It's interesting to watch the focus of the Christy Freeman story shift without any significant changes in the known facts.
This morning's coverage emphasized the fact that a woman was being charged with murder after a late-term stillbirth after attempting a self-abortion. Of course, the papers didn't neglect to inform the public that three other fetuses were found on her property. For example the Washington Post's headline: Mother Charged in Stillborn Death Fetal and Placental Remains of 4 Are Discovered in Ocean City--disturbing, but accurate and dispassionate.
Everything changed as the day wore on, however:
"Search of Maryland Property Continues, Infant Remains Tested for Link to Accused Killer Mom", says the latest FOX headline.
CNN outdoes FOX: "Police: Remains of 4 babies found at scene of newborn's killing."
"Four Pre-Term Infants Found," says the Guardian atop a story that scarcely mentions abortion. The casual reader might easily conclude that four murdered premature babies were found in Freeman's house, rather than four presumably aborted fetuses:
Prosecutors also would not say how old the other pre-term infants were when they died, although none was thought to be a full-term baby. [Guardian]
The word "abortion" has all but dropped out of this afternoon's coverage. It's all about the dramatic murder investigation with the FBI and earth-moving vehicles and cadaver sniffing dogs.
A dispassionate discussion of facts and law has been replaced by standard-issue dispatches from the ongoing "grim search" for the "bodies" of "infants."
The press has stopped questioning why this is a murder investigation at all. It's only because of a gross misapplication a unworkable anti-choice law that there's a murder investigation underway in the first place. See Bean's post at LGM for more legal details. There is simply no legal basis to charge Freeman with first degree murder for delivering a dead fetus after trying to abort herself. Maryland law exempts women from criminal penalties for self-abortions.
Obviously, there should be an investigation if four fetuses are discovered in a private home after a bloody stillbirth. I would suggest starting with social services and then maybe thinking about a criminal investigation after the medical examiner's report. Whereas, according to the Guardian, these prosecutors laid charges before the ME had drawn final conclusions about the recent stillbirth, let alone assessed the gestational age or cause of death of the other remains found.
Moving fast to press first degree murder charges was a smart PR move by prosecutors because it guaranteed that the press would shift to spectacular-murder mode.
Hey, it's Shark Week on Discovery and we haven't had a fresh Missing White Woman lately.
All this sensationalism is making reporters into dupes for the anti-choice movement. The coverage is acclimatizing the public to view abortion as indistinguishable from serial child murder. If you come out and say "I believe that abortion is murder" on television, most viewers peg you as a radical. Whereas, when the news takes that premise for granted, it's just the facts.
The afternoon stories don't seem especially concerned about the fact that a woman has been charged with first degree murder for delivering a fetus that everyone agrees was born dead.
Hoarding self-aborted fetuses is creepy as all hell, but it's not a crime in Maryland. I'm not dismissing the possibility that other crimes will be discovered in the course of the investigation, but the authorities haven't got nearly the evidence they need to support a charge of first degree murder.