A review of letters to Congress from dozens of state health departments and attorneys general around the country revealed that abortion in the United States is safe and well-regulated, despite recent media reports to the contrary.
Following the conviction of Kermit Gosnell for the murder of three infants during unsafe medical practices that bore no resemblance to legal abortion procedures, congressional Republicans launched an inquiry into how states monitor and regulate abortion, writing letters to the departments of health and attorneys general in all 50 states asking for details regarding criminal laws, prosecutions, inspections of abortion clinics, and regulations relating to abortion at the state level.
The pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed the responses from 38 of the state attorneys general and 31 of the health departments and found that they provide the "most comprehensive picture to date of the reality of abortion services," confirming that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe":
The responses received to date include thousands of pages of legislation and regulations on a wide range of topics that could relate to abortion. They contain definitions of "ambulatory surgical clinics," criminal statutes addressing feticide and the failure to provide medical care to newborns, and the minutiae of how state health officials must conduct inspections of clinics where abortions are performed. Some states also provided samples of the forms, such as the surveys that clinic inspectors have to fill in as they conduct their visits of abortion facilities, as well as samples of the application forms for facilities wishing to provide abortions. As an indication of how voluminous some of these responses are, Pennsylvania's response ran to 1,250 pages.
An analysis of these documents shows that congressional Republicans will find no support for their arguments in favor of new restrictions on abortion care in the evidence presented by the states. In particular, to the extent that anti-choice advocates claim that women are being put at risk by abortion services, these documents--from the very state entities charged with overseeing and regulating abortion--show the contrary. They show that abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe.
In particular, the responses revealed that abortion facilities nationwide are routinely inspected and subject to onerous regulation.
The findings of this congressional survey undermine the media's recent narrative that abortion requires even greater regulation and restriction. NBC, CNN, and Fox News hosts have all hyped the claim that an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be "reasonable." Writers for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have falsely claimed individual bans on 20-week abortions are popularly supported, and have glossed over the realities of these bills, which could place women and their fetus' health in severe danger. With the exception of a unique segment on MSNBC, media reports on abortion restrictions have largely ignored women's health experts who confirm these unnecessary restrictions will put women's health at risk.
Furthermore, media figures at The National Review, Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, and elsewhere have insisted that the case of Kermit Gosnell is representative of later-term abortions in the U.S., when in fact according to these documents, the Gosnell case was the only reported instance of an illegal "born alive" procedure.
Media Matters has previously noted that despite the fact that abortion is regulated at unprecented levels, with the vast majority of U.S. counties already lacking access to abortion providers, state lawmakers have proposed hundreds of new bills to further limit women's access to safe and legal abortion services. Some of these restrictions have already been struck down, with Bloomberg reporting that state legislatures suffered "a 0-for-8 losing streak after court challenges" reaffirmed that bans on abortion after six, 12, and 20 weeks of pregnancy are unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's rulings that a woman has a right to an abortion up until fetal viability.
The evidence from the congressional inquiry confirms all of these findings: abortion is already safe and well-regulated, despite what lawmakers and the media might say.
Fox News falsely claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would force families to receive home visits from government officials to assess at-risk children, when in reality an initiative authorized by the law simply expands existing programs in states that are entirely voluntary and which research shows have improved maternal health and child development.
On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed "a brand new federal program" would spend $224 million to send "government home inspectors to your house" to help at-risk children, and asked if this was "Obamacare trumping your right to privacy and snooping on you and your family." Fox Business' Stuart Varney agreed that it was "an intrusion directly into your home and the way you raise your children," and the two proceeded to claim that "the Obama snooper" would visit families randomly and unannounced. On-screen text described the program as "Nanny state solutions: Forced home visits for 'at-risk' kids."
But the program is voluntary. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $224 million in grants from the ACA's Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to support states' existing home visit programs that bring "nurses, social workers, or other health care professionals to meet with at-risk families that agree to meet with them in their homes" [emphasis added]. And in a 2010 grant announcement, the federal government defined the covered home visits "as an evidence-based program, implemented in response to findings from a needs assessment, that includes home visiting as a primary service strategy ... and is offered on a voluntary basis."
In Rhode Island, for example, families can request a home visit through community health services, or health care providers can refer families that are interested in the program. The service will then work with families to "provide them the available programs and resources they want."
The programs offer a variety of services, including educating parents about child development and supporting school readiness, linking low-income mothers to prenatal health care, ensuring children have access to health care and immunizations, helping families access supplemental food programs and financial aid, and encouraging healthy parent-child relationships to reduce incidents of child abuse. The Department of Health and Human Services conducted an extensive review of the research on several different home visit models, and found evidence that many of the programs improved maternal health, child development, reductions in child maltreatment, and family economic self-sufficiency.
Similarly, The New York Times reported that a 2007 study of high-risk families -- including parents who were under 18, unmarried, low-income, or had inadequate prenatal care -- found that infants were more than twice as likely to survive if their family had received home visits with health workers before and after birth.
Fox News used a selectively edited video to falsely claim an Obama administration education initiative, Common Core, would reward students for getting math problems wrong.
Co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed that the video revealed students could answer math questions incorrectly and still "get it right" under Common Core, simply if they "explained" their wrong answer to their teacher. Guest co-host Anna Kooiman furthered the attack by suggesting a student who learned math under Common Core might become "a doctor and operat[e] on the wrong knee."
But the unedited video of August's comments reveals that she very specifically stated that wrong answers would be corrected, and that the school simply wants to ensure that students understood the process behind coming to the correct answer:
AUGUST: Even if they said, '3 x 4 was 11,' if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in words and in oral explanations, and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we're really more focusing on the how.
OFF-SCREEN: You're going to be correcting them, right?
AUGUST: Absolutely, absolutely. We want our students to compute correctly. But the emphasis is really moving more towards the explanation, and the how, and the why, and 'can I really talk through the procedures that I went through to get this answer, and not just knowing that it's 12, but why is it 12? How do I know that?
While Doocy described the program as "a new national curriculum the Obama administration is imposing on schools," Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards that delineates what skills students should acquire at each grade level. States have the option to decide whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards, and school districts determine their own curricula to comply. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the program. Many private and religious schools have opted-out.
Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B. Fordham institute and Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute explained in the National Review that according to Fordham Institute research, compared "with existing state standards ... for most states, Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness."
National Review editor Rich Lowry launched a deceptive attack on Hillary Clinton for speaking out against voter ID laws that suppress minority voting by pushing falsehoods on the legislation and ignoring the hundreds of thousands of citizens a new voter ID law in North Carolina will reportedly disenfranchise.
On August 12, the governor of North Carolina signed into law a controversial voting bill that "overhauls the state's election laws" by requiring government-issued photo IDs when voting, reducing the early voting period by one week, and ending same-day registration. A majority of North Carolinians do not support the legislation, which is expected to reduce minority turnout.
In a Politico opinion piece, Lowry criticized comments Clinton made at the American Bar Association in which she noted that the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act would lead to disenfranchisement, particularly of minority voters, all in the name of the "phantom epidemic of voter ID fraud." Lowry claimed that Clinton was using the issue to play the "race card" in an attempt to "fire up minority voters by stirring fears of fire hoses and police dogs," and pushed a number of falsehoods related to the new North Carolina legislation to falsely claim it was simply part of "the American mainstream" and "a victimless crime."
Lowry's arguments -- which rely heavily on the discredited research of right-wing voter ID activist Hans von Spakovsky, who has been exposed as resorting to shady tactics like scrubbing his fingerprints off the web and "fudging questions of authorship" in his quest to limit voter participation -- include the claim that North Carolina is simply becoming "one of at least 30 states to adopt a voter ID law" and is therefore "common-sense." In fact, only four states besides North Carolina enforce the "strict photo ID" requirement the state passed, which means a voter cannot cast any ballot without first presenting an ID. In other states, if a voter does not have an ID, they have other options for casting a regular ballot, such as establishing their identity with a paycheck or signature match. The majority of states either have no voter ID law or no photo requirement.
The Brennan Center For Justice noted that strict photo ID laws such as North Carolina's "[offer] no real solution" to the little voter fraud states might experience, such as the two cases of alleged voter impersonation that have been referred by the North Carolina State Board of Elections since 2004:
[A] strict photo ID requirement cannot address problems related to long lines, inaccurate voter registration lists, or voter malfeasance like double voting, felon voting, or vote buying. The only type of voter malfeasance that photo ID can address is voter impersonation. A photo ID requirement is the worst kind of electoral policy solution -- it creates an illusion of security while offering no real solution to any identified problem with election administration, while simultaneously creating real consequences for many legal and qualified voters.
Lowry also pushed the idea that a 2008 Supreme Court decision meant the "constitutionality of voter ID isn't in doubt." But according to the Brennan Center, "it is a mistake to presume that the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County means that all strict voter ID laws would be constitutional in all circumstances," and North Carolina's law will have to be reviewed to ensure it doesn't overburden voters before its constitutionality can be determined. Justin Levitt, previously of the Brennan Center, also disputed claims similar to Lowry's that voter ID doesn't suppress voters because states with voter ID laws had high turnout in some races by noting the comparison was a "correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it."
But Lowry's disregard for the facts distracts from the real issue: that these laws disenfranchise American citizens. North Carolina's voter ID legislation alone could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of registered voters. As The Nation's Ari Berman reported, 316,000 registered voters in North Carolina don't have the required state-issued ID, and over 100,000 of those individuals are African-American. Furthermore, CBS News reported that 70 percent of African-Americans in North Carolina voted early in 2012, which will now be available on 10 days instead of 17 thanks to this new law.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice have filed suit against the North Carolina law, saying that eliminating several early voting days, same-day registration, and "out-of-precinct" voting will "unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters" in violation of the Constitution. The ACLU explained that early voting particularly helps low-income workers who are more likely to have hourly-wage jobs or childcare concerns that limit their ability to get to the polls on Election Day, and because African-Americans experience higher rates of poverty in North Carolina, "a reduction in early voting opportunities will disproportionately impact voters of color."
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, noted that when Florida enacted similar laws before the 2012 election, hundreds of thousands of voters were unable to vote due to long lines, burdens which "fell disproportionately on African-American voters." A study by the Orlando Sentinel found that at least 201,000 Floridians were deterred from voting because of hours-long lines at polling stations.
Fox News cherry-picked data to falsely claim that New York City's stop-and-frisk policies reduced crime, when in fact many cities without the policy saw larger declines in violent crime and the drop in violence in New York was part of a trend that preceded widespread use of the controversial policy.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board's Stephen Moore falsely claimed that the drastic budget cuts known as sequestration have had "none of the anticipated negative consequences," when in reality economists have explained that the cuts have had devastating effects on economic growth, jobs, and programs for low-income Americans.
In an August 11 op-ed, Moore called the automatic budget cuts enacted March 1 -- which were designed to be so severe they would force Congress to adopt a more balanced approach to spending reduction -- an "underappreciated success" because they had resulted in "amazing progress" in reducing the deficit. Moore applauded the further deficit reduction that would come from "any normal acceleration of economic growth," and concluded by claiming that cuts to "military, education, transportation and other discretionary programs have also been an underappreciated success, with none of the anticipated negative consequences."
But economists were predicting major economic consequences, as The American Prospect noted on March 6:
Private forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimates "sequestration would cost roughly 700,000 jobs (including reductions in armed forces)," while Moody's Analytics predicts a hit to real gross domestic product of 0.5 percent, just a hair below Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's prediction 0.6 percent fiscal drag.
And as predicted, the cuts are harming the economy. Sequestration is having a negative effect on GDP growth and causing job losses. According to a new analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, canceling the sequestration cuts would raise GDP by 0.7 percent and increase employment by 900,000 new jobs by 2014, and would lead to greater output and higher employment in the next few years.
Furthermore, tens of thousands of individuals have already seen federal unemployment benefits cut by as much as 10.7 percent, Meals On Wheels programs have had to cut hundreds of meals from their regular service to low-income seniors, and Head Start programs have had to cancel sessions for at-risk children. According to the Department of Education, sequestration further cut $60 million from federal funding for schools that educate children who live on Indian reservations, military bases, or in low-income housing. In some cases, districts will be forced to close schools and reduce the number of courses offered.
Economist Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Biden, has tracked and documented the drastic effects that the cuts are having on everything from Medicare-funded cancer treatments and public safety, to scientific and medical research. Finally, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced on August 6 that furloughs to civilian defense workers caused by sequestration have created "a military whose readiness remains seriously degraded."
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens falsely claimed the embassy closures in the Middle East and Africa proved that President Obama had wrongly characterized the current threat of terror in his May speech on national security, when in fact the president specifically referred to threats from al Qaeda affiliates in Africa and the Middle East against diplomatic facilities.
Following the announcement that 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa would remain closed throughout the week with hundreds of additional security forces deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen due to suspected terror threats, conservative media rushed to politicize the effort to protect American lives, dismissing security experts who praised the decision and falsely accusing President Obama of failing to recognize the realities of the war on terror.
Stephens furthered these attacks in his August 5 Journal column, claiming that the embassy closures revealed "a threat that makes a comprehensive and vivid mockery of everything the president said" in Obama's speech at the National Defense University on May 23. According to Stephens, the purpose of the president's national security speech was "to declare the war on terror won--or won well-enough--and go home," and the "facts and analysis" Obama used to discuss the nature of al Qaeda were proven "wrong" by the current situation in Yemen and the Middle East.
But Stephens ignored whole portions of Obama's speech in which he identified the very types of threats the intelligence community is working to avert. Obama's speech specifically referred to al Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East and Africa -- including Yemen, Libya, and Syria -- as "the most active in plotting against our homeland" and acknowledged they posed "threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad" (emphasis added):
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They've not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.
Instead, what we've seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda's affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula -- AQAP -- the most active in plotting against our homeland. And while none of AQAP's efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. But here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we continue to confront state-sponsored networks like Hezbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Other of these groups are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. And that means we'll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives -- perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks -- launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.
So that's the current threat -- lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
Stephens concluded by attacking the media's "memory" of the speech, claiming the press had forgotten the realities of Obama's rhetoric in favor of praising the administration. But it's Stephens himself who seems to have forgotten whole sections of the speech that undermine his attack on the administration, which has worked to protect American lives by effectively responding to a type of terror it identified as many as four months ago.
Ben Shapiro, Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large, pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos revealed "crony capitalist" collusion with the Obama administration, because President Obama visited an Amazon facility in Tennessee a week before the sale was announced.
On August 5, The Washington Post announced Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, was purchasing the paper and affiliated publications for $250 million in cash. In response, Shapiro baselessly speculated that Obama's July 30 visit to an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- where he gave a speech focused on the need to raise the minimum wage and support middle-class Americans -- was evidence that "the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration":
While conservatives and liberals consider the political leanings of Washington Post buyer and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in an attempt to divine how his politics will affect those of the historic institution, the truth appears to be far simpler: the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration. How else to explain President Obama puzzling decision last week to roll out his corporate tax plan at an Amazon.com fulfillment center?
Bezos spent $250 million of his own money to purchase the Post, which is bleeding money at an incredible rate. He didn't spend Amazon's cash to do so. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of events is striking. Last Tuesday, Obama visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he toured the facility before touting the company and stumping for Keynesian stimulus measures.
The sale of the Post was supposed to be top-secret, with staffers asked not to tweet about it for ten minutes. But it's more than possible that the Obama administration had some advance notice about the sale, and that Obama appeared at the Amazon warehouse as a sign of good faith to Bezos prior to the move.
Fox News hosts dismissed security experts and Congressional Republicans who praised the Obama administration's decision to temporarily close embassies to protect Americans from terror threats, suggesting the move was a "gross overreaction" and falsely attacking the administration for a "cover-up" of the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.
The State Department and the administration announced August 2 that 22 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa would be temporarily closed over the weekend to protect the Americans working there from suspected terror threats identified by the intelligence community. Nineteen embassies were to remain closed through the week. CNN reported that hundreds of additional security forces have been deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, where officials say the threat is greatest, and U.S. military forces in the region have been put on a higher state of alert.
Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Tucker Carlson attacked the administration for closing the embassies, suggesting that the move was a "gross overreaction to some intel" and the Benghazi attacks, falsely accusing the administration of engaging in a political "cover-up" while not addressing terror threats around the world:
CARLSON: You wonder if they're drawing the right lesson from Benghazi. It seems to me the real lesson from Benghazi is don't lie, and don't stage a cover-up. But don't formulate your policy based on the last war. Right? I mean, just because Benghazi happened doesn't mean we need to close 28 embassies and consulates.
But security experts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the administration's decision to close the embassies, particularly in light of the Benghazi attacks and the desire to protect Americans overseas. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey explained that the intelligence community had uncovered "a significant threat stream" that justified the closures, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "The administration's call to close these embassies . . . was actually a very smart call." USA Today also cited Seth Jones, the associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp., who said the closures are a result of "a high threat level based on credible intelligence."
Even Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who leads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and who has previously been critical of the Obama administration's response to the Benghazi attacks, noted, "what they are doing now is what has to be done. They'd be derelict if they were not. And you know we can't criticize them for doing too little with Benghazi and now criticize them for doing too much."
Fox News has repeatedly pushed falsehoods and lies about the Benghazi attacks, with contributors praying for evidence of a "cover-up" and calling for further probes into the attacks despite the fact that there have already been at least six different investigations, none of which have found any evidence that the response to Benghazi was politically motivated or hid the realities of the attacks.
Fox's attack echoes numerous other conservative media outlets turning the embassy closures into political criticism of the Obama administration.
Fox News is using a planned Hillary Clinton miniseries and documentary to revive decades-old lies about the former Senator and secretary of state, reanimating phony 1990s "scandals" including Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate. Every so-called scandal Fox is pushing has been thoroughly discredited by numerous independent investigations.