Olivia Kittel

Author ››› Olivia Kittel
  • A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & OLIVIA KITTEL

    After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.

  • This Supreme Court Case Propelled By Right-Wing Media Myths Could Have Major National Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month in the landmark abortion case centered around 2013 Texas law HB 2, a statute that was propelled by right-wing media myths and imposes unnecessarily restrictive requirements on the state’s abortion providers. If the country’s highest court allows the Texas law to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for similar restrictions in other states and putting women’s health at dire risk.  

    Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt ­–  “the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation,” –  will determine the fate of HB 2, the Texas law that has already forced nearly half of the state's abortion clinics to close by placing medically unnecessary requirements on providers. HB 2 "requires abortion doctors to be affiliated with nearby hospitals and also limits abortion to ambulatory surgical centers," under the guise of necessary women’s health protections, but health experts overwhelmingly say those requirements are both dangerous and “medically unnecessary.” Admitting privileges laws like Texas' HB 2 not only impose stricter requirements on abortion providers than on facilities that perform riskier procedures, but they also severly limit the number of abortion providers; most providers "cannot meet the number-of-admissions standard for gaining privileges because so few of their patients need hospital care."

     

     

    In the March oral arguments, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify the restrictions, falsely claiming that they’re necessary to prevent another “Kermit Gosnell” scandal in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths in Philadelphia. But Gosnell’s crimes bear no resemblance to safe, legal abortions –  such as  those performed at the clinics targeted by HB 2 – and the Texas law, if allowed to stand, could actually make crimes like Gosnell’s more likely given that his business model was to prey on low-income women who could not access legal abortions and “felt they had no alternative.” The Texas lawmakers who pushed for this legislation echoed the right-wing media myth that women's health clinics were unsafe and required increased regulation, capitalizing on a lie that originated with anti-choice activists. Numerous reviews have concluded that abortion facilities nationwide are safe, routinely inspected, and subject to onerous regulation.

    The Texas law has already forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to close, and if the law is allowed by the Supreme Court to take full effect, another 10 of the 19 remaining clinics in the state could close meaning that 75 percent of all of the clinics in the state will be shut down because of  the law. The final remaining clinics would all be clustered in metropolitan areas. This means the average distance women must travel each way to reach a clinic would be 85 miles (the national average is 30 miles), with nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider, effectively ending “abortion access for low-income women in rural areas of the state, who are already having a hard time finding providers.” Research conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) demonstrated the law has “resulted in significant burdens for women” attempting to access abortion care, and the burdens would disproportionately impact low-income women, women of color, and Latinas in particular.

    But it’s not just Texan women’s fates at stake in the Supreme Court ruling. The same medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers exist in at least 22 other states -- and dozens of additional abortion restrictions exist throughout the country.

    As Refinery29’s Lilli Petersen explained, “what’s at stake in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt isn’t actually the legal right to have an abortion, but what states are allowed to do to regulate the procedure.” A “decision in favor” of HB 2, Petersen expounded, “would set a national precedent and open the door for other states to enact similar limitations on abortion.”

    If the Supreme Court finds in Texas’ favor it's likely to have an immediate impact on neighboring state Louisiana, for example, which passed a similarly styled law in 2014. If allowed to stand, Louisiana’s law would shutter three of the state’s four abortion clinics. Just days after hearing oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court issued a brief order that reversed the Fifth Circuit, allowing the temporary closed clinics in Louisiana to reopen, but the law’s ultimate fate is still in question. Likewise Alabama has also passed a similar bill that requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. That law has been struck down by a federal court but its status could also be affected by the ruling in Whole Women’s Health and reportedly “if the law is allowed to take effect, four of the state’s five clinics would close, and the lone surviving clinic could never meet the demand for abortions in Alabama, which average around 9,000 a year.”  

    If the impact in Texas is an indicator of what might happen elsewhere, the consequences of the Supreme Court upholding HB 2 are dire. Another TxPEP study predicted that if the Supreme Court fails to overturn HB 2, women in Texas will become increasingly more likely to self-induce abortion "as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access." Incidents of self-induced abortions are most prevalent among women who reported facing significant obstacles to reproductive healthcare in the past, as is the case with Latina women living in a rural area of Texas that has seen several clinic closures.

    In a New York Times article, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz outlined how demand for self-induced abortion is concentrated in areas where abortion is most difficult to access, “reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.” Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed data based on Google searches for phrases like “how to miscarriage” and “how to self-abort,” and found that the “state with the highest rate of Google searches for self-induced abortions is Mississippi, which now has one abortion clinic.” Stephens-Davidowitz concluded: “there is an unambiguous fact in Google search data that the eight justices of the Supreme Court and everyone else should know. In some parts of the United States, demand for self-induced abortion has risen to a disturbing level.”

    As Dr. Daniel Grossman, co-author of the TxPEP study told reporters, "This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk."

    Medically unnecessary restrictive laws don’t protect women and they don’t curb the number of abortions. They actually tend to increase unsafe abortion, according to international evidence. As Taylor Crumpton wrote in Glamour magazine, “when providers are too far away, or waiting periods become untenably long, women look to cross the border to secure abortion-inducing medication or try to get abortion pills through the black market.”

    Unless the Supreme Court makes a binding rule striking down both restrictions in HB 2, the door to similar restrictions in other states will be left wide open. The outcome could also be negatively affected by the unprecedented GOP obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Due to the empty seat, there’s a chance the court could deadlock or postpone a decision, which could permit Texas HB 2 to stand, but wouldn’t set a binding precedent, “leaving uncertainty for other states and highlighting more than ever the importance of the next Supreme Court appointment,” as The New York Times reported. That uncertainty could weigh especially heavily on “states like Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin [as they] press to remove blocks on their admitting-privilege laws.”

    Refinery29 has laid out a number of possible outcomes:

  • The Charade Behind Megyn Kelly's Trump Interview

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will undoubtedly be used by the Fox PR machine to capitalize on Kelly’s charade as an unbiased, hardball-throwing journalist. But, it should be used instead as an opportunity for media to put their misplaced praise of Kelly into context with the rest of her career, including her history of using her Fox platform to promote egregious right-wing misinformation.

    Kelly’s interview with Trump will air during a Fox TV special on May 17, and follows a private meeting that took place between the two at Trump Tower in April. Fox has hyped that the interview will cover Kelly and Trump’s months-long feud that was kicked off when Trump attacked Kelly as a “lightweight journalist,” and culminated in Trump’s refusal to attend an ultimately-canceled Fox News presidential debate. Kelly has said the goal of the interview is an “interesting, compelling exchange,” asserting “I don’t feel any need to go in there and try to take down Trump.”

    Fox has already capitalized on the feud, parlaying it into high-profile interviews of Kelly on late night talk shows and morning news shows, as well as a series of laudatory profiles that applaud her as an "independent" "rising star" with a "reputation for asking tough questions to anyone.” Tuesday’s interview will likely prove just as useful for Fox, delivering high ratings and buzz to the network, giving Kelly’s tough journalist charade another platform, and undoubtedly delivering the latest round of misplaced praise for her performance.

    But this interview is an opportunity for media to put the full context of Kelly’s career on display as their recent series of laudatory profiles has failed to do. Kelly has a long history of misinformation campaigns and out-of-touch comments regarding race, LGBT issues, gender, reproductive rights, Islam, immigration, and climate change.

    She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.

    She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from claiming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force “was no saint, either” to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."

    As positive press highlights Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox."

    Image by Sarah Wasko

  • Fox Está Usando Un Índice De Seguridad Nacional Descartado Para Levantar Miedos Anti-Inmigrantes

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL English language version

    Fox News demostró su tendencia a infundir temores anti-inmigrantes cuando recientemente aprovechó un reporte de que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional puso fin a un programa de seguridad fronteriza que en realidad nunca fue implementado -- y fue desechado debido a preocupaciones de que llevaría a los medios a emitir alarmas sin fundamento. Fox usó las noticias para infundir temores sobre "ilegales entrando al país".

    De acuerdo a la Associated Press, el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS por sus siglas en inglés) desechó una propuesta para un programa que nunca fue implementado y que consistía en el uso de un índice basado en colores para medir la seguridad fronteriza. El programa, propuesto por el personal de la agencia, habría usado un sistema de colores para señalizar las millas a lo largo de la frontera estadounidense, "donde sería más probable que la Patrulla Fronteriza captura inmigrantes ilegales". Rojo simbolizaría "alto riesgo", amarillo "riesgo mediano" y verde "bajo riesgo". El programa nunca fue implementado, y fue desechado luego de que un grupo de consultores del DHS coincidieron en que era "una sobre-simplificación de un problema muy complejo", y advirtieron que podría llevar a figuras mediáticas a sensacionalizar los temas de seguridad fronteriza y a "producir historias engañosas sobre una frontera fuera de control".

    Los consultores del DHS explicaron que debido a que el programa mediría la seguridad fronteriza en solamente "tres grandes canastas" (rojo, amarillo y verde) -- y debido a que dos de las canastas pueden interpretarse como indicadoras de seguridad laxa -- "reporteros sedientos de titulares que llamen la atención" podrían hacer uso del índice para provocar reportes amarillistas e infundir temores de que hay una "frontera fuera de control".

    Los presentadores de Fox News inmediatamente aprovecharon el anuncio del DHS para hacer precisamente eso. En la edición del 22 de abril del programa de Fox News Fox & Friends, la presentadora Heather Nauert repetidamente infundió temores sobre “inseguridad fronteriza”, diciéndole a sus televidentes "acostúmbrense a ... ilegales entrando al país" porque el personal del DHS desechó el “índice de colores” representando la seguridad fronteriza “mientras ustedes dormían”. El reporte de Nauert fue acompañado por imagenes en la pantalla mostrando grandes números de inmigrantes cruzando la frontera y escalando una pared; dijo que la audiencia debería "acostumbrarse a este tipo de escenas":

    Fox tiene una larga historia de infundir miedos anti-inmigrantes sin fundamento alguno para crear la falsa impresión de que "la inmigración ilegal se ha disparado a niveles sin precedente" cuando en realidad, varios estudios demuestran que la inmigración ilegal se encuentra ahora "a sus niveles más bajos desde 2003" y que ha ido declinando continuamente desde 2008. La AP notó que las capturas por parte de la Patrulla Fronteriza han disminuido a su cifra más baja en 44 años, y aunque este número no necesariamente cuenta la historia completa, puede indicar que "la frontera está relativamente segura".

  • Fox’s Latest Anti-Immigrant Alarmism Sensationalizes A DHS Program Scrapped Over Concerns It Would Fuel Media Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL Versión en español

    Fox News’ latest round of anti-immigrant fearmongering seizes on a report that the Department of Homeland Security ended a border security program that was never actually implemented – and was scrapped based on concerns it would baselessly fuel media fearmongering. Fox used the news to stoke fears about “illegals crossing into this country.”

    According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) scrapped a proposal for a never-initiated program to use a color-coded index system to measure border security. The program, proposed by agency staff, would have used a color system to measure miles along the U.S. border “where the Border Patrol was likely to capture illegal immigrants.” Red would indicate “high risk,” yellow “medium risk,” and green “low risk.” The program was never implemented, having been scrapped after DHS consultants agreed it was “‘an oversimplification of a very complex problem,’” and warned it could lead media figures to sensationalize border security and “produce misleading stories of an out-of-control border.”

    DHS consultants explained that because the program would measure border security in just “‘three large baskets,’” (red, yellow, and green) -- and because two of the baskets could be interpreted as indicating poor security -- “reporters with an appetite for eye-catching headlines” could use the index to fuel sensational, fearmongering reports of an “out-of-control border.”

    Fox News hosts immediately seized on the DHS announcement to do just that. On the April 22 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert repeatedly stoked fears of “border insecurity,” telling viewers to “get used to … illegals crossing into this country” because DHS officials scrapped the “color-coded bored index” “while you were sleeping.” Nauert’s report accompanied on-screen graphics of immigrants crossing the border in large numbers, and scaling a wall; she said viewers should “get used to scenes like this”:

    Fox has a long history of baselessly stoking anti-immigrant fears to create the false “impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels” when in reality, multiple studies show that illegal immigration is “now at its lowest level since 2003” and that it has been declining steadily since 2008. The AP noted that Border Patrol apprehensions fell to a 44-year low last year, and though that number does not give a complete picture, it may indicate that “the border is relatively secure.”

  • Memo To Media: Trump Said Abortion Should Be Punished "As A Principle"

    Media Are Falsely Claiming Trump Only Responded To Hypothetical Scenario In Which Abortion Is "Made Illegal"

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & TYLER CHERRY

    Some media figures are lending Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump credence by characterizing his remark that "there has to be some form of punishment" for abortion as based on a hypothetical scenario in which abortion is "made illegal." But MSNBC host Chris Matthews' question was, "Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?" He didn't include the premise that abortion had been officially criminalized.

  • What Megyn Kelly's Positive Press Tour Keeps Getting Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & BRENNAN SUEN

    The Fox News PR machine has capitalized on Megyn Kelly's charade as a debate moderator, parlaying it into high-profile interviews on late night talk shows and morning news shows, and a new book she has in the works promises another round of media attention later this year. These interviews provide the media with an opportunity to question her about the misinformation she promotes on her own show, when she's out of the national spotlight, but few are taking advantage.

    Kelly's supposed persona as a breath of fresh air and an unbiased journalist on Fox News -- bolstered by her position moderating the network's presidential debates -- has led to a series of laudatory profiles that have often willfully ignored her troubled past pushing conservative misinformation and bigotry.

    Kelly has been called a "take-no-prisoners newswoman" who "isn't afraid to throw hardballs at Republicans" and "the brightest star at Fox News." That pretense was reinforced by the journalists and pundits across the political spectrum who stepped up to defend Kelly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked her, kicking off a feud with the network and then declining to participate in its January 28 presidential debate.

    Late night talk shows and morning news shows have not been immune to Kelly's hardball-throwing façade.

    On the February 5 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos gave Kelly a platform to gratuitously boost her credibility as a political journalist and respond to Donald Trump's attacks without asking about any of her controversial remarks.

    Kelly has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has an upcoming high-profile scheduled appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl episode, as well as a new book deal. In his interview, Fallon told Kelly that he didn't "really know your work as much until I saw you for the first Republican debate -- you were fantastic in that ... People that don't know you have to be like, 'Oh who is this person? She's phenomenal.'"

    Megyn Kelly's so-called "phenomenal" reputation in the media lacks important context, found in the full spectrum of her time at Fox, including her problematic history on subjects including race and gender.

    In the first two weeks of 2016, Kelly spent over 1 hour and 22 minutes promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie "13 Hours" as "the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.

    She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from blaming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."

    When positive press praises Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox."

  • Media Must Leave Abortion Stigma In The Past

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Creative Commons: Thomas Hawk, 6/5/08

    "Violent." "Sickening." "Disgusting." "Inhuman."  These are all words regularly used by prominent media sources to stigmatize and mislead on the reality of abortion.

    Listening to these words used to smear and shame women who exercise the right to an abortion, it'd be easy to forget that 43 years ago the Supreme Court protected that constitutional right.

    Women's access to reproductive health care is as much in jeopardy as ever, as anti-choice activists and their GOP accomplices in Congress are rapidly chipping away at that right, emboldened by the echo chamber where media figures perpetuate abortion stigma.  

    Abortion stigma is the "shared understanding" that abortion is morally wrong or socially unacceptable.  It shows up in all facets of popular culture but is especially dangerous when it taints news coverage of abortion stories. 

    Abortion Stigma Takes Many Forms

    Abortion stigmatization can be incredibly obvious in right-wing media, where abortion is often referred to as sickening, "grisly," unethical, and on par with terrorism, while abortion providers are smeared as villains and compared to Nazis. But some of the most insidious perpetuations of abortion stigma are subtly pushed by mainstream media, like in news stories about abortion laden with emotionally manipulative language and images, and in popular culture, such as our favorite TV shows and movies.

    When news outlets use footage of extremely pregnant women and even babies to cover abortion stories, the viewer's focus shifts from the women seeking abortions to the contents of their wombs. Stock footage that cuts off the heads of women and shows only their bodies in later stages of pregnancy is particularly egregious. These images also offer a subtle nod to the anti-choice activists who want news consumers and voters to believe that the majority of women getting abortions are 40 weeks pregnant. But that could not be further from the truth. The vast majority of abortions -- 90 percent -- occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when it's often not visible.

    The media also help carry water for anti-choice activists when they squander opportunities to correct misinformation. In the past year alone, states have introduced 45 TRAP laws  (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), which are deceptive measures aimed at shutting down  abortion providers by imposing medically unnecessary regulations under the guise of protecting women's health. TRAP laws include requirements for abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and rules that clinics must be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers -- measures that are not only unnecessary, but that also impede abortion access and put women's health at risk by delaying or even preventing care. When the media report on these TRAP laws without acknowledging the medical community's consensus that these rules are medically unnecessary, they further promote abortion stigma by telling women that abortion is inherently unsafe and in need of regulation. 

    Hollywood Is Also Part Of The Abortion Stigmatization Process In Media

    Rush Limbaugh is wrong -- Hollywood will not do "anything" to "normalize" and "promote" abortion. In fact, it's often the opposite. Abortion stigma shows up in other media as well, like when our favorite TV shows and movies depict abortion as anything other than a routine medical procedure. A recent study conducted by University of California, San Francisco sociologists Gretchen Sisson and Katrina Kimport of TV stories from 1916  to 2013 explained that abortion in fictional shows is often linked to death for female characters -- whether they obtain the procedure or not -- perpetuating the false myth that abortion frequently causes death. In reality, pregnancy is a more frequent cause of death than is induced abortion. Another study by Sisson and Kimport identified how TV depictions of abortion contribute to misconceptions about who has abortions and why. In an interview with The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg*, Sisson explained that characters who get abortions on TV tend to be wealthy, white teenagers who have never given birth before. She noted that while in reality, such women do get abortions, the depictions on aggregate underrepresent the Latina and black women who obtain abortions, and distort the reasons why they obtain them. When shows emphasize women obtaining abortions when they either don't want children, or want to prioritize their careers or education, and underrepresent women who make the choice due to financial pressures, health risks, or a need to focus on their other children, they create the "perception that abortion is a want rather than a need." And when they depict a disproportionate number of women obtaining abortions because the pregnancies were the result of rape or incest, they send the message that abortion is a legitimate choice only in those horrific circumstances. 

    Abortion Stigma Creates Space For Anti-Choice Activists And Extremists To Justify Violence

    The year 2015 saw an uptick in the number of attacks against abortion providers over previous years,  culminating in the deadly November shooting attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood by a man who called himself a "warrior for the babies" and said he was trying to ensure that there were "no more baby parts." The phrase "baby parts" had been used repeatedly in cable news coverage about Planned Parenthood in the months prior to the attacks. The deadly attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood affiliate came after an FBI Intelligence Assessment reportedly concluded, "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." And as Vox's Emily Crockett pointed out in November, "threats, vandalism, and violence against abortion providers and clinics have escalated since this summer," when the anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP), "released deceptively edited videos that accused Planned Parenthood of 'selling baby parts.'" CMP's smear campaign was bolstered by the conservative echo chamber and right-wing media, which obsessively aired and backed the organization's false claims that Planned Parenthood had committed crimes. The Colorado Springs shooter's vitriol bore remarkable resemblance to the deceptively edited smear videos. It serves as a tragic reminder of the violent repercussions of pervasive abortion stigma when anti-choice activists are able to capitalize on the conservative echo chamber.

    At least five other Planned Parenthood facilities were attacked in 2015 since the release of CMP's first video in July (some reports from September 2015 indicated there may have been as many as nine criminal or suspicious incidents targeting the group). Before Colorado,  clinics in Thousand Oaks, CA; Pullman, WA; Aurora, IL; and New Orleans, LA, experienced attacks that in some cases impeded clinic operations. 

    There is no definitive evidence tying a specific attack to a specific media report, but it is crucial to note that the incidents have occurred in the midst of a prevalent smear campaign against abortion providers that has been enabled in part by abortion stigma.

    Attacks on reproductive rights don't occur in a vacuum. According to RH Reality Check, "A report released in February [2015] found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights." 

    Abortion Stigma Is Used To Justify Laws That Close Down Abortion Providers 

    Legislative attacks by the GOP on reproductive rights are marshaled in by media figures perpetuating abortion stigma. According to a November 2015 report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, 22 states enacted 41 anti-choice measures in 2015. These measures included medically unnecessary TRAP laws, mandatory delays that force women to wait a certain period of time before obtaining an abortion, and laws barring abortion providers from receiving public funds.

    This year there will be a landmark decision regarding abortion access when the U.S. Supreme Court hears Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt. The case is expected to determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law that, if allowed to stand, will have far-reaching consequences involving the ability to access abortion. The law is both medically unnecessary and based on the myth that abortion is unsafe and requires extra regulations to protect women's health -- a myth used to stigmatize abortion and shutter providers.

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's previous decisions on abortion have already echoed stigmatizing language on abortion.

    Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has repeatedly adopted one of the right-wing media's favorite stigmatizing anti-choice abortion myths. Slate notes that Justice Kennedy has exhibited a troubling pattern of using "language straight out of the anti-abortion movement's talking points," including floating the right-wing media myth that women "regret" their choice to have an abortion. Medical experts have repeatedly debunked the stigmatizing myth, explaining that the vast majority of women receiving abortions "felt it was the right decision." Amicus briefs have been submitted to the justices in the Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt case that were meant to combat the media-encouraged stigma and ensure that justices hear from women who say access to abortion care improved their lives. 

    Anti-choice laws have dire consequences for women and families, causing clinic closures and restricted access to services. Texas' anti-choice restrictions have already forced about half the state's clinics to close, and some estimates predict up to 75 percent of clinics could ultimately close as a result of the law. The closures would disproportionately harm low-income women in rural areas of the state and strand nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) interviewed a number of women whose access to abortion care was severely impeded as a result of Texas' anti-choice law, and found that women's health care "was delayed, and in some cases [women were] prevented altogether" from obtaining an abortion. Investigators noted that women not only "reported a lack of information and confusion" in the wake of clinic closures, but also that once they had located an affordable provider, many "faced substantial added travel and hotel costs when seeking abortion services." Experts have warned that the Texas law could actually place more women at risk, predicting that women are more likely to self-induce abortion "as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access."

    Abortion Stigma Should Have No Place In 2016

    Abortion isn't scary, but the threat that these laws and anti-choice extremists pose to women's health and basic human rights is terrifying.  Imagine a potentially imminent future where women are forced back into the margins of society, and expected to sacrifice their lives, jobs, and education because they no longer control their own bodies or decision to give birth -- where miscarriages can become criminalized and the basis to investigate women for self-abortions. That future sounds alarmingly like the past, like a time when women were forced to take their health care into their own hands, and risk their lives to end unwanted or life-threatening pregnancies in the shadows. When women lose control over their reproductive health, they lose control over nearly every other aspect of their lives.

    *Rosenberg is married to Media Matters Research Director Matt Gertz.

    Image: Creative Commons: Thomas Hawk

  • Vanity Fair's Glowing Megyn Kelly Profile Inadvertently Reveals Why She's Fox News' Most Dangerous Host

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Vanity Fair's new profile of Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that extol Kelly as the "brightest star at Fox News" while underplaying her bigotry and right-wing chicanery. However, buried in the article is the fact that her show, The Kelly File, is little more than a shill for conservative misinformation not unlike her primetime cohorts on the network.

    Evgenia Peretz lionized Megyn Kelly in the glowing January 4 profile, calling her a "feminist icon of sorts," and suggesting her "star power" is similar to that of Julia Roberts. (Peretz even highlighted Kelly's husband comparing her to "Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey," and "Grace Kelly").

    But buried amid the praise, Peretz admitted exactly what makes Megyn Kelly so dangerous: though Kelly bills her show "as a 'news' show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, [it] is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time." In other words, beneath Kelly's veneer of credibility lies the same partisan misinformation typical of the network:

    The Kelly File, which Kelly bills as a "news" show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time. Some recurring themes are political correctness run amok, the left-wing slant of the mainstream media, and the question of Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness. (Hint: "She's lying! She's absolutely lying!," says the mother of one of the Benghazi victims in a teaser.) Not so infrequently, the right-of-center axis roams into Hannity territory, like a recurring bit on "Ahmed, the clock boy," who was mistakenly arrested after school officials thought he might be building a bomb--and then got invited to the White House. Not only was the clock really lame, The Kelly File told us, "just wait until you see what we found on his father's Facebook page." (Supposedly it called 9/11 an American hoax to encourage a war against Islam.) A go-to guest on the subject of race and law enforcement is Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced race-baiting policeman from the O. J. Simpson trial.

    Even more alarming is the fact that prominent journalists not only praise Kelly, but also treat her as a credible reporter. Peretz noted praise for Kelly from "[v]eteran newswoman Katie Couric," former primetime host for CNN Campbell Brown, and former chief White House correspondent for CNN, Jessica Yellin, all applauding Kelly's "uncanny charm" and "dogged interviewing skills."

    Extolling Kelly for her ability to "Unnerv[e] would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties," Peretz pointed to a few of Kelly's famous deviations from the typical Fox rhetoric -- so-called "Megyn moments" that call out a bit of right-wing nonsense -- including her 2016 Republican presidential primary debate takedown of Donald Trump's sexism, her 2012 election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama, and most infamously, her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace.

    However, as Media Matters pointed out when her show was announced in 2013, for each of Kelly's "Megyn moments" there is an example of Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up conservative misinformation as "news":

    Megyn Kelly, is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all. She can have a great moment chiding Fox colleagues Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for sexism, only to turn around and push the New Black Panthers scandal as something serious. Megyn Kelly can cover gay rights in a way that is occasionally not abominable, and then push Benghazi falsehoods that have long been debunked. Megyn Kelly will rebuke Dick Morris and Karl Rove, but then hosts a climate change denier during the president's climate address. Kelly smacked down Mike Gallagher on family leave, but she also defended Newt Gingrich's bizarre suggestion that schools should use children as janitors. The examples go on and on -- but the key for Fox is that her positive moments always get more press than her more dishonest moments.

    And thanks in part to Vanity Fair's latest profile, it appears they will continue to do so.