Health Care

Issues ››› Health Care
  • Fox News Hyped Ohio AG’s False Claims About Planned Parenthood But Didn’t Report That They Cost The State Over $45,000

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    In December 2015, when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine argued that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill,” Fox News covered his baseless allegations. In contrast, no Fox News show followed up to note that Ohio taxpayers would cover $45,447 in legal fees Planned Parenthood incurred while fighting the attorney general’s misleading claims about its practices.

    On December 11, DeWine held a press conference in which he alleged that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were illegally “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill.” DeWine issued his claims after the state conducted a five-month investigation into Planned Parenthood, spurred by allegations made by the now-discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that abortion providers were illegally selling fetal tissue. While DeWine concluded that fetal tissue was not being sold, he said his office discovered that Planned Parenthood’s means of fetal tissue disposal violated state law requiring that fetal remains be “disposed of in a humane manner.”

    State media called into question DeWine’s so-called “investigation” findings. The Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “it is hard to overlook the political theater at work” in DeWine’s allegations. The Columbus Dispatch noted that no Ohio abortion clinic had ever been cited for improper handling of fetal remains. WBNS-10TV in Columbus, OH, also reported that the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection said that no intact fetuses were buried there, that the disposal company and landfill have not been cited for any legal violations, and that nobody from the attorney general's office had contacted the Kentucky facilities to investigate.

    But while Ohio state media dug into the substance of DeWine’s remarks about Planned Parenthood, Fox News instead provided a platform for DeWine to further his baseless allegations. Fox News co-host Martha MacCallum interviewed DeWine during the December 15 edition of America’s Newsroom, where he reiterated his claims that fetal remains were “taken to a landfill in Kentucky and dumped in that landfill.” He went on to say that his office “think[s] [Planned Parenthood clinics] are in violation of the law.” MacCallum told DeWine: “It strikes me that what this story and what the investigation that you’ve done, it sheds more light on the realities of this process, which a lot of people just really, frankly, don’t want to know more about because it’s very difficult to even think about.”

    In addition to Fox News, other right-wing media sites piled on with headlines about “steam-cooked” fetuses being “illegally dump[ed]” into landfills. (And neither of those outlets reported on the resulting cost to taxpayers either.)

    Shortly after DeWine made his remarks, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block any attempts by DeWine to impede access to abortion services. After a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, DeWine ended the state’s legal actions with those claims. However, the process DeWine launched ended up costing Planned Parenthood $45,447 in legal fees, which Ohio state officials agreed to pay in a settlement -- meaning Ohio taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the attorney general’s unfounded claims, a consequence Fox News hasn’t covered. While Fox News has called for investigations based solely on CMP videos, the network doesn’t provide equal time when those investigations find no wrongdoing while costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

    By amplifying the false allegations while not reporting on the consequences, right-wing media are spreading lies and distortions.

  • MSNBC's Maddow Was The Only Show That Warned About Anti-Abortion Violence Before Colorado Springs Shooting

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Despite the alarming uptick in violent attacks against abortion providers in 2015, MSNBC’S The Rachel Maddow Show was the only evening cable news program to cover the topic prior to the deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on November 27, according to a new Media Matters study.

    Media Matters analyzed 14 months of cable evening news programs from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, looking for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion. Within those segments, we examined whether any speaker made a reference to past or present violence, threats, or harassment targeting abortion clinics or providers. Over the course of the study, we found 148 news segments including such a reference, but 94 percent of those segments aired after the November 27 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. Of the three networks included -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show contained the only coverage of recent attacks prior to November 27, airing four reports about incidents of violence directed at clinics or providers.

    The attacks in 2015 were far from the first time violence had been directed at an abortion clinic or provider. While the smear campaign the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) instigated against Planned Parenthood was followed by a dramatic increase in the number of direct threats of harm to abortion providers from previous years, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) has been tracking violence and threats directed at abortion providers since 1977. In fact, The Rachel Maddow Show’s first report on an attack on a clinic occurred prior to the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ first video. The March 23, 2015, edition of Maddow included an extensive report on an attack on the security cameras of the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi. This coverage was consistent with Maddow’s overall programming, which has consistently taken the violent threats against abortion providers and clinics seriously.

    Following the release of CMP’s videos, the FBI reported that there was a marked uptick in violence and threats “directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities,” and multiple clinics were damaged by arson and vandalism. But a previous study released by Media Matters in October 2015 found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country largely did not cover those incidents. The sole exemption Media Matters found on evening cable news at the time was a report during the September 8 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.

    The Rachel Maddow Show aired another report on attacks on Planned Parenthood on October 22. The report focused on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Claremont, NH, which actually did not provide abortions, where a person broke in and used a hatchet to destroy computers and more, requiring a six-week closure for repairs.

    In addition to airing reports on recent incidents of vandalism or arson directed at clinics, just three days prior to the deadly attack on Planned Parenthood, The Rachel Maddow Show presented an extensive report on the connections between an organization called Operation Rescue and incidents of violence directed at abortion providers. The reason for Maddow’s report was that Operation Rescue’s president, Troy Newman, who served on the board of CMP, had endorsed then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz on November 19. Cruz said he was “grateful” to receive the endorsement and that the country “need[s] leaders like Troy Newman.”

    Prior to November 27, four other cable news programs had segments that briefly mentioned Operation Rescue’s connections to CMP and violence. Two such segments aired on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, and two aired on Fox News’ The Kelly File. All those references were made by pro-choice guests on the programs.

    The Rachel Maddow Show was the only evening cable news program that aired a report from a network host on the topic of violence, threats or harassment directed against abortion providers prior to November 27.

  • Fox News: Where An Indicted Anti-Abortion Extremist Can Go To Push Lies

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Fox’s evening news programs routinely misinform viewers on reproductive rights issues, disproportionately relying on extreme anti-choice figures and deceptive smear campaigns to deliver their message, according to a new Media Matters study. During a recent 14-month period, Fox News’ guests, hosts, and network correspondents all helped propagate the false claims that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue and used government funds to illegally pay for abortions, and that a series of deceptively edited videos produced by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP) were accurate.

    Media Matters analyzed 14 months of Fox News’ evening programs, looking at discussions of abortion-related topics on the shows Special Report with Bret Baier, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity. Since July 15, 2015, Fox’s evening news programs have repeatedly spread CMP’s false allegations that Planned Parenthood was breaking laws in its handling of fetal tissue. Media Matters, a federal judge, an independent analysis, and numerous media outlets have found that CMP’s videos were deceptively edited (CMP was named Media Matters’ Misinformer of Year); 13 states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have investigated the allegations and cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing; and CMP’s founder and an associate were indicted for the fraudulent actions they took in making the videos.

    Nevertheless, Fox’s evening news programs have repeated CMP’s false claims as though they were true and falsely claimed that the videos were accurate.

    From July 15, 2015, through March 6, 2016, Fox News evening show hosts, guests, and correspondents made 384 statements or claims that Planned Parenthood was “harvesting,” or “profiting” from the sale of, fetal tissue and 378 statements or claims that CMP’s videos or work were accurate, even going as far as to refer to the discredited smear campaign as “journalism.” In contrast, Fox’s hosts, guests, and correspondents made only 55 statements or claims that Planned Parenthood was not, in fact, selling fetal tissue and 84 statements or claims that CMP’s videos weren’t accurate.

    Fox News helped CMP not only by repeatedly reporting on, replaying, or commenting on 11 of CMP’s deceptively edited videos, but also by hosting the person responsible for the entire smear campaign, David Daleiden, seven times from July 15 through September 4, including in an hour-long Fox News Special, “Hidden Harvest,” which was devoted to the group’s baseless allegations. Daleiden appeared seven times on Fox’s evening news programs during the course of the study, and he has also made additional appearances since the study ended in March.

    And Daleiden wasn’t the only self-identified anti-choice person featured on the network. Fox’s evening news programs overwhelmingly favored those who identify as anti-choice versus those who identify as pro-choice. In segments on Fox’s evening news programs that discussed abortion or abortion-related topics, people who self-identify as anti-choice made up 36 percent of appearances, whereas people who self-identify as pro-choice comprised only 6 percent.

    Media Matters also ran a secondary analysis on whether individuals who didn’t explicitly identify as anti-choice more often cited statements containing accurate or inaccurate information about four types of prevalent misinformation about abortion, Planned Parenthood or the Center for Medical Progress. We found that those who consistently cited anti-choice statements accounted for 9 percent of appearances and those who mostly cited anti-choice statements accounted for 25 percent of appearances. All combined, 70 percent of appearances on Fox News evening programs were made by people who either self-identified as anti-choice or consistently or mostly made anti-choice statements, compared to the combined 5 percent of appearances by either pro-choice-identified or pro-choice-leaning people.

    Overall, Fox also shared nearly two dozen times the false claim that Planned Parenthood uses Medicaid funding to pay for abortions outside of the legal limitations, spreading the claim (without countering it in equal measure) on Hannity and The O’Reilly Factor.  Additionally, any time a person on a Fox evening news program asserted -- or cited a claim -- that some kinds of birth control act as abortifacients, no speaker in the segment challenged those statements or discussed the medical community’s consensus that no contraceptive device or medication currently available is equivalent to an abortion.

  • Sean Hannity Blames Rise In Death Rate Among Seniors To Debunked Myth Of Obamacare "Death Panels"

    Politifact Dubbed “Death Panels” The Lie Of The Year In 2009

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Radio host Sean Hannity linked the rising death rate for seniors to alleged “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reviving the thoroughly debunked claim that the ACA would create "death panels" that would ration care to seniors.

    A June 1 New York Times article reported the rise in the US death as a “rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide, and Alzheimer's disease":

    The death rate in the United States rose last year for the first time in a decade, preliminary federal data show, a rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. The death rate from heart disease, long in decline, edged up slightly.

    [...]

    While recent research has documented sharp rises in death rates among certain groups — in particular less educated whites, who have been hardest hit by the prescription drug epidemic — increases for the entire population are relatively rare.

    Federal researchers cautioned that it was too early to tell whether the rising mortality among whites had pushed up the overall national death rate. (Preliminary data is not broken down by race, and final data will not be out until later this year.)

    Hannity blamed ACA telling listeners that the rise in death rates started in 2015 which “represented the very first year Obamacare was fully implemented. Hannity also hyped that "Sarah Palin was mocked for using the term 'death panels'":

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Here's more evidence by the way that socialism doesn't work. A couple of weeks ago, Betsy McCaughey, she's been so adamant and so on top of, I mean, for years, when we were debating Obamacare, she carried the whole bill into the studio, into the TV studio. Underlined, highlighted, she read it, she's the only one that I know that read it, and read it, and read it and read it and knows it.

    Anyway, she reported on two studies that showed that since the implementation of Obamacare -- and remember what you were promised, you keep your doctor, keep your plan, average family saves $2,500 per family, per year. Well, she found since it's implementation 17,000 seniors have died prematurely, just in California, due to rationed care. Remember Sarah Palin was mocked for using the term "death panels"?

    Anyway, so you get a headline in the New York Times, quote "The first rise in US death rate in years surprises the experts." Well guess what? This year, you know, this totally unexpected rise in the death rate, you don't want to know when it started? In 2015. You know what the year 2015 represented? The very first year Obamacare was fully implemented. And of course, The Times, they're not going to make that connection. They're mystified over what could possibly be causing the dramatic turnaround in the death rate.

    Hannity’s baseless attempt to connect so called “death panels” to the increased US death rate continues his tradition of hyping “death panels” to smear the ACA. Hannity has previously claimed that “death panels will exist” and people will die, argued “death panels are inevitable,” and suggested to Sarah Palin that the Veterans’ Administration was a “death panel.”

    The so called “death panels” Hannity is referring to is the ACA’s Individual Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which is an expert body of 15 health care experts appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to slow the growth of health care spending and improve the quality of care patients receive. The ACA explicitly states that IPAB cannot make recommendations to ration care or make health care decisions for individuals.

    The “death panel” myth is in line with a wider conservative media campaign to smear the ACA by stoking fears of health care recipients. The “death panel” smear was so pervasive that Politifact dubbed it 2009’s Lie of the Year.

  • STUDY: How Cable News Talks About Abortion

    Anti-Choice Speakers And Misinformation Dominate Abortion Coverage On Evening Cable News

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS & SHARON KANN

    A Media Matters study of 14 months of evening cable news programs found that discussions of abortion were weighted toward anti-choice speakers, which resulted in widespread misinformation on the topic. Of the three networks, Fox News aired the largest number of inaccurate statements about the most prevalent abortion-related myths, and MSNBC was the most accurate.

  • Washington Post: “It’s Time To Shut Down The Special Panel On Fetal Tissue Research”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Posts editorial board wrote that the congressional investigative panel created in the wake of the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood should be “shut down” because there is “no legitimate reason” for the panel’s existence. The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was established by Republicans in Congress following the release of videos made by the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress which baselessly allege fetal tissue was being illegally sold. The Washington Post's editorial board noted “as we now know, those videos are bunk, neither accurate nor reliable,” and multiple investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. However, the Republican-led select panel has continued to rely upon so-called evidence collected by anti-choice activists and has “issued indiscriminate subpoenas [and] intimidated witnesses” as well as potentially put individuals at risk for targeting by anti-choice extremists by not safeguarding their names. Without a “legitimate reason” for the panel’s work, the Post wrote, Speaker Paul Ryan should “should put an end to these sordid proceedings.”

    From The Washington Post’s May 27 editorial:

    Any doubt about the kind of investigation into fetal tissue research that would be conducted by a special House panel was erased at its first hearing, when one of the witnesses called by Republicans drew comparisons between this life-saving medical work and the experiments of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. And the panel has gone downhill since.

    The committee has issued indiscriminate subpoenas, intimidated witnesses and relied on misleading information. It is abusing power at taxpayer expense, and Democrats are right to demand its shutdown.

    […]

    There is no legitimate reason for this inquiry. Individuals and organizations are being unfairly targeted and placed at risk. [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, who took office with talk of wanting to change how the House does business, should put an end to these sordid proceedings.

  • NY Times’ Greenhouse: Contraceptive Mandate At Supreme Court "Is Not A Case About Nuns”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times' Supreme Court expert, Linda Greenhouse, wrote that the recent Supreme Court case about the opt-out process developed to accommodate religious nonprofits' objections to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive mandate “is not a case about nuns” -- a reference to one of the plaintiffs in the case, The Little Sisters of the Poor. Greenhouse noted that “opponents of the contraception mandate have been brilliant in positioning the case as being about nuns,” even though the Little Sisters are only one of the 30 plaintiffs, and that “it’s hard to believe” that such positioning “has not at least subliminally played on the instincts and helped to shape the views of some members of the Supreme Court.”

    In Zurbik v Burwell, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the objecting 30 religious nonprofits -- which, Greenhouse wrote, included “Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order whose mission is to run nursing homes for the elderly poor” -- were substantially burdened by the requirement that they notify their insurance provider that they object to providing contraception coverage. This notification would then allow the insurance providers to provide cost-free contraceptive coverage to the employees of the objecting religious nonprofits. On May 16, the Supreme Court opted not to decide the case on its merits and sent it back to the lower courts, hoping that  the government and the plaintiffs would work out a compromise .

    Greenhouse wrote that aside from the Little Sisters, the other plaintiffs include high schools, colleges, charities and several individuals, saying that “it’s time for the administration and its supporters to recapture the narrative and make clear to a confused public that this is not a case about nuns. It’s a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force.”

    From The New York Times’ May 26 column:

    By my count, the Little Sisters of the Poor (who, as I’ve noted before, advertise themselves as equal-opportunity employers in the nursing home enterprise) are only one of 30 petitioners in the seven Supreme Court cases. The other 29 include Catholic and Baptist colleges, Catholic high schools, individual bishops, two chapters of Catholic Charities, other charities, and several individuals. Granted, it’s more compelling to hear about the travails of the Little Sisters (who even merited a photo op with Pope Francis last September) than about the objection to contraception coverage held by the named plaintiff in the lead case, the Most Reverend David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    Opponents of the contraception mandate have been brilliant in positioning the case as being about nuns who have a name “perfectly pitched to make liberals/progressives squirm,” as Mona Charen wrote in National Review in a post that accused The Washington Post of burying the group’s name in its story about the court’s decision. A reader had to turn to the jump, Ms. Charen complained, and “read down another five paragraphs to learn this is the case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Well, yes, and 29 other plaintiffs.

    So pervasive has the administration-versus-nuns narrative been that it’s hard to believe that it has not at least subliminally played on the instincts and helped to shape the views of some members of the Supreme Court. Now that the cases are most likely back to square one, it’s time for the administration and its supporters to recapture the narrative and make clear to a confused public that this is not a case about nuns. It’s a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but an urgent task.

  • South Carolina’s Anti-Choice Fetal Pain Bill Is “Turning Lies Into Law”

    Nineteen-Week Abortion Ban Contradicts “Medical Consensus” About Fetal Development

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 17, South Carolina’s legislature passed a bill to ban abortion after 19 weeks based on the false premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization. Armed with a wealth of anti-choice propaganda and right-wing media myths, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) is likely to sign the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” into law with no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

    Despite the wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary, assertions about fetal pain have framed right-wing media’s coverage of abortion and supplied talking points for anti-choice politicians to push medically unnecessary laws targeting abortion access. In March,  Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) invoked the idea of fetal pain to sign a dangerous bill requiring Utah doctors to administer anesthesia during abortions performed after 20 weeks. Although South Carolina’s bill does not mandate the use of anesthesia, it is based on the same disputed premise about fetal pain.

    Samantha Allen explained in an article for the Daily Beast that by signing this bill, Gov. Haley not only would make South Carolina “the 17th state in the country to institute a 20-week abortion ban,” but she would “also be turning lies into law.” According to Allen, although the South Carolina bill states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization,” the majority of credible scientific evidence undermines this fallacious claim.

    Anti-choice legislators claim in the South Carolina bill that fetal reactions to stimuli at 20 weeks post-fertilization prove that the fetuses are capable of feeling pain. In particular, they claim research shows that “a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.” There is little evidence to support this claim, or other claims of fetal pain prior to 24 weeks of development.

    As Allen explained, the so-called science behind anti-choice legislators’ claims contradicts “the current medical consensus that fetal pain depends on the functioning of pathways in the brain between the thalamus and the cortex.” A 2015 article in FactCheck.org found there was no causal relationship between fetal withdrawal from stimuli and feelings of pain because any “recoil is more of a reflex” that is distinct from “the experience of pain” itself.

    In an interview with Salon, Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Anne Davis said these warnings about fetal pain and brain development are “created concerns” that are “based in politics,” not science. According to Davis, a fetus’s brain is not sufficiently developed to perceive pain until 24 weeks gestation. Politicians “can have an opinion about that, but it doesn’t change the information,” she told Salon. A March 2010 report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirmed that “research shows that the sensory structures are not developed or specialised enough to experience pain in a fetus less than 24 weeks.”

    Furthermore, Allen noted, two of the three researchers whose work is cited to support fetal pain bills “have already publicly disagreed with the way in which their findings have been used by anti-abortion advocates”:

    In 2013, Dr. Merker told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research “did not deal with pain specifically.” Even Dr. Anand, who believes that fetal pain could start earlier than the literature suggests, told the Times that he used to testify in court cases on abortion bans but that he stopped because “it’s just gotten completely out of hand.”

    In Slate, writer Nora Caplan-Bricker warned that there are compounding negative effects when 20-week bans operate in conjunction with other targeted restrictions on abortion care. She argued that South Carolina’s bill “constricts an already narrow window of opportunity” for patients to access abortion because in “states with multiple restrictions on abortion -- of which South Carolina is one -- women who decide to terminate early in pregnancy can be delayed for weeks or months as they scrape together money or contend with logistics.”

    South Carolina’s anti-choice lawmakers aren’t stopping with a ban on abortion at 19 weeks. As ABC reported, the South Carolina legislature is already hard at work on its next attack on abortion access: “a bill opponents say would essentially ban abortion past 13 weeks.”

  • As Trump Advisers Push Entitlement Cuts, NY Times Compares Trump To Sanders

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A New York Times article claimed that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s pledge “to protect Social Security and Medicare” and to “leave entitlements untouched” indicates he’s taken a page from Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign playbook. But The Times failed to note that Trump previously called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and that at least two of his advisers have advocated cutting or privatizing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability benefits -- and have indicated as recently as this month that Trump would also be open to changing those programs.

  • NY Times Editorial Board Slams Republican Obstruction On Garland Confirmation In Light Of Zubik V. Burwell Punt

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board slammed Senate Republicans’ ongoing obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, explaining that the inability to resolve the Zubik v. Burwell case shows the harm in a court “without a full bench.”

    On May 16, the Supreme Court handed down an unsigned per curiam opinion on the high-profile Zubik v. Burwell case, remanding the lawsuit back to a federal appeals court for further consideration of how religious accommodations are granted within the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

    The New York Times editorial board pointed out that this type of opinion, which does not create Supreme Court precedent but instead allows for the potential to revisit similar cases in the future, illustrates the harm in Senate Republican’ ongoing obstruction of Merrick Garland’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The Times’ editorial board lamented that opinions such as Zubik “leave millions of Americans waiting for justice or clarity as major legal questions are unresolved,” and concluded that “despite what Senate Republicans may say,” the Zubik punt showed that “the court cannot do its job without a full bench.”

    From the May 16 editorial (emphasis added):

    Every day that passes without a ninth justice undermines the Supreme Court’s ability to function, and leaves millions of Americans waiting for justice or clarity as major legal questions are unresolved.

    On Monday, the eight-member court avoided issuing a ruling on one of this term’s biggest cases, Zubik v. Burwell, which challenges the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ health care plans cover the cost of birth control for their employees. In an unsigned opinion, the court sent the lawsuits back to the lower federal courts, with instructions to try to craft a compromise that would be acceptable to everyone.

    This is the second time since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February that the court has failed to reach a decision in a high-profile case; in March, the court split 4 to 4 in a labor case involving the longstanding right of public-sector unions, which represent millions of American workers, to charge collective bargaining fees to nonmembers.

    [...]

    Unfortunately, the justices appear to be evenly split on this issue, as they may be on other significant cases pending before them.

    The court’s job is not to propose complicated compromises for individual litigants; it is to provide the final word in interpreting the Constitution and the nation’s laws. Despite what Senate Republicans may say about the lack of harm in the delay in filling the vacancy, the court cannot do its job without a full bench.

     

  • Voto Latino President's Op-Ed In Latina Magazine: “La Lucha,” -- The Struggle -- For Reproductive Rights Continues

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar explained in a Latina opinion piece how legislation restricting reproductive rights – like Texas’ HB 2 law that has already shuttered half the state’s abortion clinics -- disproportionately affects Latinas, limiting their access to both health care and economic security.

    Conservative media regularly push misinformation about anti-choice legislation, like Texas' HB 2, and women’s health clinics, ignoring the fact that unnecessary obstacles to reproductive health care have a negative impact on economic security and mobility with effects that are heightened for women of color.

    In the May 6 article, Kumar explained that “abortion is stigmatized, unaffordable or put out of reach by politicians” causing some women to “resort to methods that are dangerous, ineffective or life-threatening.” She noted that Texas’ HB 2 -- which is currently being contested at the Supreme Court -- is “putting the health of 2.5 million Latina residents at risk,” and urged women to continue the “march toward equity” in the face of an environment where women of color “are still underrepresented across all fields and are paid a mere 55 cents to the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic males”:

    “Since 2010, state politicians have quietly passed 288 new laws restricting abortion, with no sign of slowing down. For more than 9 million Latinas of reproductive age, the stakes are incredibly high.

    Some of these restrictions have made their way to the Supreme Court, which any day could weigh in with a decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a Texas case that will determine the future of abortion access. The law in question in the case, HB 2, has already forced more than half of the abortion clinics in the state to shut down. This law is poised to leave Texas with 10, or fewer, clinics, putting the health of 2.5 million Latina residents at risk.

    While unintended pregnancy is at a 30-year low, impoverished Latinas still experience significant disparities, which underscores the need to keep abortion safe, legal and affordable. Unfortunately, when abortion is stigmatized, unaffordable or put out of reach by politicians, some women will resort to methods that are dangerous, ineffective or life-threatening.

    [...]

    Politicians should not stand in the way of women having a range of safe, effective and affordable methods of abortion care, and we should do everything we can to ensure that every woman has access to safe and effective abortion services when she needs it – no matter where she lives or how much money she makes. No woman should be jailed for ending a pregnancy on her own.

    Latinas have fought hard for social, political and economic progress. We have made great strides in the workforce. We are more educated than ever, and we continue to be a growing influential constituency in the United States. Latinas are entrepreneurs, scientists, teachers, moms and pillars of our communities. We cannot let our march toward equity be set back by politicians who deny us health care and interfere in our personal decisions. We are still underrepresented across all fields and are paid a mere 55 cents to the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic males. Our health cannot be separated from our economic well-being, and Latinas must have both to achieve our dreams.”

  • Vox Explains How The House Panel Investigating Abortion Intimidates Scientists And Hurts Medical Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox’s Emily Crockett blasted the “Benghazi-style” House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which “rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism,” for “recklessly intimidating scientists and researchers.” Crockett explained how the special committee, tasked with investigating fetal tissue donation by abortion providers, is targeting “anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue” with subpoenas and putting them at risk of “violence from anti-abortion extremists.”

    Since July the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a series of deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood illicitly sells fetal tissue. Despite the fact that a growing number of states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have found no wrongdoing on the part of the women’s health organization, right-wing media and lawmakers have used the videos to target Planned Parenthood. Additionally, since the release of the videos, at least four Planned Parenthood clinics have been attacked in what law enforcement authorities consider possible acts of domestic terrorism, and an anti-choice activist has admitted that “over-heated rhetoric” and smears could be partially to blame for anti-choice violence.

    The April 29 Vox article noted how researchers using fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are "being terrorized” as a result of the House panel investigating CMP’s claims, and explained that “Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers”:

    House Republicans have made a public enemy out of Planned Parenthood, of course, but they're not stopping there. They also have their eye on companies that handle fetal tissue, medical researchers, and even medical students — essentially, anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue, except those who brought the spurious allegations about "selling baby parts" in the first place.

    Meanwhile, the scrutiny is interfering with the jobs of scientists and medical providers. At best, they live in fear of a subpoena; at worst, there's a target on their back for violence from anti-abortion extremists.

    Doctors who provide safe, legal abortion already live this nightmare every day. Public witch hunts like this House panel certainly aren't helping that. But they are helping to make sure that scientists and researchers will get to experience the same treatment.

    This panel shouldn't exist in the first place

    How did we get here? Last summer, a series of anti-abortion videos, produced by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its founder David Daleiden, came out claiming that "Planned Parenthood sells baby parts."

    Since then, it's become clear that the videos are blatant propaganda. That's not just my conclusion, but the conclusion that most credible media organizations couldn't ignore after learning the facts.

    […]

    Fetal tissue research is incredibly important. It brought us the vaccines against polio and chicken pox, and it could one day bring us the cure to Alzheimer's or diabetes.

    But because of the videos, this entire field is now under attack. Some states have started passing or proposing laws against fetal tissue research, including Indiana's bizarre new "bury your miscarriage" law that effectively bans tissue donation. And now the attack has moved to the federal level.

     […]

    It's bad enough to risk intimidating scientists and young researchers out of entering an important field. But it gets even worse. The House's "Panel on Infant Lives" also rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism, which has already exploded once in 2015's shocking escalation of violence against abortion providers.

    Whole books have been written about the systematic terrorism that abortion providers, clinic staff, and volunteers are threatened with every day — from stalking and threats, to "Wanted" posters that feature doctors' photos and addresses, to vandalism and firebombs at clinics.

    It's bad enough that the videos and the endless political outrage around them undoubtedly caused more of this violence. But now, the people who use fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are also being terrorized.

    One university researcher spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity because the threats he's received have led his institution to post a guard outside his laboratory.

    Congressional investigations aren't supposed to work like trials. They're supposed to work like investigations.

    Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers like these.

    […]

    It doesn't matter how many times CMP's claims have been proven wrong, or how often Daleiden's years-long history with other dubious smear campaigns gets pointed out. To some anti-abortion Republicans in Congress, these videos will always be indisputable evidence that Planned Parenthood was caught on tape doing something both immoral and illegal, and that these claims deserve serious investigation.

    It doesn't matter how much time or money all of this costs lawmakers or taxpayers. It doesn't matter that violent threats against abortion providers skyrocketed in 2015, and that a gunman ranting about "baby parts" shot up a Planned Parenthood in November in the deadliest-ever attack on a US abortion clinic.

    It doesn't matter how many investigations there have already been, and it never will. For the anti-abortion movement and their supporters in Congress, there will always be more investigating to do. There's always the chance that this time, they'll finally expose Planned Parenthood's evil deeds for all the world to see.