CNN reporter Dana Bash missed the opportunity to press Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush on a 2001 Florida law he allowed to pass as governor that required single mothers to list their sexual histories in a newspaper before allowing children to be adopted.
In a prerecorded interview that aired on the June 14 edition of CNN's State of the Union, Dana Bash questioned Bush about his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, including how he will distinguish himself from his family's political record, but failed to press Bush on his record as governor of Florida.
Just days earlier, however, Bash highlighted Bush's record as governor, noting that he is "facing questions about a 2001 so-called Scarlet Letter law in Florida when he was governor, requiring single mothers to put a notice in the newspaper before they could give up a child for adoption."
Bash also highlighted a statement from Bush's 1995 book Profiles in Character, in which he "argued for the 'restoration of shame' in society." From Bush's book:
One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.
According to Huffington Post's Laura Bassett, Bush's book "points to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red 'A' for 'adulterer' on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview."
And, as Bassett explained, Florida's Scarlet Letter law was an "opportunity to test his theory on public shaming," when he "declined to veto a very controversial bill," -- that Marco Rubio and five members of Congress also voted for -- "that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption."
NPR reported that part of Bush's rationale for the law was to decrease uncertainty about adoptions by "provid[ing] greater finality once the adoption is approved, and to avoid circumstances where future challenges to the adoption disrupt the life of the child."
But a 2004 Notre Dame Law Review article explained that the personal information required by the law to be listed in newspapers was extensive:
"The notice ... must contain a physical description, including, but not limited to age, race, hair and eye color, and approximate height and weight of the minor's mother and of any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father; the minor's date of birth; and any date and city, including the county and state in which the city is located, in which conception may have occurred."
And according to NPR, the ad "had to run once a week for a month, at the expense of either the mother or the people who wanted to adopt the baby, as that 2004 article explains."
While Bush objected to parts of the law, in part because, "there is a shortage of responsibility on behalf of the birth father," the 2001 law wasn't replaced until after a Florida court "declared the provision requiring women to list their sexual encounters unconstitutional because it was deemed an invasion of privacy."
From the June 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News gave likely 2016 presidential hopeful and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) a platform to double down on his assertion that ultrasounds -- mandatory in his state for women seeking abortions -- are just a "cool" thing.
This week Walker defended his state's legislation forcing women seeking abortions to first undergo ultrasounds that are likely to be transvaginal, dismissing the procedure as "just a cool thing out there" during an appearance on The Dana Show with Dana Loesch.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto defended Walker with the same excuse during a May 28 interview on Fox Business' Cavuto, asserting that "I knew what you meant by that, but obviously that was not the reception" the statement received. Walker replied that backlash was simply a "typical example" of how progressives and the media "take out of context comments out there" -- but then the governor immediately doubled down on his original comments. Walker reiterated that "I think ultrasounds are cool" (emphasis added):
WALKER: This is a typical example of the left -- not just leftist organizations, but some even in the left in the media -- take out of context comments out there. You're right, I talked about, my kids are 19 and 20, Tonette and I have the first ultrasound picture that was taken of both. And that's something that we treasure. That was each of our children. In fact, Matthew had the side of his head turned so you could see his hand and his mouth, what appeared to be sucking on his thumb.
CAVUTO: That's so cool. Mine had an iPhone. It was the weirdest thing. But seriously, they said 'stay out governor, this is none of your business.
WALKER: Well they're pushing back on it, saying I said it was cool. Well, I think ultrasounds are cool. And they tried to mischaracterize our law, says, simply put, if someone is going to go in for abortion, we require the provider, whoever is doing that procedure, has to provide access to an ultrasound, a traditional ultrasound, not the kind they planned out there, because we believe as someone who's pro-life, I believe that if someone has access to seeing that information, if they can look at it, not forced to, but if they can look at it if they so choose, if that's available, chances are they're going to pick life. They'll pick the life of that unborn child. I think that's a great thing. And if they don't, under the law, they don't have to. But the reality is, I think those on the left are afraid of people actually having information. They say they're pro-choice, but they don't want an informed choice.
From the May 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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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."