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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Life Institute labels Irish Times biased over abortion coverage

A review of every article published in the Irish Times concerning the issue of abortion over a three-year period has uncovered “systematic, persistent, and overwhelming bias” in support of legalised abortion, claims the Life Institute.

The forensic review took place between January 2013 and December 2015 and found that of the 312 articles published by the paper, which were determined to have bias, 91 per cent (284 of 312 articles) were found to have exhibited a pro-legalised abortion bias.

The review also found that for news reporting the bias was most evident, with 98 per cent (205 of 209 articles) of news reports taking a position supportive of legalised abortion. Meanwhile, according to the review, 76.7 per cent of opinion pieces for the period showed a bias towards legalised abortion with just over 23 per cent taking a pro-life position (79 against 24 articles).

It also found that the Irish Times published two articles a week on average that were biased in favour of abortion, which Life Institute claimed makes them more a campaigner than a news agency.

Life Institute spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said that the analysis “raises serious questions about the conduct of the press in general and the Irish Times in particular during a contentious and emotive debate.

“The Irish people rely on the press to deliver them factual news and fair analysis of the news of the day. In particular, the Irish Times has, for many years, styled itself with some pride as ‘the newspaper of record’,” she said.

Ms Uí Bhriain said that the study found that rather than providing facts and fair analysis, the Irish Times had instead been providing its readers with “a relentless stream of one-sided coverage of the abortion issue in a way that is clearly designed to shift, rather than to inform, public opinion”.

Ms Uí Bhriain said that it was “of particular concern that such overwhelming bias was shown in news reporting, with some 98 per cent of articles which showed bias taking a position supportive of abortion.

“Bias in editorial or opinion writing clearly labelled as such is one thing – and the Irish Times’ 3-1 ratio in favour of legalised abortion in that category tells its own story. But consistent and partisan bias in news coverage of this issue is unacceptable,” she added.

“The fact that the Irish Times has published two articles a week supporting abortion is evidence that the paper is more a campaigner than an impartial news agency,” she said.

Irish Times articles that dealt explicitly and primarily with abortion between January 2013 and December 2015 were examined. In order to determine if an article was balanced or biased, each article was examined to see if they contained bias in five categories which are commonly used in assessing media bias, including bias through selection or omission, bias through placement, which looks at how information is placed in the article, bias through headline, bias through tone, and bias through sources.

“This review shows categorically that the Irish Times is, on this important and sensitive issue, more of an abortion campaigner than a news agency,” concluded Ms Uí Bhriain. “Non-biased reporting and diversity of opinion are essential if the Irish people are to engage in an honest and constructive national discussion on abortion.”

The Irish Times failed to comment on the review, and its findings.

Picture: Courtesy of Life Institute.