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  • Aided By Right-Wing Media, Anti-Choice Groups Are Hijacking Black Lives Matter For Their Own Agenda

    How "#UnbornLivesMatter" Ignores Communities That Lack Reproductive Health Care Access

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following the shooting deaths of two black men -- Alton Sterling and Philando Castile -- and the targeting of police officers in several U.S. cities, anti-choice groups have attempted to hijack the vocabulary of Black Lives Matter to attack access to reproductive care.

    Since the movement’s inception, the phrase “black lives matter” has been a grass-roots response to issues of race, policing, and structural violence against non-white bodies. In reaction, anti-choice groups have attempted to co-opt Black Lives Matter activists’ rhetoric by promoting their own phrase, #UnbornLivesMatter, to spread misinformation about abortion and its accessibility for women of color.

    Salon’s Amanda Marcotte described the discrepancies between those on social media “talking about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile” and those tweeting with the hashtag #UnbornLivesMatter, many of which “focused on shaming liberals for believing there are more important things to worry about than women terminating unwanted pregnancies.” Marcotte traced the development of #UnbornLivesMatter and concluded that “while the hashtag surge was organized by a bunch of right wing fringe sorts, the grim fact of the matter is that this undermining, race-baiting language has trickled up to the more mainstream anti-choice movement.”

    Indeed, even before #UnbornLivesMatter’s recent prominence, anti-choice groups have long alleged that higher abortion rates among black women reflect an attempt by Planned Parenthood to explicitly target black communities.

    Clinic escort Pearl Brady told Vox that protesters “often target young women of color,” and patient advocate Amanda Patton said they shout things like: “‘Black babies’ lives matter!’” In a longer essay, clinic escort Lauren Rankin described the moment when two regular clinic protestors began using the language of Black Lives Matter to harass patients:

    But about a month ago, something changed. Two of our regular protesters—both men, neither of whom are Black—turned up at the clinic, megaphone, Bible, and camera in tow. Nothing unusual about that. But from the back of their crossover vehicle, they pulled out two new signs, both featuring a Black infant. The signs read:

    “Black life matters.”

    “Hands Up, Don’t Abort!”

    I felt paralyzed for a moment, genuinely stunned. My mind raced. Did they really just go there?

    [...]

    These two men have spent the better part of the last two years of their lives screaming at women who enter an abortion clinic. They and their hate-group (and I use that phrase deliberately) have filmed patients and companions as they enter the clinic, without their consent, and plastered those videos across the internet. These men associate with known anti-abortion terrorists, who have threatened violence against abortion providers.

    And yet, they feel perfectly comfortable appropriating a grassroots, progressive movement for racial justice in order to further shame Black patients and their partners. These men parade these signs specifically to target and harm Black women who have abortions. These men are accusing Black women who have abortions of perpetrating racial genocide, of inflicting systemic violence against their own children.

    These men are despicable, and they’re not alone.

    Right-wing media figures have amplified and repeated claims of a racist rationale behind the provision of access to abortion care. For example, frequent Fox News commentator and former GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.” Beyond this, Carson has also criticized Black Lives Matter for supposedly excluding the black lives “eradicated by abortion.”

    Rush Limbaugh has made similar arguments on numerous occasions, alleging that “Planned Parenthood [is] doing the job the [Klu Klux] Klan could never finish” and that supporters of the reproductive health organization endorse the abortion of “60 percent of black babies.” Limbaugh has even stated that “the original goal of Planned Parenthood was to abortion various minorities out of existence.”

    Right-wing media have also frequently attacked the Black Lives Matter movement itself. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has labeled Black Lives Matter “a hate group” that wants police officers dead. Similarly, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera referred to Black Lives Matter activists as “a bunch of troublemakers” who were “attracting a lot of attention to themselves.”

    According to a March 2016 fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute, women of color do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained that these numbers actually reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively. A similar racial disparity exists for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    Women of color are particularly vulnerable to the loss of a provider safety net when Planned Parenthood clinics are forced out of communities. According to Planned Parenthood’s associate director of global communications, Lori Adelman, “Planned Parenthood is often the primary health care provider for Latinos and African Americans in this country.”

    Black women are among the most adversely affected when access to Planned Parenthood and similar reproductive health care providers is denied. The National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

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

    In June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 was an “undue burden on abortion access.” In an amicus brief filed during the case, advocates outlined the disparate impact of anti-choice restrictions on women of color. They explained that “African-American women have been denied access to necessary reproductive healthcare services disproportionately” and this has impacted them “in numerous, measurable, and profound ways.”

    Despite this disparity, anti-choice legislators have frequently invoked the language of racial equality to push their own agendas.

    For example, in a speech demanding greater abortion restrictions, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-KS) attacked members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for condoning higher rates of abortion in black communities. He said: “There is no one more hopeless and voiceless than an unborn baby, but [the CBC’s] silence is deafening. I can’t hear them. Where are they standing up for their communities, advocating and fighting for their right to life?”

    In Missouri, Rep. Mike Moon (R-MO) stole language from Black Lives Matter to promote his All Lives Matter Act -- a fetal personhood law which would enforce the scientifically unfounded belief that life begins at conception. Meanwhile, women have already been prosecuted for having miscarriages and stillborn births and for making attempts to self-abort, using laws that make actions taken by a pregnant person on her own body a criminal offense. For women of color, however, such laws also perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes.

    As Christine Assefa wrote for Feminist Wire, Moon’s bill “suggests that the state of Missouri codify into law the assertion that Black women are killing their own children, are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies, and cannot control their sexual desires.” She continued that these codifications “perpetuate historical, violent, and harmful stereotypes of Black women that reveal the deeply-rooted relationship between race and sexual politics."

    Beyond criticizing Moon’s bill, other reproductive justice advocates echoed these concerns about the hijacking of Black Lives Matter rhetoric to attack access to reproductive care.

    Planned Parenthood's director of constituency communications, Alencia Johnson, told Salon, “To appropriate the Black Lives Matter movement in the midst of the brutal tragedies too many in the black community face from state violence is repulsive.”

    Pamela Merritt, a co-director of the direct advocacy group Repoaction, argued that efforts by anti-choice groups to “to appropriate the language of Black Lives Matter are just the latest example of that movement's long history of pandering to their conservative and often racist base by insulting Black women and dismissing Black activism.” She concluded that this was particularly reprehensible when the “same movement is silent when Black children are shot and Black women are raped by police officers.”

    In a July 12 article Think Progress’ Laurel Raymond summarized the concerns of reproductive justice advocates about the rising popularity of phrases like “unborn lives matter”:

    "Black lives matter" provides a resounding answer to an unheard question: In the face of disproportionate policing and black deaths that are often unpunished and ignored, do black lives matter? Yes, they do. When other groups co-opt the phrase, they shift the focus away from this aspect of criminal justice -- and thus deemphasize the bigger problem at hand.

    "Unborn lives matter" goes one step further: not only does it derail that focus, but it also puts the primary blame on black women for choosing to have abortions. Anti-abortion rhetoric focused on black women argues for them to have that control over their bodies taken away from them -- even as black women take to the streets to protest for control of their bodies from the police.

     

  • Media Stunned As Cruz's Non-Endorsement Tears Apart RNC Convention: “What A Disaster”

    Media Note Cruz “Body Slammed” Trump’s Convention And “Ruined” The Night

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, NICK FERNANDEZ & BRENDAN KARET

    Media figures expressed disbelief over Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) refusal to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, calling him a “sore loser” who “ruined” the night.

  • STUDY: As The General Election Looms, Trump Retreats To Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO & BEN DIMIERO

    In June, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump far outpaced presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in interview airtime on cable and broadcast news programs. Trump also held a wide lead in the number of mentions on the three major cable news networks.

    Trump essentially clinched the Republican nomination in May, and Clinton followed by locking up the Democratic nomination in early June. As the race moves into the general election, Media Matters tracked the total mentions of each party's presumptive nominee on the three major cable news networks. We also tracked and timed each candidate’s interviews on all cable news programming and on broadcast news' morning, evening, and Sunday morning shows.

    According to Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, Trump’s campaign has shifted its strategy in terms of media appearances by the candidate, largely scaling back on interviews with outlets outside of Fox News. The interview data from June shows this strategy taking form.

    Outpacing Clinton’s 2 hours and 16 minutes of interviews, Trump appeared for just over 5 hours of interview airtime during June (in March, for example, the networks aired nearly 14 hours of interviews with Trump). His Fox-focused strategy was also clearly evident during the month -- Trump’s interviews appeared on Fox News for a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes. Trump’s Fox News interview total was by far the most by either candidate on any network.

    By contrast, the only qualifying Trump interview to air on MSNBC during the month was an approximately 3-and-a-half-minute preview clip of Lester Holt’s June 23 NBC interview that covered Trump’s criticisms of Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi terror attack, Clinton’s personal email server, and whether Trump would accept money from Wall Street, among other topics.

    Removing Fox News from the equation, Clinton had more interview airtime overall. On ABC, CNN, and MSNBC, Clinton led in interview time by approximately 12, 6, and 42 minutes, respectively. Trump led Clinton on CBS and NBC by approximately 24 and 7 minutes, respectively.

    Networks have been widely criticized for conducting interviews with Trump over the phone throughout the campaign. During June, he was interviewed by phone far more than Clinton: nine interviews totaling 1 hour and 17 minutes of airtime for Trump, compared to three interviews for 24 minutes for Clinton.

    Showing the extent to which news about Trump has dominated the media this election cycle, Trump led in total number of mentions by a significant margin on all three cable news networks. Overall, Trump held 65 percent of all mentions on cable while Clinton had 35 percent. The gap was largest on MSNBC and CNN, where Trump led by nearly 7,000 mentions each. On Fox News, Trump held an advantage of almost 3,000 mentions.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched iQ Media's database of raw video for mentions of the words "Trump" or "Clinton" on all original programming on the three cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC -- from June 1 through June 30, 2016, between 6 a.m. and midnight each day. We tallied each individual utterance in order to measure the amount of relative discussion of each candidate. While we recognize that this broad definition would includes family members in the counts -- for instance, a mention of "Clinton" may be of former president Bill Clinton rather than Hillary Clinton -- we feel that mentions of family members more often than not occur in discussions about the candidates themselves, and these mentions likely represented a small portion of the overall data.

    From June 1 through June 30, we also tracked every interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the three cable networks from 6 a.m. through midnight, and we tracked interviews on ABC's Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos; CBS' CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, and Face the Nation with John Dickerson; and NBC's Today, Nightly News with Lester Holt, and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. We included all original interviews. We included repeats of interviews if aired in their entirety or if a significant, uninterrupted portion was aired on a different show. Previews of upcoming interviews were included if a significant, uninterrupted portion was aired. A significant, uninterrupted portion needed to be at least 3 minutes in length to be included in this study. Clips shorter than 3 minutes of past or upcoming interviews were not included. Interviews were timed from the moment the guest was introduced to the moment the guest left the show.

    Charts by Sarah Wasko. Additional research by Media Matters research staff.

  • Evening Newscasts Ignore New Exculpatory Information Regarding Clinton Emails

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

     

    All three network evening broadcasts ignored State Department spokesman John Kirby’s explanation that two emails sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were erroneously marked confidential after a staffer failed to change the markings on a routine email that should have been marked sensitive but unclassified (SBU).

    Journalists seized on FBI Director James Comey’s July 5 statement that “a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information” to claim that Comey, in the words of The Washington Post, “directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials ‘marked’ classified.”

    But in his July 6 press briefing, State Department spokesman Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that the “markings were human error” and should not have been included in the documents, which were call sheets for Clinton. From the July 6 daily press briefing (emphasis added):

    I’m not going to comment on their findings and recommendations or all the documents that they reviewed. I am aware that there have been media – a media report pointing to call sheets within the Clinton email set that appear to bear classification markings. So let me just talk to that in a sense.

    Generally speaking, there’s a standard process for developing call sheets for the secretary of state. Call sheets are often marked – it’s not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level – prior to a decision by the secretary that he or she will make that call. Oftentimes, once it is clear that the secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary’s use in actually making the call. The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the secretary’s office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. Given this context, it appears the markings in the documents raised in the media report were no longer necessary or appropriate at the time that they were sent as an actual email.

    NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC’s World News Tonight all covered the Clinton email investigation during their July 6 broadcasts, but each ignored Kirby’s press briefing.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch closed the Clinton email investigation today with no criminal charges.

  • How The Nightly Network News Covered The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Texas' Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    After the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, two network evening news programs allowed anti-abortion activists to spin the ruling as a “loss for women’s health and safety.” But in actuality, the Supreme Court found that the requirements imposed by the Texas law addressed “no significant health-related problem” and are “nearly arbitrary” -- findings that two other networks highlighted.

  • Widespread Agreement That House GOP Benghazi Report Has No “Smoking Gun” Against Clinton

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Following the release of the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s report on the 2012 terror attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, -- which was the culmination of an investigation lasting “two years and [costing] more than $7 million,” -- journalists are pointing out that the report “failed to unearth anything so damning as to change many minds about the events of that tragic night, or who is to blame for them,” and that “there doesn't seem to be a smoking gun when it comes to Hillary Clinton's culpability.”