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     COMMENTS: Axelrod Wades into Abortion Minefield

Brad Wilmouth, our conservative news-monitoring colleague at the Media Research Center, had six quibbles with Jim Axelrod's CBS profile of LeRoy Carhart, who runs an "abortion & contraception clinic" in Nebraska. Carhart provides late-term abortions in the heartland following the assassination of his Kansan colleague George Tiller in May. Axelrod showed Carhart driving by a different route each morning to get to his clinic for fear that he too would be murdered by a pro-life militant.

One, Wilmouth accused Axelrod of providing a "softball forum" for Carhart to describe his practice. Two, he objected to the use of the word "cause" to characterize Carhart's determination to "care for women." Three, Axelrod did not use the term "partial birth" to describe late-term abortions and did not describe the procedure. Four, Axelrod was criticized for using the formulation "not all of his strongest critics condone violence" when he could have used the word "most" instead. Five, Axelrod was not shown directly confronting Carhart with pro-life arguments. Six, Wilmouth criticized Axelrod for portraying pro-life arguments as having a religious basis rather than "a more solid physical argument."

Wilmouth also defined Carhart as a "late-term abortion doctor" even though Axelrod told us in his report that Carhart only rarely performs procedures later than the 22nd week--about once every ten days--compared with a total of 3,500 pregnancies that he terminates each year. Wilmouth did quote Axelrod's exchange with a pro-life picketer: "It is the law of the land that he is allowed to do what he is doing." "It was the law of the land in Germany to corral Jews and gas them. It was the law of the land to make black people slaves."

Wilmouth was wrong to call this feature "softball." His criticisms about word use--"cause""partial birth"--are nitpicking. His implication that pro-life arguments were underrepresented is groundless. And yes, Wilmouth is correct to call Axelrod on that "not all" disclaimer. There is no evidence that anything except a minuscule minority of pro-life activists have assassination in their minds.

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