Journalist fired after collecting signatures for pro-life petition

Anti-abortion
Pro-life signs are left at the gate of the Russell Senate Office Building as pro-lifers visit senators during the 39th annual March for Life in Washington, DC January 23, 2012. |

A Nebraska news station said it fired a news director who collected signatures for a pro-life ballot initiative because his actions violated the company’s journalistic impartiality policy and raised questions about its ability to cover the issue of abortion without bias.

Melanie Standiford, former news director and co-anchor of KNOP-TV in North Platte, worked for the company for five years before she was fired last week. She collected signatures for an initiative to ban abortion in several cities in Nebraska.

Melanie Standiford
Melanie Standiford |

The news station terminated Standiford the same day. The Flatwater Free Press reported on his efforts to collect signatures in his hometown of Curtis. The petition calls for a vote in November to determine whether the city will become a sanctuary for unborn children.

KNOP confirmed in a statement to the Christian Post that Standiford’s employment ended on Friday, noting that the company wishes him luck in his future endeavours.

“Separately, KNOP can confirm that our longstanding corporate policy encourages civic engagement by our employees, so long as such activities do not appear to interfere with journalistic impartiality,” the statement read.

“Under this qualification, KNOP press personnel are not permitted, at any time and regardless of belief, to actively engage in political activity for any candidate, party or ballot initiative. “

As the North Platte Bulletin reported on Monday, a chief information officer for the company, speaking on behalf of the chief executive, told Standiford that her involvement in the petition makes it difficult for her to operate as a source. neutral on the matter.

Standiford said in a statement to CP on Wednesday that the news station was unclear whether the company’s policy extended to collecting signatures from “like-minded Christians.” She also claimed that she did not report on her attempt to collect signatures for the ballot initiative.

“It was my church and with people in my community that I know personally and in my spare time,” Standiford wrote.

The former news director shared the petition with her church in early August, garnering a combined total of 47 signatures from the congregation and another Curtis-based church, according to Bulletin.

Prior to The Free Press reporting, Standiford said the company had never found fault with its reporting on the abortion issue. She consults a lawyer, saying she has the right to defend her values ​​outside the workplace.

On Monday, a group of people demonstrated in front of KNOP’s office, holding signs bearing slogans such as “#I Stand with Standiford”.

Curtis is among six other cities set to vote this year on whether to ban abortion within city limits: Arnold, Brady, Curtis, Hershey, Paxon and Wallace.

The Sanctuary City ordinance defines abortion as “the act of using or prescribing any instrument, drug, medicine or other substance, device or means with the intent to cause the death of a child to be born to a woman known to be pregnant”. .”

The penalty for violating the order is a $500 fine. However, the order specifies that it would not prohibit medical treatment to preserve the life of the mother or remove a dead fetus, as these actions are not considered abortions.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade in June, again giving states the power to determine abortion laws, the ability to enforce the order will likely be a matter of state law, according to The Free Press.

Anthony Schutz, a law professor at the University of Nebraska School of Law, believes there could be a conflict with state abortion law, even though local governments have some authority to enforce the prescriptions.

Planned Parenthood’s former research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reports that Nebraska allows abortions up to 20 weeks gestation, allowing later abortions in cases in the mother’s lifetime.

“The one thing I think is relatively clear is that cities don’t have the authority to regulate this stuff under Nebraska law,” Schutz said in a statement to The Free Press.

The Nebraska legislature will have to allow cities to enforce the ordinance before it has the power to regulate abortion.

Last year, Lubbock, Texas became the most populous sanctuary city for unborn children in the United States after residents voted to ban abortion within city limits. Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit against the city in May 2021, two weeks after 62.5% of the city’s 250,000 residents voted in favor of the referendum.

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the city. The motion to dismiss came months after a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division upheld the ban.

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