Susan Strongman’s recent Radio New Zealand hatchet-job on Pregnancy Counselling Services has achieved exactly what I believe was intended.
Tauranga-based Sun Media picked up and pursued Strongman’s ALRANZ-enabled story about PCS, a pro-life counselling service, receiving public funding through the community organisation grants scheme (Cogs) administered by the Department of Internal Affairs.
Sun Media reported that the minister responsible for Cogs, Poto Williams, had “gone to ground” over claims that grants to PCS broke rules forbidding money going to services or activities that promote political or religious activities. PCS is loosely affiliated with Christian churches and takes a pro-life position.
The use of that loaded phrase “gone to ground” is interesting. It suggested Williams was either unable or unwilling to defend the grants, which in turn gave the impression there must be something shonky going on. But the explanation from Williams’ press secretary was a standard one in such circumstances: ministers quite properly don’t get involved in individual grant decisions, which are left to local committees to determine.
According to Strongman’s story, which she wrote after putting out a call for information on the Facebook page of the abortion rights activist group ALRANZ, PCS has received $335,000 of taxpayer money over 15 years.
Pro-life groups believe – and I’m certain they’re right – that the purpose of the story was to choke off public funding of PCS. Certainly the tone of the piece was hostile and set off what looked suspiciously like an orchestrated response.
Right on cue, other abortion rights activists came forward, such as Professor Liz Beddoe of the University of Auckland, who questioned why PCS should get funding when there were plenty of other organisations providing information about pregnancy. It offends these people mightily that PCS makes pregnant women aware of other choices besides termination.
As I say, the tone of Strongman’s piece was hostile. However there’s still a chance for her to salvage her damaged credibility and reputation as an impartial journalist. All she needs to do is exhibit the same investigative zeal by finding out how much public money has been swallowed up by Family Planning, the government-subsidised pro-abortion agency that facilitates a large proportion of the terminations undertaken in New Zealand.
It’s dollars to donuts that the amount of public money spent on aborting babies dwarfs the sum that has gone to a small organisation committed to trying to save them. If Strongman believed in editorial balance, she would have included this information in her story. Even now it’s not too late for her to find out and tell us, in the interests of a properly informed debate. But I’m not holding my breath.