Here's what we know about the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks: The Associated Press tells us that the "GOP-led House on Tuesday passed a far-reaching anti-abortion bill." But don't worry, Politico adds. It is "largely symbolic: The bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate."
All well and good -- and maybe even true -- but consider this: When the Gang of Eight immigration bill finally passes the Senate and the House refuses to take it up, will Politico or any other mainstream news outlet refer to the matter as "largely symbolic"? Have any of the president's many doomed agenda items been treated similarly? Hardly.
Congress, as you've heard, does nothing -- by which the media mean that Congress does nothing that the Beltway finds terribly significant. The assumption is embedded and codified in coverage. Bias isn't explicit or concerted; it's about a worldview's dictating coverage. Immigration bills inspire journalists to find victims who are living in the shadows; abortion bills inspire them to dredge D.C. in hopes of finding some anti-science quackery -- a project that invariably unearths a helpful Republican.
But if we were really looking for Todd Akin-level twaddle on abortion, we wouldn't have to look further than Nancy Pelosi, whose brainy insights make Miss Utah sound like William F. Buckley. It's one thing to be unable to articulate a moral distinction between baby killer Kermit Gosnell and a standard late-term abortion -- maybe there is none -- but it's quite another to claim that the Republican bill "would make it a federal law that there would be no abortion in our country" (a lie) or claim that you're unable to discuss the morality of dismembering a viable 30-week-old fetus because it is on "sacred ground." Outside the conservative media (the question was asked by The Weekly Standard's John McCormack), Pelosi's incoherence was hardly worthy of discussion.
So some things matter, and other things most definitely do not. The Democrats' ill-fated gun restriction push was never a "symbolic effort" or "far-reaching," was it? Coverage of the Newtown, Conn., shootings -- though it often had a fitting level of outrage, horror and sadness -- was almost immediately turned into a debate over gun control. The Gosnell horror, when covered (which was sporadically), was sequestered from any broader discussion about morality or science or regulations or reform -- or anything other than the crime itself.