The American public has a macabre fascination with evil, and the media are vocationally inclined to feed that fascination — except when the evil involves abortion.
On April 21, the B.C. Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper of Vancouver, reported that “bio-medical waste” that included tissue from aborted babies was being shipped from British Columbia to a waste-to-energy facility in Marion County, Oregon. The baby parts were then being incinerated to produce electricity for homes and businesses in the Portland area.
Executives at the energy plant, the Marion County Resource Recovery Facility, claim they did not know until recently that the waste included aborted baby parts. The revelation prompted Marion County Board to call an emergency meeting late last week, after which officials announced that they would temporarily stop all biomedical waste shipments to the incinerator and amend local ordinances to bar any future shipments that could contain fetal tissue.
Though no law had been broken, officials used words like “outraged,” “disgusted,” “appalled” and “horrified” to describe the baby burning. “There are not enough strong words to describe my feelings,” Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson told a local TV station. “This will not continue … I don’t even want to call it ‘material’; these are babies.”
It is hard to know how many aborted babies were incinerated. According to the B.C. Catholic, 14,000 fetuses are aborted in British Columbia, Canada, every year and most of the remains are sent to the Marion County incinerator. Many of the victims were no doubt first-trimester babies. But Canada is one of the few countries in the world with no legal restrictions on abortion, so it is likely that second- and third-trimester babies were also incinerated for power.
I confess that I felt two waves of anger when I read about this story on a pro-life website. First, I felt sickened by the callousness of an act that seems straight out of a horror movie or Jonathan Swift essay.
But I am also outraged by the sparse media coverage the story has received. This should be front-page news. And I believe it would be if it involved, say, the burning of the remains of household pets or other animals.
But because the story involves abortion — and in particular what most mainstream journalists consider not human beings but rather a mere “clumps of cells” — most of the media have remained silent.
The story garnered attention in some local and pro-life publications, a blurb in the Washington Post and one Associated Press story. Otherwise, it was ignored by the national media. According to a Nexis search, in the week after the story broke, the New York Times did not mention it even once. By comparison, in that week the Times published at least eight stories on the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
The media’s silence is disturbing but far from surprising. An almost identical story surfaced only a month earlier in the United Kingdom. There it was discovered that the fetal remains of more than 15,000 fetuses from abortions and miscarriages were being burned to produce power at British hospitals. The British media reported the story, but there was little coverage of it in the U.S.
In fact, one of the only non-conservative outlets to mention the story was The Wire. But the liberal political website only mentioned it in order to lampoon conservative outrage over the practice. The Wire reporter even labeled conservatives who predicted that something similar could be happening in the U.S. the “conservative freak-out” of the day.