The Interim was founded because the mainstream media ignored the pro-life message of former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson while he was in Toronto. Twenty years later, the mainstream media is still ignoring life issues. Two recent examples illustrate this journalistic black hole.

On March 28, Statistics Canada released the national abortion numbers, not including those committed in private abortuaries in Ontario. Campaign Life Coalition sent out a press release. Pro-life representatives from across the country were available for comment. But few media outlets reported that at least 105,427 abortions were committed in 2000, the last year for which numbers are available. Of the four Toronto dailies, only one – the Toronto Sun – reported the story.

Perhaps Canadians, or at least the editors of our newspapers and producers of radio and television news, are inured to the large number of deaths in-utero. Joseph Stalin said that one death is a tragedy,while a million deaths are a statistic. Well here’s a tragic statistic: once you add in the minimum of 105,427 abortions in 2000, at least 2.5 million babies will have lost their lives in the womb since abortion was legalized in 1969.

It is a sad reflection on our society that abortion is so routine, the number of times it is committed is not considered newsworthy.

If abortion is considered ignorable because it is so commonplace, why does the media ignore one of the few instances of parliamentary debate on a life issue – namely, the debate over Bill C-13?

Outside the Ottawa Citizen, where several stories and columns have appeared over the past few months about C-13, recalling articles in other newspapers and segments on television or radio strains the memory. During debates over free trade, constitutional negotiations or the decision not to go to war with Iraq, the media provided an endless river of news coverage and commentary over what happened in (and out) of Parliament. Yet, the media coverage of C-13 has been limited to a single editorial (Vancouver Sun), a column (the National Post) or a news story (Globe and Mail). Or, it has been relegated to occasional updates in a news-in-brief sections. In the mid-size dailies, there is the odd commentary here or there, usually written by a representative of a local right to life group (against C-13) or a doctor or a family member of someone who suffers from a disease that it is hoped will be miraculously cured by embryonic stem cell therapies, although there hasn’t been any such treatments (These are in favour of C-13, and they sometimes complain it doesn’t go far enough). Generally speaking, however, reporters and professional pundits are ignoring C-13.

Why the silence? C-13, which covers stem cell research, human cloning, surrogate motherhood and in-vitro fertilization, will regulate important activities. The morality, ethics and even pragmatic concerns require a full public debate. One of the rationales of a free press is that it educates the public and facilitates that debate. By failing to report and comment on C-13, the media abrogate their duty and fail their readers, viewers and listeners.

The question remains: why ignore C-13? An April 8 Globe and Mail article — the only one The Interim has seen in that paper this year about the legislation – notes that C-13 “is controversial” and that the government may lose as many as 12 backbench votes. Doesn’t the press usually like covering controversy, especially when it is potentially embarrassing to the government? Isn’t opposition to government legislation within the Liberal caucus a phenomenon worth following?

One might cynically assume that the media have become willing accomplices in the government’s attempt to pass C-13 as quickly as possible, and with a minimum public input. After all, the government knows that C-13 permits human cloning, even if it continues to claim otherwise, and embryonic stem cell research. sNormally, the media challenge the government when it says one thing and does another. But not this time.

One might presume the story has become boring to editors. The Globe says, only somewhat correctly, that, “The bill has its genesis in the report of a royal commission on reproductive technologies 10 years ago.” That’s a long time to follow a story.

Or perhaps the issue is too complex for reporters. An Interim writer, for example, recently had difficulty summarizing what a “chimera” is in a sentence or two. Or try explaining the difference between the methods of cloning. Many MPs privately admit they are unable to understand the issue when it is debated in the House. So why would reporters invest time and energy in exploring the intricacies of the science and philosophy behind stem cell research, cloning, etc? Well, because it is their job.

The media have failed to live up to their end of a bargain with the Canadian public. And that failure is having a severe price: a debate that is mired in misunderstanding, falsehoods, half-truths and ignorance. Good legislation is the result of a fidelity to moral truths and public deliberation. The latter is not possible when the media refuse to cover an issue.