Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

On Sunday, Joe Biden raised a few eyebrows–and the hackles of the conservative pro-life establishment–by saying that his Catholic faith dictates his belief that life begins at conception during an interview on Meet the Press.

The New York Times treated the interview as a “gap” story, about the conflict between Biden’s private religious views and his political stance as a pro-choicer. The news media often treat stories about politicians who are personally opposed to abortion but respect the right of women to make their own choices about the issue as tales of the gap between their faith and their public policy.

Here’s the top of the Times story:

WASHINGTON — Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception. But the Delaware senator added that he would not impose his personal views on others, and had indeed voted against curtailing abortion rights and against criminalizing abortion…..

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Biden tried to walk the line between the staunch abortion-rights advocates in his party and his own religious beliefs. While he said he did not often talk about his faith, he said of those who disagree with him: “They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

But God-o-Meter has to question the accuracy of this gap story. The Times sums up Biden’s abortion record by noting that Biden himself said he “had indeed voted against curtailing abortion rights and against criminalizing abortion.”

What the Times didn’t note is that Biden has also voted against public funding for abortion and supported the federal partial-birth abortion ban. That helps explain why he got a 36-percent rating from NARAL in 2003.

The news media shouldn’t parrot the pro-life movement’s line that unless a politician is close to 100-percent supportive of criminalizing abortion, he or she is completely pro-choice, or even pro-abortion. That’s more or less what the Times and a lot of other news outlets did today.

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