light.

Sources:
RH Reality Check: "Advocates Claim Politics Behind Closing of Louisiana Abortion Clinic"
http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/09/04/advocates-claim-politics-p...

LifeSiteNews: "Louisiana Abortion Clinic Shut Down for Ignoring “Most Basic” Medical Practices"
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/sep/10090707.html

Associated Press story on WXVT's news site: "La. officials suspend abortion clinic's license"
http://www.wxvt.com/Global/story.asp?S=13101953

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