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  • 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.


  • As Polls Show Rising Support To Confirm SCOTUS Nominee, Wash. Post Lauds "Remarkably Successful" Opposition

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Washington Post credulously called the efforts by the discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland "remarkably successful." But polls show the general public is increasingly at odds with JCN's position. Indeed, just last week the Post reported that the results of a new poll was evidence that "Democrats are winning the message war over Garland." The Post promoted the notion of JCN's success in an interview with chief counsel Carrie Severino, who was given a platform to rehash debunked smears about Garland's judicial record on guns and government regulations.

  • Right-Wing Media Keep Rehashing The Xenophobic Smear That Immigrants Bring Diseases

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Conservative media frequently push the debunked claim that immigrants pose a threat to public health, merely changing the disease to fit their narrative. Fox News repackaged a popular nativist and anti-immigrant smear claiming that the child migrants from Central America were "an illegal health risk" and were bringing diseases into the country according to internal CDC emails.

    On the April 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert reported that "disease" had come with the "thousands of immigrant children" who came to the United States in 2014, fleeing violence from their home countries. The assertion was based on documents recently made public by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch showing officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coordinating responses for the possibility of unaccompanied minors arriving with tuberculosis:

    While the CDC acknowledged that “a small number of cases of TB have been identified,” it also noted that “CDC believes the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the general public.”

    Similar claims to Fox News' have been debunked by experts previously. In 2015 the fact-checking website PolitiFact examined Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's claim that "tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border" and wrote that "The experts we contacted agreed that there is no evidence of a massive influx of infections across the border" as a consequence of undocumented immigration. An NBC News report explained that, in fact, most of the illnesses found in unaccompanied child immigrants were “nothing unusual,” including the common cold and head lice. NBC also noted that mechanisms were put in place so that arrivals are screened for tuberculosis -- which is not casually transmitted -- and facilities with the capacity to quarantine were made available. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, immunization rates for tuberculosis in Central America are above 80 percent. Tuberculosis in the United States has had a declining incidence for decades, with a relatively small increase of 157 more cases in 2015, which, according to the CDC, cannot be pinned on a single variable like undocumented immigration, since funding for prevention has been reduced or stagnant nationwide.

    However, the trope of immigrants carrying diseases to the United States is often perpetuated by anti-immigrant and nativist groups hoping to stoke fear and resentment towards immigrants. According to one expert, “There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners.” Fox News and other conservative media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham -- have pushed this smear, blaming immigrants for diseases that range from leprosy, measles, chickenpox, and dengue to enterovirus and ebola, despite the absence of evidence showing a significant correlation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has explained that these claims "generally originate with modern nativist groups and ideologues." They are then presented by right-wing media as factual news, without the benefit of context or the opinions of experts that have explained how the threat that undocumented immigrants place on public health is "wildly overstated."

  • Univision's Fact Checker Labels Ted Cruz's Comment That Young People Are More Anti-Choice A "Lie"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Univision's fact checker Detector de Mentiras ruled that Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) statement that young people are currently "the most pro-life generation of young people" in recent times was a "lie," and that in fact many studies “are finding a more or less stable level of support over time.”

    During an April 14 MSNBC town hall, Cruz asserted that "if you look at young people, this generation of young people is the most pro-life generation of young people we have seen in modern times." Detector de Mentiras explained that "it's hard to find studies that demonstrate a clear change among young people regarding pro-choice or anti-choice stances." The fact checker found that many studies indicate that “young people aren't more or less anti-choice than in the second half of the 1990s,” and that according to Gallup they are more pro-choice than in 2010. In addition, “in two opinion studies an important trend emerges among millennials to not identify as either pro-choice or anti-choice,” which requires “a more careful analysis of what young people are thinking.”

    Ted Cruz's false statement continues a trend of anti-choice conservatives repeating falsehoods, which have been used to attack reproductive rights and limit abortion access. Notably, some anti-choice measures, such as Texas’s HB 2, could have a disproportionate impact on Latinas.

    Translated from Univision's Detector de Mentiras April 19 fact-check:

    Is it true that we are the most anti-abortion generation of young people in the United States in modern times?

    The answer is no. There are many studies that are finding a more or less stable level of support over time for different positions on abortion. We haven’t seen important changes. Regarding what Cruz said, he didn't quote any studies, but he referred to a "pro-life generation," which is not an inspirational term from the candidate, but rather one that has a very specific political meaning. A lot of material can be found attempting to support the idea that today's youth is more anti-abortion than previous generations. However, the evidence isn't clear and it's hard to find studies that demonstrate a clear change among young people regarding pro-choice or anti-choice stances.


    The question about the morality of abortion has a different tenor than that of considering oneself pro-choice or anti-choice and it can be influenced by various factors. But it seems that Americans recognize the presence of these different factors. The [General Social Survey] (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC at the University of Chicago) has studied since 1972 the stances that Americans have on a range of topics, including abortion. The study demonstrates that supporting or rejecting abortion depends a lot on the circumstances.

    That might explain why Pew Research Center states that positions on abortion have remained pretty stable between 1995 and 2016, and by showing data filtered by age, we find that 62% of 18-29 year olds surveyed say that abortions should be legal in all or most cases, while 36% said that it should be illegal on all or most cases.

    Neither for or against

    In a 2015 survey, Vox concluded that 39% of the public does not strictly identify as pro-choice or anti-choice. While they don't filter their result by age, in the sample from March 2015, 21% of those surveyed said they were between 18 and 29 years old, and 25% were between 30 and 44 years old.

    Vox's findings coincide with those of the study “How Race and Religion Shape Millen[n]ial Attitudes on Sexuality and Reproductive Health” conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. The February 2015 survey had a sample of 2,314 adults between 18 and 35 years of age. In the results of the survey, we can see that 33% of those born after 1982, millennials,believe that abortions should be legal in almost all cases and 22% say it should be completely legal. Likewise, 55% think that their community should have a health professional that can practice legal abortions. In terms of the labels "pro-choice" and "anti-choice," millennials are almost perfectly divided in quarters between those who identify with one label, those who identify with the other, those who identify with both, and those who don't identify with either.


    What Cruz said is a lie. Cruz stated that young people currently are the most anti-abortion generation in modern times. There are many studies that indicate that currently, young people aren't more or less anti-choice than in the second half of the 1990s; and if we consider the Gallup poll, this generation is more pro-choice than in 2010. In addition, in two opinion studies an important trend emerges among millennials to not identify as either pro-choice or anti-choice, which would demand a more careful analysis of what young people are thinking from politicians debating this issue. In the studies that could support what Cruz said, we haven't found an evolution of positions on abortion over time.

  • NY Times Editorial Board Debunks Conservative Myths About Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board debunked the “big myths” Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are “peddling about the Affordable Care Act and also their ill-conceived plans of what might replace it.” The board wrote that Trump and Cruz are “willing to mislead the public any way they can” to “trash the Affordable Care Act” by “inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help.”

    Right-wing media have smeared Obamacare for years with baseless catastrophic predictions and falsehoods, and 2016 Republican presidential candidates have followed suit. That fearmongering has been stunningly wrong, and numerous reports have repeatedly highlighted the Affordable Care Act’s successes in bringing “historic increases in coverage.”

    In an April 19 editorial, the Times’ editorial board explained that, contrary to Trump and Cruz’s misleading attempts to trash the Affordable Care Act, “the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers … who previously struggled to pay for coverage.” From the Times’ editorial board:

    “Disaster.” “Incredible economic burden.” “The biggest job-killer in this country.”

    Central to the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has been the claim that the Affordable Care Act has been a complete failure, and that the only way to save the country from this scourge is to replace it with something they design.


    Mr. Cruz claimed that “millions of Americans” had lost their health insurance because of the health reform law.


    Insurers did stop offering some plans after the law took effect, including those that didn’t provide required benefits like maternity care or that charged higher premiums to older or sicker people. But people with those plans had the opportunity to sign up for others. And over all, the law has drastically reduced the number of Americans who lack health insurance. According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 10 million between 2010, when the law passed, and 2014. While critics said employers might stop offering health insurance because of the law, three million people actually gained coverage through their employers between 2010 and 2014.


    Mr. Cruz has called the Affordable Care Act “the biggest job-killer in this country” and said “millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work” because of it. This is false. The unemployment rate has fallen since the law took effect, PolitiFact notes, as has the number of people working part time when they would rather work full time. A 2015 study using data from the Current Population Survey found that the law “had virtually no adverse effect on labor force participation, employment or usual hours worked per week through 2014.”


    [T]he biggest obstacle stopping insurers from setting up in more states is not regulation; it’s the difficulty of establishing a network of providers in a new market. And such a structure would destroy the longstanding ability of states to regulate health insurance for their populations. Some states, for instance, require coverage for infertility treatment and others have chosen not to. Allowing cross-border plans would encourage insurers to base themselves in low-regulation states, and the result might be a proliferation of poor-quality plans.

    The Affordable Care Act is not perfect.


    But the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers like cashiers, cooks and waiters who previously struggled to pay for coverage. In inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz show that they don’t care about helping Americans get health care, which has never been their interest. They want to trash the Affordable Care Act, and they’re willing to mislead the public any way they can.

  • Conservatives Were Stunningly Wrong About Obamacare, New Report Finds

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.

  • TV News Ignores Historic Findings That Uninsured Rate Drops To “Record Low”

    Broadcast And Cable News Fail To Inform Viewers About Major Obamacare Success Story


    According to an April 7 update to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the first quarter of 2016, the uninsured rate among American adults dropped to 11.0 percent -- the lowest rate of uninsurance in the 8-year history of the poll. The uninsured rate has dropped over 6 percentage points since the third quarter of 2013, the last recording period before the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" went into effect in October 2013. A Media Matters review found that none of the major television outlets reported on Gallup’s historic findings.

  • Democratic Debate Moderators Have Let The GOP Set The Terms Of The Abortion Discussion

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    During the April 14 Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN, Hillary Clinton called out debate moderators for failing to ask the Democratic candidates a single question about abortion, a failing that has occurred in all nine debates. It’s not only the increasing assault on reproductive rights across the country, or that women’s groups and social media advocates have encouraged moderators to ask about abortion that makes the omission significant; it’s that moderators of Republican debates have brought up the topic repeatedly, which has helped the extreme positions of the GOP candidates to set the terms of the national debate, through campaign coverage reporting.

    In the course of 12 Republican presidential primary debates, the questions moderators have asked the GOP candidates on abortion have allowed them to attack Planned Parenthood and advocate that the health care organization be defunded, argue that abortion should be further criminalized, question whether abortion should even be legal in cases of rape and incest, and boast about putting unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics.

    These positions are out of line with that of most Americans and rely on conservative misinformation. GOP candidates have used deceptively edited videos released by the anti-choice group Center For Medical Progress (CMP) to call for Planned Parenthood to be investigated by the Justice Department, even though a growing list of state and federal inquiries have cleared the women’s health organization of any wrongdoing.

    The complete lack of questions about abortion in Democratic debates has, as Daniel Marans wrote for the Huffington Post, “given Republicans an opening to set the terms of the discussion” about reproductive rights. Mattie Kahn pointed out in Elle that “If we're willing to give the GOP a mic to debate who is going to defund Planned Parenthood the hardest, we owe it to Democrats to give these candidates a chance to discuss who is best prepared to defend it.” And Rewire editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson argued that the media, by not asking questions about abortion, is “complicit” in “perpetuating both abortion stigma and the mirage of consequence-free abortion restrictions."

    Debate moderators failed even to ask Democratic candidates about Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which was argued before the Supreme Court in March, anddubbed the "highest-stakes abortion case in a generation." As NARAL Pro-Choice America has written, given the fact that women confront "near daily threats to their right to reproductive freedom in this country," the failure of debate moderators to ask about abortion is "shameful and a real disservice to voters."

  • LA Times: Utah’s Anti-Choice Bill Forces Abortion Providers “To Use Anesthesia ... To Solve A Non-Existent Problem”

    First Of Its Kind Bill Is “A Reckless Intrusion Of A State Legislature Into The Practice Of Medicine”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In late March 2016, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) signed a bill making Utah “the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.” Despite criticism that this requirement would pose an increased risk to women, a spokesperson for the governor argued that the bill was essential for “minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child” during the course of an abortion procedure -- even though scientific research suggests that a fetus cannot experience pain until possibly 24 weeks of pregnancy.

    The Utah bill and others like it are based on the flawed premise that a fetus is able to feel pain starting around 20 weeks post-fertilization. Assertions about fetal pain have animated right-wing media discussions of abortion and supplied talking points for anti-choice politicians to push for increasingly restrictive and medically unnecessary laws targeting abortion access.

    On April 12, the Los Angeles Times editorial board published an editorial lambasting Gov. Herbert’s decision, explaining that the bill was unprecedented in its mandate that abortion providers “use anesthesia in order to solve a non-existent problem.” The Times wrote that the bill was not only “a reckless intrusion of a state legislature into the practice of medicine,” but that this intrusion is medically unnecessary, is potentially dangerous, and ultimately will make abortion more costly.

    According to the Times, “reputable scientific research, backed by mainstream groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, indicates that a fetus doesn’t have the capability to feel pain until sometime in the third trimester, which starts at 24 weeks.” This medical opinion is not anomalous. 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.”

    Despite this evidence, anti-choice politicians have invoked the possibility of fetal pain before 24 weeks of pregnancy to pass legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks. In an interview with Salon, Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Anne Davis said these warnings about fetal pain prior to 24 weeks 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 and politicians “can have an opinion about that, but it doesn’t change the information.”

    Furthermore, there is little evidence to support the idea that forced anesthesia is medically necessary or safe. An article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that “little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques” and that there is even less data to support “the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion.” The Times noted that the vagueness of the Utah bill’s language contributes to the problem. Because the bill does not provide guidance for what constitutes sufficient anesthesia, it is likely to “leave [providers] stymied” because there is no way to determine “how much anesthesia they ought to give a woman in order to alleviate or eliminate pain they don’t even believe the fetus feels,” the Times wrote. And if they thus opt for general anesthesia, that “poses more risks to the woman than the actual abortion procedure.”

    The Times also stated that the bill “would raise the cost of the procedure.” Although the bill did not include any language about where those costs would be incurred, there is little reason to believe it would not come out of a patient’s pocket. According to CNN’s Ashley Fantz, “when asked if there is a cost estimate for the new anesthesia requirement,” the spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health told CNN that the department “does not have funding to pay for anesthesia.” Given the already disproportionate impact of abortion restrictions on low-income populations, increasing the costs of procedures is a dangerous precedent that could place abortion care out of reach for many.

    Questions of access haven’t deterred the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble, however. When asked about the possibility that people may object to receiving anesthesia before an abortion, he replied: “then that individual patient might not want to decide to have that abortion in Utah.”

    *Photo courtsey of: CNN

  • NY Times Report On Employer-Provided Insurance Puts Another Nail In The Coffin Of Conservatives' ACA Fearmongering

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times article debunked the right-wing myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cause employers to stop providing health benefits to employees, reporting that "widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves" were "largely wrong." In fact, according to the Times, "Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance."

    Right-wing media have relentlessly hyped debunked myths and evidence-free claims about the ACA since its passage, including the claim that the health care law would lead employers to cut jobs or shift workers to part-time, that millions would lose their employer-based coverage, and horror stories about rising costs and scaled-back coverage.

    The April 4 article explained that"emerging consensus" holds that the health care law "has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system," noting that employers are expected to "remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade" and even "seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law." The article pointed out that, in fact, "health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool" in the labor market, and employers are accordingly "responding" to employees' expectations of receiving health benefits: 

    The Affordable Care Act was aimed mainly at giving people better options for buying health insurance on their own. There were widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves.

    But those predictions were largely wrong. Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance.

    As it turns out, health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool as the labor market has tightened in recent years. Desirable employees still expect health benefits, and companies are responding, new analyses of federal data show.

    "We're more confident than ever that we'll offer benefits," said Robert Ihrie Jr., a senior vice president for Lowe's Companies, the home improvement retailer.

    Companies get a sizable federal tax break from providing the insurance. And if they dropped the coverage, many workers would expect the money in their paycheck to increase enough to pay for outside insurance -- or would look for a new job.

    The reversal in thinking about employer benefits is so stark that even government budget officials are singing an optimistic tune. They lowered the number of people they think will lose coverage because of the health law and now predict employers will remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade.

    The surprise turnaround adds to an emerging consensus about the contentious health law: It has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system, even while insuring millions of low-income people.


    Employers seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law. The percentage of adults under 65 with employer-based insurance held firm for the last five years after steadily declining since 1999, according to an analysis of federal data released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which closely tracks the health insurance market.