NEW YORK Although the biggest abortion rights story in 33 years is taking place in its own backyard, South Dakota's largest newspaper will not editorialize on the controversial statewide abortion ban just recently approved by its legislature.In this case I think they are right. Peoples minds are made up, set in stone and nothing the newspaper says is going to make any difference.
"Part of it was that we wouldn't change people's minds, and part of it, regardless of which side we came down on this, is that people would read into it things that are not true," Chuck Baldwin, editorial page editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., told E&P. "People would think our coverage is tainted, and not just on abortion but on everything."
When asked if such a view could preclude editorials on virtually any controversial issue, Baldwin disagreed. "Abortion is different from other issues," he replied. "It is a hot-button issue at the core of everyone's soul. It will not change no matter what."
But Baldwin and the paper's six-person editorial board contend that editorializing would not be the right decision because abortion is such an emotional issue. "It is not like endorsing a candidate or a bond measure," he said. "Not even like the death penalty or the war in Iraq....A good decision on the papers part. Save your credibility for something where you can make a difference.
"Rather than change anyone's mind, we would create another controversy," he said, adding that the daily is generally known as a liberal paper. "We take positions on other things and will."
Argus Leader Editor Randall Beck explained the decision to readers in a column on Sunday, a day before the governor's signing of the bill that had been the subject of weeks of legislative debate. Beck's contention was similar to Baldwin's - - that the issue was too divisive.
"What could we say..... that would contribute to public understanding of this troubling issue - arguably the most divisive of our time?" Beck asked in his column. "Should the bill contain exceptions for rape or incest - or more? Would it have been fairer to give all South Dakotans the opportunity consider an abortion ban, rather than merely the Legislature? Should the Legislature's obvious motive - to be the first in the nation to challenge Roe v. Wade - be considered political, moral or both? In the delicate balancing act between individual rights and moral standards, what is the right position? And, given the heartfelt emotions on either side of this complex issue, what would readers think?"