When the Supreme Court ruled to legalize abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, authorizing the woman and her doctor to make the decision, individual state laws regarding abortion were invalidated. Up until the decision on January 22, 1973, states had their own laws on abortion. Four states had already legalized abortion, and Georgia had recently had its abortion law overturned, allowing the procedure to be done when the mother's life was in danger, the fetus was deformed, or the pregnancy occurred by rape. The pivotal ruling mandated that all states give women the right to choose to end her pregnancy within the first three months.
The New York Times and the Los Angeles times both published their stories on the event on the front page of their papers, although the stories had different approaches. The Los Angeles Times printed the article with a big, bold headline: ABORTION RULING: MOTHER KNOWS BEST. The lead delivers the basic facts of the supreme court's split decision, followed by a report of the new guidelines set for the new law. The woman and her doctor are the only people permitted to end the pregnancy within the first three months. The state may then determine its own regulatory procedures for abortions acquired after the three-month period, in relation to the mother's health. States may prohibit abortions after the fetus becomes “viable,” or capable of living outside the womb, unless the mother's life is in jeopardy. The LA Times article then concludes by addressing states' laws which need to be clarified as a result of the landmark decision. The coverage is succinct and to-the-point, reporting only the facts of the ruling.
The New York Times article approaches the topic in another way. It begins in a very similar fashion as the LA Times story, but then digresses from the format to shed light upon the moral disagreement between various groups. The reporter remains unbiased in explaining opposing views on the topic. The court justices themselves did not agree unanimously, and the NY Times quoted Justice White's dissenting opinion that it is an injustice that the court seems to value the woman's convenience over the child's life. It is also noted that President Nixon expresses an anti-abortion stance, as well as the Roman Catholic Church.
The article continues on to brief the readers on the Supreme Court's reasoning on the issue. The Constitution does not refer to the unborn when it uses the word “person.” Limiting abortions inhibits equal protection under the law, due process, and the right to privacy. The justices, however, made known that they do not agree with women's rights groups who claim a woman should be able to end her pregnancy whenever she wants, in any way she wants, and for any reason.
The details of the logic behind the abortion regulations are then explained. The court's decision to legalize abortion specifically before the three month period stems from medical research concluding that a woman is less likely to die from an abortion obtained during this period than from childbirth. Also, the court determined that there is no compelling state interest in the fetus until ten weeks before birth, when the fetus is deemed “viable” and capable of living on its own. As a whole, the NY Times covered a broader range of issues connected to the Supreme Court decision than the LA Times, choosing to bring to light opposing opinions on the matter and explain the intricacies of the decision.
By WARREN WEAVER Jr.Special to The New York Times. (1973, January 23). National Guidelines Set by 7-to-2 Vote :High Court Backs Abortions in First Three Months. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 79833982).
ABORTION RULING: MOTHER KNOWS BEST :High Court Ends Curbs on 1st 3 Months. (1973, January 22). Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File),p. 1. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) database. (Document ID: 603608472).