Between January 1, 2021 and July 11, 2022, The Factual’s news-rating algorithm analyzed over 10,000 articles on abortion, tracking media trends during a momentous time for the abortion debate in the United States. The Factual’s data—which includes measurements of reliability and bias for individual news articles—is instructive in documenting how much is being published on the issue, who is publishing most often, and how the political bias of publishers may be influencing news coverage. Below, we unpack a series of trends in the coverage of abortion, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the future of abortion in America.

Who Publishes the Most Credible Articles on Abortion?

The Factual’s news-rating algorithm assesses the quality of each article by looking at four components: publication history, author expertise, cited sources and evidence, and writing tone. When combined, these metrics give us a single percentage score for each article, which we call a Factual Grade. Assessed over many articles, these grades give a sense of the overall quality of output from news sites. Using this approach and a dataset of more than 10,000 articles, we can draw conclusions about news coverage of abortion and the overturning of Roe v. Wade in America.

The scatterplot above maps 71 major news sources for which we analyzed at least 30 articles on abortion over the time period. Each source is mapped according to their performance in terms of their overall Factual Grade (our proxy for credible, well-researched journalism, mapped on the Y-axis) and Writing Tone (our measurement of the opinionatedness of the writing, mapped on the X-axis). Sources toward the top of the graph are more likely to produce high-quality, well-researched articles, while those toward the right of the graph are more likely to use a neutral writing tone.

Center and left-leaning news sources are more reliable overall.

Articles from Center and Moderate Left sources tend to outscore those from the Left, Moderate Right, and Right categories. This means that articles from sources classified as Center and Moderate Left have a higher aggregate score on average along the components of the Factual Grade. Articles from those sources are more likely to exhibit some combination of (1) extensive evidence, in the form of direct quotes and links to external articles, (2) neutral writing tone, (3) authors with demonstrated topical expertise, and (4) publications that have a demonstrated track record over many articles of creating reliable news stories. 

Want to spend less time searching for the best news stories?
Get the best news in your inbox every morning. Determined by data, not politics.
Thank you!

Please check your email for instructions to ensure that the newsletter arrives in your inbox tomorrow.

Oops! Something went wrong.

Of the 24 sources that score an average of 70% or higher, just two are Moderate Right publications and none are classified as Right. By contrast, 11 sources are classified as Moderate Left and 8 sources are classified as Left. This suggests that articles from major right-leaning sources on abortion are unlikely to be well researched, come from reputable journalists, or be published along other high-scoring articles. Moreover, our data shows that articles from sources classified as Right have very low overall averages, with just the National Review scoring above 60%. 

Right-leaning sources use less opinionated language.

When looking specifically at Writing Tone—our measurement of how opinionated the language is in each article—right-leaning sources outscore their left-leaning counterparts. This means that despite having lower overall Factual Grades, right-leaning sources are less likely to use heavily opinionated language in their reporting on issues related to abortion. For example, Right sources score 7 points higher than Left sources on average in terms of their average Writing Tone scores. Likewise, Moderate Right sources outscore Moderate Left sources by 3 points. (While just three Center sources were in our dataset, they stand far above everyone else with an average Writing Tone of .90.) 

This data suggests that coverage on abortion coming from left-leaning sources is more likely to incorporate biased or opinionated language, even if those same sources have a record of producing high-quality journalism. Part of this difference in Writing Tone scores may be explained by the nature of recent events. Left-leaning perspectives may understand abortion to be a fundamental human right and are therefore outraged by court decisions that could endanger it. By contrast, right-leaning publications are more likely to see recent shifts as a victory and therefore may be using less strong language to describe the outcome and potential implications. 

Tracking Coverage Over Time

Media coverage on abortion in our dataset remained relatively low across the hundreds of sources that we tracked until the Supreme Court indicated it would not overturn a new law in Texas banning abortion after 6 weeks. Before that decision on September 1, 2021, there was an average 6.9 articles published per day on abortion. Thereafter, however, coverage has been sustained at a far higher average of 26.9 articles per day, peaking with the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, when 332 articles were published. This and other spikes in the data reflect high points of interest, which correlate with major events in the legal saga related to abortion rights.

For comparison, a similar study conducted by The Factual about January 6 and the subsequent related hearings shows higher peaks of interest in January 6 but greater sustained coverage regarding abortion. For example, the number of articles published per day about January 6 peaked on January 7, 2021, the day after the Capitol Riot, at 1,301 articles—almost four-times higher than the peak for abortion coverage. However, coverage of January 6 has not surpassed 200 articles per day except for in the 2 weeks following the event. By contrast, the number of stories on abortion has surpassed 200 articles a day on three separate occasions months apart. 

Restore your confidence in the news.
Get the best news in your inbox every morning. Determined by data, not politics.
Thank you!

Please check your email for instructions to ensure that the newsletter arrives in your inbox tomorrow.

Oops! Something went wrong.

Which News Sites Are Publishing the Most Frequently on Abortion?

It is also instructive to see which news sites are publishing most frequently about abortion. In this case, coverage seems fairly balanced between right-leaning and left-leaning news sites. If the number of articles is correlated with readership interest, this provides more evidence of broad-based interest in the topic. (In the case of our research on January 6, publishing numbers were lopsided, with left-leaning outlets publishing far more frequently than right-leaning sites.)

It’s also worth noting the high prevalence of publications with strong biases: 7 of the top 20 most frequent publishers on abortion are classified as having a strong left or right bias. Sites like Breitbart, CNN, Fox News, and the National Review are all recognized for producing articles with substantial bias, meaning they are likely to publish articles or take editorial stances that strongly favor a particular political affiliation. For readers, this signals that many news stories may be highly biased or opinionated in their coverage of abortion.

Top Articles on Overturning of Roe v. Wade

Our dataset included more than 1,500 articles published after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Below are the highest rated articles from left-leaning, center, and right-leaning publications since that decision. To get the best stories on daily news topics, subscribe to The Factual’s daily newsletter. You can also use our news site to search for high-quality news articles on abortion or any other topic.




Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.