From the April 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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One of conservative media's favorite myths in their campaign against reproductive choice -- that certain forms of contraception are equivalent to abortion -- is being parroted by Republicans and anti-abortion groups in Colorado to advocate against extending an expiring state program that provides contraceptive implants to Colorado women at low costs, and has been called "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy program."
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a program that provides long-term contraceptive options for women and teens such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants at reduced costs may end after the private donation that originally funded it expires June 30, unless a bipartisan Colorado House bill appropriating funding from the state's budget passes in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Wall Street Journal explained on April 22 that some of Colorado's lawmakers are advocating against "spend[ing] state money to extend the program." The Journal pointed to a statement from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA, explaining that the organization "opposed efforts to extend the program because it considered IUDs to be the equivalent of abortion." In March, NPR wrote that Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg, chairman of the Senate Health Committee in Colorado, claimed that the program "'crosses a line'" because "in Lundberg's view, an IUD can count as an abortion, and this makes it impossible for a program that funds IUDs to receive state funding."
The claim that IUDs and other forms of contraception cause abortion mimics a long championed conservative media myth. Despite the fact that experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have repeatedly explained that IUDs and emergency contraception "do not cause abortions," right-wing media baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate - which includes coverage of IUDS -- covered abortifacients.
Now the conservative media myth has found its way into arguments against Colorado's Family Planning Initiative, which has been called one of "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy" programs. The program has provided IUDs and contraceptive implants to "more than 30,000 Colorado women, most of them low income," and is credited with reducing the state's teen pregnancy rate "faster than the nationwide average, allowing it to leapfrog 11 spots in the national rankings." The program has also significantly lowered Colorado's abortion rate and saved the state millions of dollars, according to Mother Jones:
Between 2010 and 2012, the state estimates, 4,300 to 9,700 births to women on the state's Medicaid program that would have otherwise occurred did not--saving Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million. The state's abortion rate has also cratered, falling 42 percent among women ages 15 to 19 and 18 percent among women ages 20 to 24 between 2009 and 2012.
Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
From the April 9 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
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The legacy of the conservative media's long campaign to push abortion myths and turn a blind eye to the opinions of medical experts is being felt in 43 states, where Republican legislation restricting abortion access has surged in the first quarter of 2015.
According to an April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute, the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state. The anti-choice measures included many provisions roundly condemned by the medical experts, including measures to restrict abortion services at 20 weeks of pregnancy and during the second trimester, as well as bills "seeking to impose targeted regulations on abortion providers" (or TRAP laws). The high number of abortion-related state-level legislation introduced so far in 2015 follows a trend of Republican-led state legislatures sweeping in a record number of abortion restrictions following electoral gains in 2010:
Conservative media have long championed the anti-abortion rhetoric behind such legislation, ignoring medical experts who point out such measures are based on medically inaccurate or outright false information, and that these regulations harm women.
In January, after House Republicans dropped plans to vote on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, several conservative media figures lashed out, attacking female members who objected to the bill and dismissing the legitimate health concerns experts say lead women to choose the procedure.
And despite women's health experts like the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) and Gynecologists statements that TRAP measures such as hospital admitting privileges are "medically unnecessary" and "jeopardize the health of women," conservative media nonetheless asserted that such restrictions "ensure safety" and deemed those who oppose them "executioners." They have even pushed discredited claims of a "post-abortion syndrome," the idea that choosing to have an abortion causes subsequent mental illness, ignoring experts at the American Psychological Association who make clear that there is "no evidence" that a single abortion "causes mental health problems."
Now a new crop of medically inaccurate falsehoods perpetrated by conservative media are threatening to translate into even more anti-abortion legislation. In both Arkansas and Arizona, new laws in the state will force doctors to tell patients that abortions can be "reversed" mid-procedure. But as The Washington Post reported, "abortion-rights groups and many doctors" say such rhetoric is based on "junk science" and condemned by women's health experts like ACOG:
But the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) was among those arguing against the measures, saying claims of "reversal" are unsupported by medical evidence.
"Claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence, and this approach is not recommended in ACOG's clinical guidance on medication abortion," says an ACOG fact sheet on the Arizona law.
Lawmakers in Kansas also recently passed a measure health experts say is "dangerous for some women," signing restrictions on dilation and evacuation procedures, a commonly used technique for second trimester abortions, on April 7. As The New York Times reported, similar bills are also "nearing passage in Oklahoma, and others have been proposed in Missouri, South Carolina and South Dakota." The measures' indifference to the opinions of health experts followed the conservative media's playbook of ignoring science and risking harm to women for ideological gain.
Hispanic conservative media personalities rushed to defend whether GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz "deserve" to be labeled the most Hispanic candidate, ignoring polls that show Latinos care about policies, not personality, and both candidates advocate conservative policies at odds with the vast majority of Latino voters.
After former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced his intentions to explore a 2016 presidential run, Hispanic media outlets praised Bush as a "Hispanic candidate," ignoring his conservative policy stances at odds with most Latino voters.
When GOP Sen. Ted Cruz announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination, right wing Hispanic media figures began to scramble to crown which candidate was the "most Hispanic."
In a New York Post op-ed, the Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzalez defended Cruz from detractors who claimed Ted Cruz "does not speak for Hispanics," arguing that Cruz's family story and upbringing speak to his immigrant background. But during a guest appearance on Univision's Al Punto con Jorge Ramos, Miami Herald columnist Helen Aguirre defined Jeb Bush as "much more Hispanic" than Cruz, "in way of thinking and culture" (her remarks have been translated from Spanish).
On the April 7 edition of CNN's New Day, CNN contributor and conservative strategist Ana Navarro suggested that Bush may have some "Hispanic identity," arguing that he could beat many Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus if they were tested on "Spanish grammar, and reading, and comprehension, and Latin American history, and culture."
Republican presidential-hopeful Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has faced criticism from Hispanic news media for his extreme conservative policy positions on health care and immigration, which are out of line with the majority of Latino voters.
Conservative media figures issued apocalyptic warnings and predictions about the consequences of passing health care reform. Yet in the five years since President Obama signed the bill into law, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by the largest amount in four decades, insurers can no longer deny coverage for preexisting conditions, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare subsidies will cost $209 billion less than projected.
On the anniversary of health care reform's passage, Media Matters looked back at right-wing media's most dire predictions.
In November 2009, Glenn Beck declared that the possible passage of health care reform "will be a nail in the coffin of America" and would cause the public to "all wallow in misery." Obamacare would be "the end of prosperity in America forever ... the end of America as you know it."
Rush Limbaugh argued in 2009 that Obamacare was "aimed at robbing you of your humanity and forcing you to bow down to the state." He predicted, "All of us will be slaves" because "the road to serfdom ... is paved in Obamacare."
The next year, Limbaugh forecast that health care reform would lead to "250 million uninsured."
Radio host Jim Quinn argued in January 2010 that the passage of Obamacare would bring "an insurrection. You're going to see an uprising." According to Quinn, "Your taxes are going to go through the roof. It's going to be a bloodbath."
CNBC's Jim Cramer predicted in March 2010 that Obamacare would topple the stock market, arguing it was the "single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher." (Notably, the DOW and Nasdaq neared all-time highs in March 2015.)
Cal Thomas claimed on Fox News in 2010 that while they may not "pull the plug on Granny" due to Obamacare, "they will deny her care because she's costing too much and she's too old."
Right-wing media continue to push the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a "death panel" provision, and years after the birth of this smear, it continues to have an impact on public perception and find its way into Republican legislation.
When the House first introduced the health care bill that would eventually become the ACA in 2009, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the bill would "require" end-of-life counseling for seniors to "tell them how to end their life sooner." The baseless claim was later amplified by Sarah Palin and the notion quickly gained steam as the right-wing media echo-chamber championed the idea.
Despite being conclusively debunked as Politifact's "lie of the year" in 2009, conservative media still persist in trumpeting the death panel lie. In 2014, Fox News' Eric Bolling compared the Veteran Affairs health care system to the ACA, citing them as examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system." He concluded, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is." Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity, and other conservative media outlets trotted out the death panel lie last year as well, in the midst of good news about enrollment and reductions in the nation's rate of uninsured people.
The death panel falsehood is still reflected in both the public's perception of the health care law as well as the Republican legislative agenda. As Sarah Kliff explained in a March 23 post for Vox, 26 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats still agree that "a government panel helps make decisions about patients' end-of-life care" is "part of the law."
The myth even continues to make its way into GOP legislation critical of the health care law. The Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg noted in a March 22 post that despite having been debunked, "the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has hold on the party" and was "written explicitly" into the House GOP's 2016 budget proposal:
Experts and professional fact-checkers have debunked the notion that the Affordable Care Act would empower a faceless government board to deny critical health-care procedures, the Obama-era equivalent of pushing inconvenient seniors onto ice floes. But the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has a hold on the party, its illogic written explicitly into the House's budget.
"This budget repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected, unaccountable board of 15 bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on Medicare," the document reads.
At the beginning of last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set in motion his plan to pressure Democrats to vote on the existing version of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act without changes: he'd hold hostage the vote to confirm Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
Legislators from both parties overwhelmingly support the trafficking bill. But Senate Democrats oppose a provision added to the trafficking bill by Republican Senator John Cornyn that would apply the Hyde Amendment -- a legislative rider that has been attached to appropriations bills for decades that prevents the use of certain taxpayer dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother -- to a victim's fund established by the legislation. Because the victims' fund would be paid for with both private dollars and federal funds, the Cornyn provision would therefore expand the scope of the Hyde Amendment; for the first time it would make private funding streams subject to federal restrictions.
Having filibustered the bill three times and blocked a Cornyn proposal to funnel the victims' fund through the appropriations process (where the Hyde Amendment would automatically apply), democrats made it clear they were not budging. At the same time conservatives were losing the argument against allowing a vote on the Lynch nomination as even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined the calls to confirm her.
As you'd expect, while the right-wing media has long been opposed to Lynch, it shifted gears to focus on the trafficking legislation. Dog whistles sounded as not-altogether-accurate arguments worked to turn the once non-partisan human sex trafficking issue into a battle over abortion rights.
The emerging narrative falsely suggested that Democrats were trying to use taxpayer funds for abortion. The Federalist asserted democrats' filibuster was proof that the party is controlled by the "abortion lobby" saying, "the abortion lobby opposes this bill because it doesn't provide public funding for elective abortions." A report on Breitbart News blamed "abortion industry groups" for pressuring lawmakers to reject the legislation fearing that the legislation would put "the case for taxpayer funding of abortion at risk."
In their criticism of Democrats, some pretended that the abortion language was just an extension of "longstanding federal policy," while others noted the expansion of the Hyde Amendment to private funding streams, but downplayed the significance that shift could have in setting a new precedent.
Fox News' Dana Perino left out the expansion when she recently said that Democrats are "jerks" on the trafficking issue because Hyde language is even in the Affordable Care Act (which, unlike the victims' fund, is funded through the appropriations process). However, the Affordable Care Act is included in the appropriations process while the trafficking legislation is not.
In The Wall Street Journal, conservative commentator Kimberly Strassel noted the language expansion, but downplayed its significance in part because as Senate Republicans have said, the language had been in the bill all along and was approved on a bipartisan basis in committee. Democrats have said that at the time they were not aware of the change (the House version contained no such provision); regardless, while its unclear exactly when they knew, they now know in time to stop the bill from moving forward.
It's the men, women, and children who survive sex trafficking who have been largely absent in the conversation about why it matters if the Hyde Amendment is applied to the victims' fund in the trafficking bill. More than 100,000 American children and teens are victims of sex trafficking, according to a recent PBS report. Anti-trafficking advocates estimate the domestic number could be as high as 300,000, noting that there are 2.8 million kids (half are girls) who are living on the streets and are among the most vulnerable to sex traffickers. But it can happen to anyone, of any race or socio-economic background; rural, urban, or suburban.
Fox News cited an unnamed "independent expert" to cast doubt on the veracity of recent Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, which have exceeded 16 million Americans and are reported to have driven the largest reduction in uninsured persons in 40 years.
On March 16, the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million Americans had enrolled in insurance through the health care law since it took effect. As The New York Times reported "Since the first open enrollment period began in October 2013, the officials said, the proportion of adults lacking insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent, from 20.3 percent."
But at Fox News, high enrollment numbers and a plummeting rate in those uninsured was barely mentioned. According to a Media Matters count, the network mentioned the 16.4 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance just once in the days following the announcement in an attempt to discredit the findings. On the March 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier briefly reported on the enrollment numbers, offering the unevidenced claim that "an independent expert says the reality is fewer than 10 million people have signed up."
Fox has consistently downplayed and twisted Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, going as far as to skew on-air graphics to misleadingly suggest less Americans were signing up for insurance through the health care law than had been originally projected.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reported that the government's numbers differed from those of "an independent expert," who concluded only about 9.7 million people gained insurance. The lower number was based on a survey by Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, who "took into account insurance losses" during some of the years the ACA was in effect.
Fox's Dana Perino lashed out at Senate Democrats, calling them "jerks" for preventing a Republican attempt to expand the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of taxpayer funded abortions, to include fees collected from criminal human traffickers. Republicans' latest anti-abortion manuever now jeopardizes the passage of a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill.
The Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill once fast-tracked for approval is now on hold after Senate Democrats discovered language in the bill "that would extend the longstanding Hyde Amendment barring the use of taxpayer funds for abortions to the new Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund," according to the Washington Post. Senate Republicans have demanded that the bill, which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking using money collected through fines levied against convicted smugglers, "be subject to the limitations" outlined in the Hyde Amendment.
During the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino chided Senate Democrats for demanding the removal of the anti-abortion language from the bill, claiming that "the human trafficking bill is not moving forward today because Democrats are jerks on this issue":
Currently, the Hyde Amendment only forbids federal tax dollars from funding abortions. The Washington Post explained that although the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act does not specifically mention the word "abortion," the Hyde Amendment language would apply "to the new fund, which is supported by a proposed $5,000 assessment on those convicted of a wide variety of federal crimes related to sexual abuse and human trafficking." Furthermore, the anti-abortion language in the bill, unlike the Hyde Amendment which must be renewed each year, would be permanent, leaving trafficked victims of sexual violence cut off from abortion related services.
Fox News' Special Report promoted "GOP alternatives" proposed by Republican presidential hopefuls that would supposedly replace the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court strikes down the law's health insurance tax credits. But Fox's flagship program glossed over the fact that the GOP alternatives would not repair the damage and leave millions of Americans without health care coverage.
On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the opening arguments of the King v. Burwell case. The case involves whether the language of a subclause in the ACA, "Exchanges established by the State," could prevent the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange.
During the March 11 edition of Special Report, Fox senior political correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted "alternatives" proposed by GOP presidential contenders. The proposals ranged from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to shift health care choice back states, to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to repeal ACA:
But none of the plans promoted by Fox proposed a way to help the millions of Americans left without a way to purchase affordable health insurance. As US News & World Report's Robert Schlesinger writes, the GOP "has yet to produce a plan encompassing the latter half of their 'repeal-and-replace' mantra."
Nevertheless, despite the lack of a solution for this potential human and economic disaster, right-wing media continue to baselessly pretend there is a fallback plan in the event this attack on the ACA is successful.
A RAND Corporation study released in February found that, if the Court rules against the federal exchanges, 8 million people would lose their coverage, and unsubsidized health insurance premiums would increase by 47 percent.
The Wall Street Journal called on Supreme Court justices to "vindicate federalism" by striking down health care subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but ignored the proven economic consequences such a ruling would have on the states, which has led the court in the past to refuse to inflict such harm because of those same federalist concerns.
At issue in the latest health care challenge, King v. Burwell, is whether ACA subsidies are available over the federal health care exchange website, which operates in 37 states. During oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concern that the challengers' interpretation of the law -- which would deny subsidies to upwards of eight million Americans -- might be unconstitutionally coercive to those states that declined to set up their own exchange. This coercion argument was at the heart of the last ACA challenge in 2012, when the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to threaten to deny money to states that refused to expand Medicaid, because the economic consequences would have been devastating.
In a March 5 editorial, the Journal argued that denying federal subsidies to states that refused to set up exchanges "is not the same" as denying federal funds to states that refuse to accept the Medicaid expansion. But in a brief to the Supreme Court, the states who have had to make both choices disagreed, and pointed out that the King challengers themselves had admitted this type of coercion was the same:
In [the 2012 health care challenge], the Court explained that cutting off all Medicaid funding to States that declined Medicaid expansion constituted "much more than relatively mild encouragement -- it is a gun to the head." It "crossed the line distinguishing encouragement from coercion," serving "no purpose other than to force unwilling States" to comply. In the court of appeals, Petitioners argued that the scheme they attribute to Congress was "the same" in its coercive nature as one invalidated in . In this Court, Petitioners prefer understatement, saying that "Congress could quite reasonably believe that elected state officials would not want to explain to voters that they had deprived them of billions of dollars by failing to establish an Exchange." Either way, it is a novel kind of pressure to threaten to injure a State's citizens and to destroy its insurance markets in order to force State-government officials to implement a federal program.
To avoid the comparison, the Journal also downplayed the likely destabilization of the insurance markets in the event the federal tax credits are struck down, echoing a false claim from the King challengers' lawyer, Michael Carvin, who argued in court that there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that the health insurance market would enter a death spiral without the current subsidies. The Journal editorial argued that "in the 1980s and 1990s, eight states including Kentucky, Washington and New York imposed the same rules -- without subsidies. In other words, the regulations are supposedly valuable by themselves to achieve liberal policy goals."
Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is adopting right-wing media's talking points yet again, this time implausibly claiming that the Republican-controlled "Congress would act" with an alternative if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act's health insurance tax credits.
On March 4, the justices heard King v. Burwell, a case that could make insurance subsidies unavailable to some Americans. At issue in the suit is whether a subclause in the law that says subsidies can be disbursed through "Exchanges established by the State" prohibits the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who bought insurance over the federal exchange. Despite the fact that experts agree that the law clearly makes the subsidies available to everyone, right-wing media have called on the Supreme Court to rule otherwise.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has repeatedly said that there is no contingency plan in the event of an adverse decision in King, and that there is no fix the administration can make to remedy the problem without inviting further legal challenges. Right-wing media jumped at Burwell's comments, criticizing the administration for not having a back-up plan while promoting a series of Republican "alternatives" should the court ultimately strike the subsidies down.
Conservative outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have done their part to push these plans by hosting numerous op-eds and segments with the authors of these questionable proposals. On the March 4 edition of Fox & Friends, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) joined hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck to promote one such alternative. After Cassidy claimed that the Obama administration has "nothing to say" to consumers who might lose their subsidies, Doocy remarked that "the administration says they don't have a plan B, but apparently the Republicans do." National Review Online has also argued that the Republicans have a viable alternative plan, writing in a recent post that "Senate Republicans aren't leaving anything to chance" and that "there's some conservative intellectual firepower behind" their ideas.
As The Hill reported, these alternatives are "a direct appeal to the Supreme Court justices" that are "intended to make it easier for the court to strike down the subsidies, since Republicans believe the court is more likely to rule in their favor if it believes a plan is in place to limit the fallout."