Fox News attacked Planned Parenthood Action Fund for acknowledging that 2016 Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina's policy positions may threaten women's health, suggesting that her positions could not harm women because Fiorina is female.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck took issue with a Planned Parenthood Action Fund poll that asked "which GOP presidential contender is the worst for women's health" because it included a female candidate, Carly Fiorina. On the May 21 edition of the program, Hasselbeck wondered, "How is a female candidate a threat to women?" before suggesting even conducting such a poll on the election's impact on healthcare policy was inappropriate because Planned Parenthood receives government grants.
Hasselbeck steered clear of addressing Fiorina's actual policy stances, many of which would disproportionately harm women.
Fiorina has pushed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which greatly improves women's access to health care, claiming that it "does not solve problems -- it creates them." She supported a dangerous ban on abortions after 20-weeks so extreme even Republican congresswomen opposed it. Running for U.S. Senate in 2010, Fiorina said that she would "absolutely" repeal Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity.
She has opposed policies to address the gender pay gap, disputing the necessity of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and repeatedly objected to efforts to raise the minimum wage, which would greatly benefit the nearly two-thirds of minimum wage earners who are women and help close the gender pay gap.
Broadcast evening news programs have been virtually silent on Congressional Republicans' repeated efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive health care by pushing an extreme 20-week ban on abortion.
House Republicans voted this week to ban the majority of abortions after 20 weeks. As The New York Times reported, the legislation is a new "version of a bill that Republican leaders had abruptly pulled in January amid objections from some of their own members" over a provision "that would have required women who became pregnant through rape to report their assault to law enforcement authorities" in order to gain an exemption from the ban.
Such legislation would have dangerous implications for women's health should it become law, as many serious health conditions for both mothers and fetuses cannot be discovered until around the 20th week of pregnancy. The latest version of the legislation requires sexual assault survivors to attend counseling 48 hours prior to receiving an abortion, a requirement that, as ThinkProgress noted, "appears to closely resemble the mandatory counseling and waiting period requirements that are already popular on the state level" which have been roundly criticized by health experts and medical professionals for being unnecessary and harmful to women.
Yet broadcast evening news programs have been all but silent in covering the Republicans' abortion ban.
According to a Media Matters review of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS' nightly news programs since January 1, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News have completely ignored the legislation, while CBS Evening News ran one segment highlighting the GOP proposal on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. PBS' Newshour devoted four segments to the legislation this year, and was the only network to cover the House's passage of the latest abortion ban.
The virtual silence of the broadcast evening news comes amid an unprecedented push by Republicans at both the national and state level to restrict women's constitutional right to abortion. An April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS evening news programs from January 1 to April 13, 2015 for the terms "abort!" or "reproduct!" We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the keywords.
Fox News is falsely claiming that a new study concerning the survival rate of premature newborns will have an outsized impact on abortion law.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) suggests that an extremely small number of premature babies born at 22 weeks can survive outside the womb with extensive medical intervention. The New York Times reported that, according to the study, "a vast majority died or suffered serious health issues" despite these best efforts. Because the Supreme Court has held that states cannot ban abortion prior to fetal viability, many pro-life advocates and now Fox News are already suggesting that the current medical standard of viability be lowered to 22 weeks - a conclusion the study does not support.
In fact, not only does this claim misrepresent the science, it also misinterprets how the Supreme Court has defined "viability" in its rulings on reproductive rights.
Although the overwhelming medical consensus is that viability is generally 24 weeks, and most states that regulate abortion use the 24-week date as a cut-off, the Supreme Court does not use this as a bright-line rule. But on the May 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee falsely claimed that it does, and suggested that the new study would accordingly upset the Supreme Court's rulings on reproductive rights. In an interview with Dr. Carla Simonian, Lee erroneously claimed that Roe v. Wade had set "28 weeks as viable has been a marker not only in the medical community but also in the legal community," and that in the court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 28 week viability date "became 24 weeks."
Based on her misunderstanding of these decisions, Lee went on to wonder whether 22 weeks would become a new legal standard for viability:
In reality, the Supreme Court has never set viability at a specific week -- rather, it has acknowledged that viability is different for every pregnancy and is determined on a case-by-case basis by a woman and her doctor. The court specifically noted in Colautti v. Franklin that viability "may differ with each pregnancy" and that it "is reached when, in the judgment of the attending physician on the particular case before him, there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside the womb."
Moreover, in Casey, the court held that a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy before viability without interference from the state, but did not definitively set viability at 24 weeks or any other date. In short, the Supreme Court still defers to medical science, which is why Fox News' question, "Are we looking at even 22 weeks?" as the new legal date of viability is not only unsupported by the NEJM study, it also incorrectly explained how the constitutional right to abortion is protected.
While conservative politicians and right-wing media may attempt to exploit this study to promote more archaic restrictions on reproductive rights, the Supreme Court is not bound by its findings to revisit its reproductive rights jurisprudence. Life-saving advancements in medical science and technology are good news, but under current law, the point of viability continues to vary, depending on the pregnancy.
From the May 7 edition of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show:
Media are hyping claims that Carly Fiorina's 2016 bid for the GOP presidential nomination renders the Republican "war on women" neutral -- because both parties now have women running for office -- dismissing how Fiorina's policy positions would harm women.
From the May 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Media are parroting conservative lawmakers' and activist groups' characterization of the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) as an "abortion law," an inaccurate portrayal the GOP is pushing in its effort to repeal the legislation. The law actually provides women vital protection from discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, like assisted pregnancy and even premarital sex.
One of conservative media's favorite myths in their campaign against reproductive choice -- that certain forms of contraception are equivalent to abortion -- is being parroted by Republicans and anti-abortion groups in Colorado to advocate against extending an expiring state program that provides contraceptive implants to Colorado women at low costs, and has been called "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy program."
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a program that provides long-term contraceptive options for women and teens such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants at reduced costs may end after the private donation that originally funded it expires June 30, unless a bipartisan Colorado House bill appropriating funding from the state's budget passes in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Wall Street Journal explained on April 22 that some of Colorado's lawmakers are advocating against "spend[ing] state money to extend the program." The Journal pointed to a statement from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA, explaining that the organization "opposed efforts to extend the program because it considered IUDs to be the equivalent of abortion." In March, NPR wrote that Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg, chairman of the Senate Health Committee in Colorado, claimed that the program "'crosses a line'" because "in Lundberg's view, an IUD can count as an abortion, and this makes it impossible for a program that funds IUDs to receive state funding."
The claim that IUDs and other forms of contraception cause abortion mimics a long championed conservative media myth. Despite the fact that experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have repeatedly explained that IUDs and emergency contraception "do not cause abortions," right-wing media baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate - which includes coverage of IUDS -- covered abortifacients.
Now the conservative media myth has found its way into arguments against Colorado's Family Planning Initiative, which has been called one of "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy" programs. The program has provided IUDs and contraceptive implants to "more than 30,000 Colorado women, most of them low income," and is credited with reducing the state's teen pregnancy rate "faster than the nationwide average, allowing it to leapfrog 11 spots in the national rankings." The program has also significantly lowered Colorado's abortion rate and saved the state millions of dollars, according to Mother Jones:
Between 2010 and 2012, the state estimates, 4,300 to 9,700 births to women on the state's Medicaid program that would have otherwise occurred did not--saving Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million. The state's abortion rate has also cratered, falling 42 percent among women ages 15 to 19 and 18 percent among women ages 20 to 24 between 2009 and 2012.
Recent news reports on Republican presidential candidates' current support for pre-viability bans on abortion after 20 weeks have failed to mention that such bans are clearly unconstitutional, and have been repeatedly struck down as such by the courts.
It's no secret that the likely candidates for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination are extremely anti-choice. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was recently in the news for his sponsorship of "personhood" bills that would legally define life at conception, rendering abortion and some forms of birth control the criminal equivalent of murder -- perhaps even without exceptions for rape or incest. With less attention, Paul's potential primary opponents have also staked out far-right positions on American women's access to abortion, and recent reporting indicates their consensus position is coalescing around pre-viability 20-week abortion bans. In addition to Paul, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are all reportedly on board with these bans, despite the fact they flout decades of Supreme Court precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion.
In reporting on these candidates' current lockstep for bans on abortion, however, mainstream media outlets are neglecting to mention that these 20-week measures are blatantly unconstitutional -- despite the fact that some of these same candidates repeatedly emphasize their fidelity to the "rule of law" and the U.S. Constitution.
In a recent article about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, The New York Times noted that Walker's newfound support for a 20-week abortion ban was a "shift in emphasis and tone," but never discussed the constitutional flaw in such bans. USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times omitted the same fact in their political coverage of Walker's position on reproductive rights, with the LA Times choosing to describe a 20-week ban in terms of a "sharper-edged tone" rather than the unconstitutional measure it is.
The trend culminated in an April 17 Politico article that called 20-week abortion bans the "new litmus test" for all Republican candidates. While Politico detailed how anti-choice groups are lobbying Republicans to "make 20-week abortion ban[s] a centerpiece of their campaigns," the article never once noted that those bans are unconstitutional.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove misrepresented controversial anti-abortion language added to human trafficking legislation that is being used by Republicans to stall Loretta Lynch's confirmation to the Department of Justice, falsely claiming it was part "a forty year bipartisan agreement." In reality, the added provision would greatly expand the scope of the Hyde Amendment by restricting the use of private funds for abortion services.
President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch for Attorney General on November 8, 2014. Republicans have subsequently held Lynch's confirmation hostage for 162 days over controversial abortion language in an otherwise bipartisan human trafficking bill.
On the April 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said Lynch's confirmation delay was rooted in Democratic efforts to repeal the "Hyde language in the trafficking bill," a measure restricting the use of federal funds for abortion services. Rove claimed Democrats were "trying to undo a 40 year bipartisan agreement that no federal funds be used for abortion," adding that they were "trying to play to the abortion crowd."
But Rove failed to explain that the language added to the bill by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is modeled after the Hyde Amendment, but would provide an unprecedented expansion, subjecting private money in the new fund created for trafficking victims to federal restrictions. This language marks the first time private money would be limited by the regulation.
As Think Progress pointed out, victims of human trafficking "often need access to abortion services because they have been subject to sexual violence, so a fund designed to help them shouldn't cut off resources related to abortion."
Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
From the April 9 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
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As media outlets across the political spectrum continue to assess the implications of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) contentious behavior toward reporters, much of the analysis does not explore what irritated the presidential candidate in two recent interviews -- the observation that support for unconditional abortion bans and fetal "personhood" laws cannot be reconciled with support for exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
Almost immediately after announcing his candidacy, Paul's condescending behavior toward female reporters was widely criticized as sexist, when he "simplistically and condescendingly" refused to acknowledge his reversal on foreign policy toward Iran to Today Show host Savannah Guthrie -- a position that even the conservative National Review's Rich Lowry labeled a "flip-flop." Subsequent coverage of Paul's Today interview focused on his rudeness toward Guthrie, and even when outlets also noted he "bristled" and "ducked questions" in other interviews about his inconsistent record on exceptions to abortion bans, the extent of that contradiction was unexplored.
The questions about his support for abortion ban exceptions originated in an interview with the Associated Press on the same day as his Today interview, when Paul "dodg[ed] a central question about abortion: What exceptions, if any, should be made if the procedure were to be banned?" Paul's refusal to answer whether or not his broad support for abortion bans includes an accommodation for rape, incest, or the health of the mother continued on CNN's The Situation Room. In one exchange, Wolf Blitzer directly asked whether Paul supported an exception for victims of rape and incest. In response, Paul claimed that "there will be extenuating circumstances, and I've supported legislation both with exceptions and without exceptions":
The legacy of the conservative media's long campaign to push abortion myths and turn a blind eye to the opinions of medical experts is being felt in 43 states, where Republican legislation restricting abortion access has surged in the first quarter of 2015.
According to an April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute, the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state. The anti-choice measures included many provisions roundly condemned by the medical experts, including measures to restrict abortion services at 20 weeks of pregnancy and during the second trimester, as well as bills "seeking to impose targeted regulations on abortion providers" (or TRAP laws). The high number of abortion-related state-level legislation introduced so far in 2015 follows a trend of Republican-led state legislatures sweeping in a record number of abortion restrictions following electoral gains in 2010:
Conservative media have long championed the anti-abortion rhetoric behind such legislation, ignoring medical experts who point out such measures are based on medically inaccurate or outright false information, and that these regulations harm women.
In January, after House Republicans dropped plans to vote on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, several conservative media figures lashed out, attacking female members who objected to the bill and dismissing the legitimate health concerns experts say lead women to choose the procedure.
And despite women's health experts like the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) and Gynecologists statements that TRAP measures such as hospital admitting privileges are "medically unnecessary" and "jeopardize the health of women," conservative media nonetheless asserted that such restrictions "ensure safety" and deemed those who oppose them "executioners." They have even pushed discredited claims of a "post-abortion syndrome," the idea that choosing to have an abortion causes subsequent mental illness, ignoring experts at the American Psychological Association who make clear that there is "no evidence" that a single abortion "causes mental health problems."
Now a new crop of medically inaccurate falsehoods perpetrated by conservative media are threatening to translate into even more anti-abortion legislation. In both Arkansas and Arizona, new laws in the state will force doctors to tell patients that abortions can be "reversed" mid-procedure. But as The Washington Post reported, "abortion-rights groups and many doctors" say such rhetoric is based on "junk science" and condemned by women's health experts like ACOG:
But the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) was among those arguing against the measures, saying claims of "reversal" are unsupported by medical evidence.
"Claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence, and this approach is not recommended in ACOG's clinical guidance on medication abortion," says an ACOG fact sheet on the Arizona law.
Lawmakers in Kansas also recently passed a measure health experts say is "dangerous for some women," signing restrictions on dilation and evacuation procedures, a commonly used technique for second trimester abortions, on April 7. As The New York Times reported, similar bills are also "nearing passage in Oklahoma, and others have been proposed in Missouri, South Carolina and South Dakota." The measures' indifference to the opinions of health experts followed the conservative media's playbook of ignoring science and risking harm to women for ideological gain.