The Avril Lavigne Corollary - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Avril Lavigne Corollary

Today’s New York Times cover story on funding for abortion in health care reform has the marvellously fence-sitting headline “Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care.”

Ignore the fact that there is no debate whatsoever on/over (the NYT itself cannot seem to choose between the two prepositions, using “the debate over health care” in the sentence that immediate follows the headline) health care. Meaning, nobody is, or even plausibly can be said to be, in a debate and against health care. Nobody is opposed to health care reform. People do debate the Democrats’ horrible ideas about health care reform.

Instead, focus on the author’s (David D. Kirkpatrick) tone. He is not reporting that the reform plans would lead to taxpayers funding abortion, which is the source of controversy in the debate he’s referring to. He is not writing about whether pro-lifers will thwart the aims of the “reproductive health” crowd backing the reform plans. Instead, he writes about it from the perspective that the relevant question is not whether abortions will be publicly funded, but whether or not the possibility that they might be is “complicating the debate.”

In commemoration of this reportorial approach, I would like to add the “Avril Lavigne” corollary to “opinions of the shape of the earth differ” journalism.

“Opinions of the shape of the earth differ” journalism was given its name by Paul Krugman in a 2000 op-ed about George W. Bush’s alleged campaign trail falsehoods. “If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ”Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” After all, the earth isn’t perfectly spherical,” Krugman wrote.

Today’s NYT article falls neatly into that category. Kirkpatrick bends over backward to make sure that both sides of the debate are allowed to present their wildly divergent depictions of reality as factual.

Regarding the current bill drafts, Kirkpatrick writes,

… [abortion] opponents say that is not good enough, because only a line on an insurers’ accounting ledger would divide the federal money from the payments for abortions. The subsidies would still help people afford health coverage that included abortion.

On the other hand,

“The language of the compromise is very clear,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, “it prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.” (The bills would also mandate the availability in each state of at least one plan that covers abortion and at least one that does not.)

So on the one hand, it’s merely an accounting trick to say abortion-inclusive plans aren’t covered. On the other hand, it’s “very clear” that taxpayers funding abortions is prohibited.

Kirkpatrick makes no attempt to reconcile or examine these mutually exclusive statements.

Instead, he, for the first time to my knowledge, invokes the “Avril Lavigne Corollary.” It’s not that one side is right and the other is wrong, or that one side is sincere and the other is lying. It’s just that it’s all so…complicated. It’s as if Kirkpatrick is asking the pro-life crowd in the “debate on/over health care,” “why’d you have to go and make it so complicated?

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