Health Care

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  • Mother Jones Highlights Financial Impact Of Protecting Abortion Clinics From Violence

    While Right-Wing Media Deny Clinic Violence’s Severity, Clinics, Providers, And Patients Across The Country Are Dealing With The Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Although right-wing media have denied the severity of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics, a Mother Jones report on the closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, demonstrated the widespread impact such threats are having on access to reproductive health care.

    On August 22, the Appleton, WI, Planned Parenthood clinic was forced to close its doors due to security concerns -- leaving “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews highlighted the major role the financial demands of protecting the clinic from a rising tide of anti-choice violence played in state Planned Parenthood officials’ decision to close the Appleton facility.

    In July 2015 the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers, “which coincided with the release of [CMP’s] heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July.”

    As Andrews noted, this upward trend of violence ultimately “culminat[ed] in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting,” where gunman Robert Lewis Dear was accused of killing three people and injuring nine more. Prior to the November attack, the FBI had warned of a possible uptick in violence against abortion providers, including the possibility of “lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement."

    In spite of this, right-wing media have not only carried water for CMP’s discredited allegations, but also largely dismissed concerns about the severity of clinic violence prompted by their release. For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” In December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Ericson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    The Appleton clinic had actually already “experienced violence” prior to CMP’s attempted smear campaign, as Andrews explained. In 2012, “anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room” at the Appleton clinic. But the clinic re-opened after this 2012 attack; it was the Colorado Springs shooting -- and the resulting security concerns -- that spurred it to close its doors permanently, as the costs of “providing more security” were simply too high, Andrews reported.

    In a statement to The Associated Press, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Chris Williams, explained that upgrading the facility would have “cost nearly $300,000.” He said that because of the building’s size and age, the clinic “was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach” developed by Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Colorado Springs attack. In an additional statement to The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Williams noted that although the Appleton clinic wasn’t subject to a specific threat at the time of its closure, Planned Parenthood deals with “constant threats” against its affiliates across the country.

    Along with underscoring the severity of anti-choice violence, Mother Jones’ Andrews also outlined the consequences the closure of the Appleton clinic would have on reproductive health care access in the state. She wrote:

    The closure means women will now have to drive 200 or 300 miles to one of the other Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinics, or go as far as Chicago or Minneapolis. Another option would be in Marquette, Michigan, where a single Planned Parenthood-affiliated physician provides abortions, but the scheduling is infrequent and can be unpredictable.

    Planned Parenthood’s Safar echoed this sentiment, noting that due to Wisconsin’s stringent anti-abortion restrictions and a critical shortage of providers, “there is a great need” for abortion access. She said that even with clinics in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, “many women” were “having to go somewhere else.”

  • On Fox, Trump Surrogate Pushes Conspiracy That Abortion Clinics Are “Strategically” Placed To Target Black Communities

    Pastor Mark Burns: “You Cannot Declare ‘Black Lives Matter’ When Black Baby Lives Don’t Matter”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During an August 22 Fox News discussion about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s supposed appeal to African American voters, Trump campaign surrogate and radio host Pastor Mark Burns suggested abortion providers were targeting black communities.

    According to Burns, “abortion clinics” are “positioned strategically within urban communities” resulting in the abortion of “14 to 15 million black babies.” Burns additionally claimed that “you cannot declare ‘Black lives matter’ when black baby lives don’t matter” -- hijacking language used by racial justice advocates.

    Burns’ comments echo the well-known anti-choice conspiracy theory that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood have racist motivations. The allegation that Planned Parenthood clinics are strategically or primarily located in black or Latino neighborhoods has been previously debunked by the Guttmacher Institute which found that “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.” In addition to pushing this myth, right wing media have also frequently co-opted the language of the Black Lives Matter movement to suggest that restricting abortion access improves black lives -- ignoring how women of color suffer when health care providers like Planned Parenthood are forced out of communities.

    From the August 22 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

     

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): What he is saying Marjorie that Democrats claimed to want to help the African-American community and they haven't. And then they come back at vote time and say, hey you better stick with us, we're only people who care about you. And Donald Trump is saying you know what? Listen to what both sides are saying maybe you might want to consider opening your mind up to voting in different way, because if you keep trying same thing time and time thing, it’s not working for you, maybe you ought to consider a different tact.

    […]

    MARK BURNS: Well let me just say this. The fact of the matter is, and I’m just I piggyback on what you're saying, American Americans have been voting and supporting the Democratic party for over 50 years and what do we have to show for it? What we have to show for it right now is the net worth of African American family is less than $5,000. Unemployment is even at a high. Food stamps and welfare benefits are at an all-time high. The net worth of a white family in American is $93,000 to $116,000. So there’s obviously a huge gap. What do we as African Americans have to show for? We got mass incarnations by the Democratic party. We have abortion clinics that are positioned strategically within urban communities in this country where we make up as African Americans 14 percent of the population but over 40 percent of the abortions are done by black women. So you cannot declare "Black lives matter" when black baby lives don't matter. That's over 14 to 15 million black babies that have been killed. So to sit here and to say oh let's continue to do the same thing but yet expecting different results, one writer said that is insanity. And it is insane for African Americans to consistently, continually to be backing a party who is not really even working for your vote, by the way, they’re not even working for our vote. They’re only declaring we own you, we provide for you, we own you. It’s an economic enslavement that is locking up African Americans around this country because they cannot grow and become dependent, they are being enslaved by the system.

  • How Breitbart News Spreads Lies About Planned Parenthood And Birth Control

    The Outlet Run By Trump’s New Hire Has Regularly Gone To Extremes To Attack Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Before Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon was hired as the new chief executive for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, the outlet was responsible for pushing a continuing campaign of misinformation about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and birth control. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News writers have compared Planned Parenthood providers to Nazis, staunchly defended discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, and claimed contraceptives make women “unattractive and crazy.”

  • Fox Resurrects Obamacare “Death Spiral” After News Of Aetna’s Withdrawal From Insurance Exchanges

    Right-Wing Media Warnings Of Previous “Death Spirals” All Fell Flat

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Fox News exaggerated the implications of insurance giant Aetna’s decision to reduce its participation in health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” by claiming that the announcement was proof of an impending “death spiral” in insurance markets. Conservative media outlets have opportunistically used various so-called “death spiral” predictions over the last several years to falsely forecast the imminent demise of the President Obama’s signature legislation.

  • TheBlaze Used Simone Biles’ Olympic Victories To Push A Right-Wing Myth About Abortion

    TheBlaze's Matt Walsh: "Planned Parenthood Has Centered Its Entire Business Around Killing Babies Like Simone Biles"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Glenn Beck's conservative news site TheBlaze published a column using U.S. Olympic medalist Simone Biles’ background and success to prop up a conservative fringe talking point alleging Planned Parenthood “specializes in killing humans just like Simone,” from low-income, often black and brown communities.

    At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Simone Biles led the United States gymnastics team to a gold medal before securing multiple individual accolades.

    After Biles’ historic performance, TheBlaze’s Matt Walsh used her family history as an adopted child and her subsequent success as evidence that abortion was “a devastating tragedy” perpetrated by Planned Parenthood disproportionately against black women.

    According to Walsh, “if Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry had their way, she would have never made it to the podium … seen the light of day … [and] wouldn’t even have a name, let alone Olympic gold medals.” He argued that Biles’ success was in opposition to the efforts of Planned Parenthood to target “single black women” and predominately operate clinics in economically disadvantaged communities. Walsh further lauded Biles’ adoptive parents and said without their intervention Biles “would be one of the untold million … decomposing in a medical waste dumpster behind an inner city abortion clinic.”

    Walsh’s argument echoed a frequent right-wing media attack on Planned Parenthood and its role as an essential provider in underserved communities.

    For example, Fox News commentator and Donald Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson has claimed that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.”

    Similarly, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has claimed that “the original goal of Planned Parenthood was to abort various minorities out of existence.” Limbaugh has even alleged that “Planned Parenthood [is] doing the job the [Klu Klux] Klan could never finish” and that supporters of the organization support the abortion of “60 percent of black babies.”

    In his August 15 article, Walsh went a step further and hijacked Biles’ Olympic success as a platform to spread similar misinformation about Planned Parenthood:

    Reports have confirmed that the abortion conglomerate specifically targets poor black babies for extermination. Granted, this is probably more a marketing decision than racism. Planned Parenthood concentrates its abortion enterprise in poor areas with heavy minority populations simply because it knows it can make a fast buck off of scared and desperate women like Simone’s mother. Planned Parenthood has centered its entire business around killing babies like Simone Biles.

    [...]

    It’s very fortunate that Simone’s life was not vacuumed away before she had the opportunity to show us what incredible things she could do with it. If only the 50 million other babies the abortion industry has stolen from the world had been given the same opportunity. Think of how much brighter the world might be.

    Despite Walsh’s bombast, the evidence to support his attack is lacking.

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, women of color do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    In an earlier fact check of “the claim that most abortion providers are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods” Guttmacher found the argument demonstrably false as “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.”

    Walsh wrote that Planned Parenthood is “not in the business of supporting and helping the Simones of the world” because it was “murdering them” through abortion. Groups representing women of color and reproductive rights advocates have strongly rejected this specious claim.

    In reality, women of color are left particularly vulnerable and without a health care provider when Planned Parenthood clinics are forced out of communities. As Planned Parenthood’s associate director of global communications noted, “Planned Parenthood is often the primary health care provider for Latinos and African Americans in this country.” In 2015, the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman wrote after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby -- which enabled certain employers to deny contraception coverage benefits to their employees -- that because of these higher rates of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality, “when employers deny access to birth control, they are actually putting Black women’s lives in danger.”

    Despite this, anti-choice groups have long attempted to curtail access to necessary reproductive health services by attacking Planned Parenthood and women of color who rely on the health care provider. For example, clinic escort Pearl Brady told Vox that protestors outside abortion clinics “often target young women of color” by shouting things like “Black babies’ lives matter” even if a woman is seeking care “for birth control or an STI screening rather than an abortion.” Other anti-choice groups like the Radiance Foundation have run entire campaigns arguing that Planned Parenthood is “the number one killer of black Americans.”

    Aside from the lack of evidence to support such arguments, Rewire’s Imani Gandy summarized how positions like Walsh’s shame and ignore the experiences of black women and mothers:

    To put it bluntly, this country was a hostile birthing environment for Black women during slavery, and remains so for many Black women today. But rather than take steps to make it easier for women to have and raise children, the anti-choice community simply grows more extreme and ridiculous in their rhetoric, and dials up to 11 its efforts to shame and demonize Black women.

    Anti-choicers clutch their collective pearls about the high rate of abortion in the Black community, but have no interest in talking about the root cause of that abortion rate. Anti-choice advocates, conservatives in particular, don’t want to talk about the never-ending war they are waging against contraception access; comprehensive sexual education; and social programs like public assistance, food benefits, health care, sex education, and fair pay that would permit Black women to not only choose motherhood when the time is right for them, but also to raise healthy children.

  • Texas Lawmakers Use Right-Wing Lie To Award An Anti-Abortion Group A Government Contract

    With Zika Threat Looming, State Media Ask Why Lawmakers Are Giving A Public Health Contract To An Anti-Choice Group That “Is Not A Healthcare Provider”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Months after Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law was overruled at the Supreme Court, state lawmakers allocated state funding for reproductive health to an anti-choice group, playing into a dangerous right-wing media myth about the role of Planned Parenthood in low-income communities.

    On August 11 anti-choice state officials awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health care program -- totaling $1.6 million -- to the anti-abortion organization The Heidi Group, which is “not a healthcare provider.”

    This latest development in Texas lawmakers’ attack on reproductive rights once again utilizes right-wing media talking points to vilify Planned Parenthood and ignore the health care needs of low-income communities.

    In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, finding that its restrictions on abortion providers imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” In recent years, HB 2 was one of several measures state lawmakers took to limit the reach of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

    In 2012, the state dismantled its reproductive health safety net program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood from the network of subsidized providers. In 2015, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott pushed to defund Planned Parenthood in Texas, touting the move as “another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable -- the unborn.” Lawmakers similarly argued that by defunding Planned Parenthood they “instead funneled the funds to worthwhile programs.”

    This justification that community health clinics can replace Planned Parenthood as an essential and accessible health care provider is a common right-wing media talking point.

    However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the impact of Texas’ decision to remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s reproductive health safety net program. The findings showed that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood caused a decrease in the use of long-acting contraceptives that corresponded with an increase in child births by Medicaid-funded patients.

    Beyond contraception and abortion care needs, when Texas cut funding for Planned Parenthood patients also lost access to affordable HIV testing. In June, the Texas Observer found that in Harris County, TX -- which had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the state in 2014 -- the county’s health department hadn’t conducted a single HIV test in the first six months of 2016, since the county ended its decades-long contract with Planned Parenthood for HIV testing and prevention.

    Efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from health care funding eligibility have only increased since the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Although CMP’s work has been consistently discredited, anti-choice legislators have frequently repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood as part of an ongoing mission to defund the organization.

    Texas’ latest decision to allocate a sizeable contract for reproductive health care to an organization founded and run by an anti-choice activist, with little experience providing the contracted medical services, represents a continuation of a dangerous pattern of misinformation about Planned Parenthood. By ignoring Planned Parenthood’s role in providing health care to low-income patients, this pattern has a demonstrably detrimental impact on those who need access to affordable reproductive care most.

    The Texas Observer’s Andrea Grimes demonstrated the issue with awarding a public health contract to an organization with little health care experience. She noted that The Heidi Group primarily runs a series of crisis pregnancy centers -- organizations that are notorious for misleading women about abortion and reproductive health. The anti-choice group, which has said it “sets women free from abortion,” is also headed by Carol Everett, an anti-choice activist known for making dubious, fringe medical claims related to abortion:

    Everett made headlines in early August following her testimony at a Texas Department of State Health Services meeting on new rules about fetal tissue disposal in Texas. There, she asserted that currently allowable means of fetal tissue disposal could result in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections being released into public water supplies, which she later repeated to an Austin Fox affiliate. Her concerns are not echoed by any major medical or public health groups.

    Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Heather Busby further explained the concerning medical background of The Heidi Group in a statement to the Texas Tribune: "It’s very inappropriate that the state would contract with an organization that has never performed the services required by the contract … The Heidi Group is an anti-abortion organization; it is not a healthcare provider.”

    Busby also told the Austin American-Statesman that Texas officials’ selection of The Heidi Group was “especially troubling, given that the organization is run by a person who is so terribly misinformed about public health.”

    Texas’ award of the contract comes at a time when the Zika virus -- which impacts pregnant persons and developing fetuses -- has been linked to one death in Harris County. Given that Texas already lacks a sufficient number of OB-GYNs necessary to address Zika’s spread, further curtailing access to contraception and abortion care by awarding contracts to anti-choice groups could additionally burden Texas communities.

    As the chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Sarah Wheat explained:

    The looming threat of Zika makes the need for this care more urgent than ever. Instead of helping women get the care they need at proven, qualified providers they know and trust, Texas is funneling hard-earned tax dollars in support of their anti-abortion agenda.

  • Trump Names Serial Misinformer Betsy McCaughey To Economic Advisory Council

    New York Post Columnist’s Claim To Fame Was Having Helped Popularize Mythical Obamacare “Death Panels”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that his campaign was expanding its so-called “economic advisory council” to include New York Post columnist Betsy McCaughey, a serial misinformer with no economic expertise and a long track record of promoting outrageous lies through conservative media.

    According to an August 11 press release from the Trump campaign, McCaughey and eight others will join Trump’s team of economic advisers, adding to a group that had been pilloried by journalists and policy experts for initially including no women and only two individuals with more than an undergraduate background in economics. McCaughey, a former one-term lieutenant governor of New York, has no background or experience in economic policy but gained considerable acclaim in conservative media in 2009 when she alleged that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” would create “death panels” to ration care for sick and elderly patients. PolitiFact awarded the “death panel” charge the inglorious honor of Lie of the Year.

    Since sparking the death panel myth in conservative media, McCaughey has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the Obama administration.

    McCaughey recently suggested that the United States was “heading into a recession” despite being unable to cite any evidence to back up her claim. She has claimed for years that Obamacare was doomed to fail and could ruin the American economy, only to be proved wrong time and again. In 2014, McCaughey became a go-to expert for right-wing outlets hoping to stoke fear about the spread of Ebola in the United States. She has even attempted to deny the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. She has also never quite given up on her bogus lie that Obamacare would create “death panels” that enforce end-of-life decisions for American citizens. When confronted with her lies on the September 11, 2014, edition of The Daily Show, McCaughey walked off set rather than face further questioning:

  • How A Right-Wing Media Myth About Planned Parenthood Could Hurt Florida’s Fight Against Zika

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    At the end of July, the first outbreak of the Zika virus occurred in Miami, FL -- confirming many experts’ fears that it was only a matter of time before the mosquito-borne virus began to impact the United States. But efforts to fight the spread of the virus have been stymied by anti-choice lawmakers’ reliance on the right-wing media talking point that Planned Parenthood isn’t an essential service provider.

    Since last winter, the Zika virus has spread among a number of Latin American countries, predominantly affecting pregnant persons. Experts have classified the virus as a “public health threat” due to the suspected link between Zika and the neurological disorder microcephaly, which severely stunts the development of a fetus during pregnancy. This link prompted concerns about the accessibility of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for pregnant persons affected by Zika in Latin America.

    Rather than prepare for an outbreak of Zika in the United States by making these essential reproductive health services more accessible, however, anti-choice lawmakers instead invoked a right-wing media myth to attack Planned Parenthood and block its efforts to help combat a potential outbreak.

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated misinformation about Planned Parenthood and the essential services it provides as part of an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. To justify these attacks, legislators have relied on the right-wing media talking point that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    Prior to the Zika outbreak, anti-choice lawmakers in Florida had already attempted to block access to abortion and other reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood.

    In March, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that not only emulated provisions of Texas’ unconstitutional HB 2, but also barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds. Although parts of the law have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, if enforced in full the bill would functionally defund the reproductive care provider. The Guardian’s Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reported that supporters of the Florida bill echoed right-wing media’s false claim that community health clinics could fill in by “insist[ing] that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual healthcare” even without Planned Parenthood.

    However, as Slate’s Christina Cauterucci explained, the list of replacement providers in the state was “laughable” because it was filled with “dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” She continued:

    Nevertheless, proponents of HB 1411 have used this list to pooh-pooh concerns for women’s health, claiming that there are 29 public health clinics for every Planned Parenthood in the state; therefore, the argument goes, no poor women will miss Planned Parenthood when it’s gone. The Guardian reports that in 2010, according to Guttmacher Institute data, there were just five public health clinics that offered family planning services for every Florida Planned Parenthood.

    Indeed, experts have confirmed that the idea of community clinics filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.” According to earlier research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Access to contraception and abortion care are essential to address the spread of Zika in the United States. As Emma Grey Ellis wrote in an August 2 article for Wired, “To actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” She continued that although enabling people “to delay pregnancy to avoid passing Zika to their children is an obvious, vital step,” there were a number of “political stumbling blocks” preventing access to reproductive health services.

    These “stumbling blocks” have included opposition from public officials. During an August 6 interview with Politico, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he believed those impacted by Zika should not have the option to abort the pregnancy.Gov. Scott has urged pregnant people to “contact your OB-GYN for guidance to and receive a Zika prevention kit.”

    However, according to Mother Jones, “Planned Parenthood hasn't received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak.” The outlet noted that this failure is problematic given the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in caring for low-income and uninsured patients, who are “more likely to get pregnant by accident.”

    Furthermore, even when pregnancies are intentional, the threat posed by Zika is still substantial. In an article for The Atlantic, journalist Liz Tracy reported on her fraught experience being pregnant in Miami during the Zika outbreak. She wrote that the threat of Zika transformed “nine-and-a-half months into a horror movie with a monster that is almost impossible to locate and hard to avoid.” As Tracy explained, thanks to the numerous barriers to abortion access, “if a Zika infection terribly damaged the fetus, and we decided on having an abortion, those restrictive laws would pose an overwhelming emotional, practical, and financial challenge.”

    Tracy also quoted another pregnant woman saying that with the lack of testing, kits, and care in Florida, “It just feels like too little too late” to contain Zika in the state. She added, “It’s crazy how much they could have done in advance and nothing was done.”

  • FL Editorial Boards Call Out Republicans For “Playing Politics” With Zika Funding

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    Florida editorial boards have lambasted the Republican-led Congress for killing legislation that provided funding for states combating Zika by attaching “poison pill provisions.” The House Republican-backed legislation would defund Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act in communities most affected by Zika, reducing accessibility to family-planning services that could “prevent sexually transmitted Zika cases and unwanted pregnancies for women at high risk of contracting the virus.”

  • NY Times Highlights New Evidence That Obamacare Reduces Medical Debt, Benefits Public Health

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The New York Times highlighted a new study showing states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) saw noticeable improvements in public health outcomes relative to states that did not enact the expansion -- adding to mounting evidence debunking right-wing media paranoia about the inevitable demise of Obamacare.

    On August 9, the Times reported that a new article in JAMA Internal Medicine -- a subsidiary of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) -- points to the ACA as a component in improving American public health through Medicaid expansion and increasing access to health care. The newspaper noted that this report comes after multiple studies have shown the ACA has been reducing Americans’ medical debt and encouraging more Americans to see a doctor for regular preventative services -- showing that the law is effective at accomplishing its goal of assisting Americans’ access to quality health care. From The New York Times:

    A few recent studies suggest that people have become less likely to have medical debt or to postpone care because of cost. They are also more likely to have a regular doctor and to be getting preventive health services like vaccines and cancer screenings. A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

    [...]

    Their survey found people in Arkansas and Kentucky were nearly 5 percent more likely than their peers in Texas to say they were in excellent health in 2015. And that difference was bigger than it had been the year before.

    No two states are exactly the same, of course. There are many differences between Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky, besides their decisions on this part of the Affordable Care Act. The authors cautioned that their results can’t prove that Medicaid expansion caused people to be healthier.

    These findings come one month after JAMA published an article President Obama wrote about the accomplishments of his signature legislation since it became law in 2010. The president’s article, the first scholarly work ever authored by a sitting president, noted that the uninsured rate has dropped 43 percent (from 16.0 percent in 2010 to 9.1 percent in 2015), that the law has contributed to greater financial security for Americans, and that it has actually led to better public health.

    These latest reports directly contradict past right-wing media fearmongering that the law would not help Americans and would ultimately fail to provide stable, affordable, and expanded access to health care. For years, conservative media promoted the lie that Obamacare created so-called “death panels” that would ration health care for the sick and elderly. They falsely claimed that the law would weaken the economy, fail to attract participants, have no effect on uninsured rates, significantly increase health care costs, and irrevocably undermine the fabric of society. All of the catastrophic predictions failed to materialize.

  • Texas Media Call Out Anti-Choice Logic Behind Proposed Fetal Tissue Disposal Rules

    “Texas Is Trying To Get itself Sued Again Over Abortion Rights” By Secretly Pushing Fetal Tissue Disposal Rules

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following the Supreme Court’s 5-3 rejection of Texas’ extreme anti-choice law HB 2 in June, state lawmakers attempted to quietly pass a new abortion restriction requiring fetal tissue from any abortion -- “regardless of the period of gestation” -- be buried or cremated. On August 4, Texas health officials will hold a public hearing on the proposed restriction. Ahead of this, Texas media have consistently called out the proposal as an overt, anti-choice attack on abortion access.

  • How An Animated Comedy Showed The Big Problem With News Coverage About Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    The Netflix series BoJack Horseman recently released an episode in which a major character decides to get an abortion, serving as a rare example of a comedy show that both tackles the topic of abortion and explicitly addresses the social stigma surrounding the medical procedure, including how abortion conversations in media are dominated by anti-choice men.

    The third season of the Netflix series BoJack Horseman, which depicts a cartoon world populated by both human and animal characters, includes an episode centered not just around a character’s abortion but also around the stigma that can be associated with the procedure itself. In the episode titled “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew,” released in July, a human character named Diane chooses to get an abortion after discussing her unwanted pregnancy with her spouse. Diane’s celebrity ghostwriting client accidentally becomes involved, sparking a media discussion about abortion within the animated world.

    The episode touches on some of the real-world aspects of obtaining an abortion, including protesters at the clinic, state-mandated ultrasound requirements, and informed consent laws. The show’s take on abortion stigma has garnered praise from TV critics who have called it “refreshing” and “a bracing counter-programming to the way discussion around abortion occurs in the media.”

    A.V. Club’s Les Chappell also noticed the episode satirized abortion cable news conversations overwhelmingly dominated by men. In the episode, a news program on “MSNBSea” featured a discussion about Sextina Aquafina’s abortion by a panel of “old men in bow ties” (and a whale voiced by Keith Olbermann) who feel pretty confident about their “unbiased” opinions on abortion. Earlier in the episode, the whale news anchor asked, “Is Twitter an appropriate forum to be discussing a sensitive issue like abortion? Wouldn’t a better forum be nowhere?” Chappell wrote, “it nails the worst part of abortion debates, how they’re so often had by those who have no business talking about it.”

    Although played for satire, the scene is pretty true to life in its commentary on the male dominance of abortion conversations in news. A Media Matters study of 14 months of cable news discussions about abortion found they included overwhelmingly male hosts, correspondents, and guests, and featured more anti-choice voices than pro-choice. In fact, from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, 62 percent of cable news figures engaging in abortion-related discussions were men. In that time period, there was only one appearance by a group representing or advocating for reproductive rights for women of color across all three major cable networks.

    These limited types of discussions, just as on BoJack Horseman’s “MSNBSea,” can ultimately fuel conservative misinformation about abortion and about women’s health more generally, as well as perpetuate stigma about the procedure.

    Stigmatizing silence or misinformed statements about abortion are not limited to the types of news coverage portrayed on BoJack Horseman, either. The entire premise of the episode is unusual.

    Abortion plotlines on true comedy shows are rare, according to Gretchen Sisson, a researcher at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), which produces the Abortion Onscreen project analyzing abortion stories in TV and film since 1916. According to ANSIRH’s research, 20 American TV shows featured a discussion of abortion in 2015, but all of these shows were categorized as dramas, or as a mix of drama and comedy like HBO’s Girls. Sisson explained in an email to Media Matters that, while TV comedy shows may make jokes about abortion, they rarely feature a character actually contemplating obtaining one. “Only about four percent of all abortion TV plotlines -- where a character is making a decision about an abortion -- occur on comedy programs,” explained Sisson. “Most TV abortion stories occur on dramas, shows that mix drama and comedy, and science fiction or horror programs.”

    In fact, one of the few other examples of a comedy show -- also a cartoon -- featuring an abortion was a 2009 episode of Family Guy. Fox refused to air the episode because of its subject matter.

    The current state of abortion discussions in media coverage and in popular entertainment ultimately serves to reinforce misinformation by shrouding the topic in confusion and secrecy. BoJack Horseman’s rare approach to highlighting the realities women experience when choosing to undergo the common medical procedure -- and the persistent stigma media perpetuate about the decision -- takes an important step in shifting the discussion.

     

  • Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment

    The Hyde Amendment Has Long Stymied Abortion Access -- And Media Are Taking Note That It’s Time For A Change

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.

  • Vox: Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards Was First Convention Speaker To Mention Abortion On Stage

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
    On Tuesday night, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards addressed the Democratic National Convention in a speech that CSPAN was the only cable network to air in full. Richards was also the first speaker at the convention to use the word "abortion" on stage. 
     
    Vox’s Emily Crockett pointed out that reproductive rights advocates in recent years have pushed to de-stigmatize abortion, a campaign that involves encouraging people to publicly talk about a procedure -- including by naming it -- that one in three U.S. women will have in her lifetime.

    It might seem strange that Democrats, most of whom are pro-choice and willing to speak out against things like Planned Parenthood funding cuts, are often so reluctant to actually use the word "abortion."

    But it’s very common for Democrats and other pro-choice advocates to instead use euphemisms like "a woman’s right to choose." There’s also a tendency to implicitly apologize for abortion by emphasizing that federal funds for Planned Parenthood don’t go toward abortion, or to focus only [on] how great the organization's contraception and sexual health services are.

    […]

    In recent years especially, pro-choice advocates have pushed to fight the stigma against abortion in order to protect it as a fundamental right. They say that about one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and many people don’t realize that abortion is a safe, routine medical procedure.

    Abortion should be treated like the normal medical care it is, advocates say, not separated out and turned into a political football. And they say that saying the word "abortion" like it’s a normal thing is one way to break the stigma and accomplish that goal.