Planned Parenthood

Tags ››› Planned Parenthood
  • Mother Jones Highlights Financial Impact Of Protecting Abortion Clinics From Violence

    While Right-Wing Media Deny Clinic Violence’s Severity, Clinics, Providers, And Patients Across The Country Are Dealing With The Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Although right-wing media have denied the severity of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics, a Mother Jones report on the closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, demonstrated the widespread impact such threats are having on access to reproductive health care.

    On August 22, the Appleton, WI, Planned Parenthood clinic was forced to close its doors due to security concerns -- leaving “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews highlighted the major role the financial demands of protecting the clinic from a rising tide of anti-choice violence played in state Planned Parenthood officials’ decision to close the Appleton facility.

    In July 2015 the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers, “which coincided with the release of [CMP’s] heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July.”

    As Andrews noted, this upward trend of violence ultimately “culminat[ed] in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting,” where gunman Robert Lewis Dear was accused of killing three people and injuring nine more. Prior to the November attack, the FBI had warned of a possible uptick in violence against abortion providers, including the possibility of “lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement."

    In spite of this, right-wing media have not only carried water for CMP’s discredited allegations, but also largely dismissed concerns about the severity of clinic violence prompted by their release. For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” In December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Ericson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    The Appleton clinic had actually already “experienced violence” prior to CMP’s attempted smear campaign, as Andrews explained. In 2012, “anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room” at the Appleton clinic. But the clinic re-opened after this 2012 attack; it was the Colorado Springs shooting -- and the resulting security concerns -- that spurred it to close its doors permanently, as the costs of “providing more security” were simply too high, Andrews reported.

    In a statement to The Associated Press, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Chris Williams, explained that because of the building’s size and age, the clinic “was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach” developed by Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Colorado Springs attack. In an additional statement to The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Williams noted that although the Appleton clinic wasn’t subject to a specific threat at the time of its closure, Planned Parenthood deals with “constant threats” against its affiliates across the country.

    Along with underscoring the severity of anti-choice violence, Mother Jones’ Andrews also outlined the consequences the closure of the Appleton clinic would have on reproductive health care access in the state. She wrote:

    The closure means women will now have to drive 200 or 300 miles to one of the other Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinics, or go as far as Chicago or Minneapolis. Another option would be in Marquette, Michigan, where a single Planned Parenthood-affiliated physician provides abortions, but the scheduling is infrequent and can be unpredictable.

    Planned Parenthood’s Safar echoed this sentiment, noting that due to Wisconsin’s stringent anti-abortion restrictions and a critical shortage of providers, “there is a great need” for abortion access. She said that even with clinics in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, “many women” were “having to go somewhere else.”

    This blog has been updated for accuracy.

  • How Breitbart News Spreads Lies About Planned Parenthood And Birth Control

    The Outlet Run By Trump’s New Hire Has Regularly Gone To Extremes To Attack Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Before Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon was hired as the new chief executive for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, the outlet was responsible for pushing a continuing campaign of misinformation about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and birth control. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News writers have compared Planned Parenthood providers to Nazis, staunchly defended discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, and claimed contraceptives make women “unattractive and crazy.”

  • TheBlaze Used Simone Biles’ Olympic Victories To Push A Right-Wing Myth About Abortion

    TheBlaze's Matt Walsh: "Planned Parenthood Has Centered Its Entire Business Around Killing Babies Like Simone Biles"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Glenn Beck's conservative news site TheBlaze published a column using U.S. Olympic medalist Simone Biles’ background and success to prop up a conservative fringe talking point alleging Planned Parenthood “specializes in killing humans just like Simone,” from low-income, often black and brown communities.

    At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Simone Biles led the United States gymnastics team to a gold medal before securing multiple individual accolades.

    After Biles’ historic performance, TheBlaze’s Matt Walsh used her family history as an adopted child and her subsequent success as evidence that abortion was “a devastating tragedy” perpetrated by Planned Parenthood disproportionately against black women.

    According to Walsh, “if Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry had their way, she would have never made it to the podium … seen the light of day … [and] wouldn’t even have a name, let alone Olympic gold medals.” He argued that Biles’ success was in opposition to the efforts of Planned Parenthood to target “single black women” and predominately operate clinics in economically disadvantaged communities. Walsh further lauded Biles’ adoptive parents and said without their intervention Biles “would be one of the untold million … decomposing in a medical waste dumpster behind an inner city abortion clinic.”

    Walsh’s argument echoed a frequent right-wing media attack on Planned Parenthood and its role as an essential provider in underserved communities.

    For example, Fox News commentator and Donald Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson has claimed that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.”

    Similarly, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has claimed that “the original goal of Planned Parenthood was to abort various minorities out of existence.” Limbaugh has even alleged that “Planned Parenthood [is] doing the job the [Klu Klux] Klan could never finish” and that supporters of the organization support the abortion of “60 percent of black babies.”

    In his August 15 article, Walsh went a step further and hijacked Biles’ Olympic success as a platform to spread similar misinformation about Planned Parenthood:

    Reports have confirmed that the abortion conglomerate specifically targets poor black babies for extermination. Granted, this is probably more a marketing decision than racism. Planned Parenthood concentrates its abortion enterprise in poor areas with heavy minority populations simply because it knows it can make a fast buck off of scared and desperate women like Simone’s mother. Planned Parenthood has centered its entire business around killing babies like Simone Biles.

    [...]

    It’s very fortunate that Simone’s life was not vacuumed away before she had the opportunity to show us what incredible things she could do with it. If only the 50 million other babies the abortion industry has stolen from the world had been given the same opportunity. Think of how much brighter the world might be.

    Despite Walsh’s bombast, the evidence to support his attack is lacking.

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, women of color do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply 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.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    In an earlier fact check of “the claim that most abortion providers are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods” Guttmacher found the argument demonstrably false as “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.”

    Walsh wrote that Planned Parenthood is “not in the business of supporting and helping the Simones of the world” because it was “murdering them” through abortion. Groups representing women of color and reproductive rights advocates have strongly rejected this specious claim.

    In reality, women of color are left particularly vulnerable and without a health care provider when Planned Parenthood clinics are forced out of communities. As Planned Parenthood’s associate director of global communications noted, “Planned Parenthood is often the primary health care provider for Latinos and African Americans in this country.” In 2015, 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.”

    NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman wrote after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby -- which enabled certain employers to deny contraception coverage 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.”

    Despite this, anti-choice groups have long attempted to curtail access to necessary reproductive health services by attacking Planned Parenthood and women of color who rely on the health care provider. For example, clinic escort Pearl Brady told Vox that protestors outside abortion clinics “often target young women of color” by shouting things like “Black babies’ lives matter” even if a woman is seeking care “for birth control or an STI screening rather than an abortion.” Other anti-choice groups like the Radiance Foundation have run entire campaigns arguing that Planned Parenthood is “the number one killer of black Americans.”

    Aside from the lack of evidence to support such arguments, Rewire’s Imani Gandy summarized how positions like Walsh’s shame and ignore the experiences of black women and mothers:

    To put it bluntly, this country was a hostile birthing environment for Black women during slavery, and remains so for many Black women today. But rather than take steps to make it easier for women to have and raise children, the anti-choice community simply grows more extreme and ridiculous in their rhetoric, and dials up to 11 its efforts to shame and demonize Black women.

    Anti-choicers clutch their collective pearls about the high rate of abortion in the Black community, but have no interest in talking about the root cause of that abortion rate. Anti-choice advocates, conservatives in particular, don’t want to talk about the never-ending war they are waging against contraception access; comprehensive sexual education; and social programs like public assistance, food benefits, health care, sex education, and fair pay that would permit Black women to not only choose motherhood when the time is right for them, but also to raise healthy children.

  • Texas Lawmakers Use Right-Wing Lie To Award An Anti-Abortion Group A Government Contract

    With Zika Threat Looming, State Media Ask Why Lawmakers Are Giving A Public Health Contract To An Anti-Choice Group That “Is Not A Healthcare Provider”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Months after Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law was overruled at the Supreme Court, state lawmakers allocated state funding for reproductive health to an anti-choice group, playing into a dangerous right-wing media myth about the role of Planned Parenthood in low-income communities.

    On August 11 anti-choice state officials awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health care program -- totaling $1.6 million -- to the anti-abortion organization The Heidi Group, which is “not a healthcare provider.”

    This latest development in Texas lawmakers’ attack on reproductive rights once again utilizes right-wing media talking points to vilify Planned Parenthood and ignore the health care needs of low-income communities.

    In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, finding that its restrictions on abortion providers imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” In recent years, HB 2 was one of several measures state lawmakers took to limit the reach of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

    In 2012, the state dismantled its reproductive health safety net program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood from the network of subsidized providers. In 2015, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott pushed to defund Planned Parenthood in Texas, touting the move as “another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable -- the unborn.” Lawmakers similarly argued that by defunding Planned Parenthood they “instead funneled the funds to worthwhile programs.”

    This justification that community health clinics can replace Planned Parenthood as an essential and accessible health care provider is a common right-wing media talking point.

    However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the impact of Texas’ decision to remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s reproductive health safety net program. The findings showed that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood caused a decrease in the use of long-acting contraceptives that corresponded with an increase in child births by Medicaid-funded patients.

    Beyond contraception and abortion care needs, when Texas cut funding for Planned Parenthood patients also lost access to affordable HIV testing. In June, the Texas Observer found that in Harris County, TX -- which had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the state in 2014 -- the county’s health department hadn’t conducted a single HIV test in the first six months of 2016, since the county ended its decades-long contract with Planned Parenthood for HIV testing and prevention.

    Efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from health care funding eligibility have only increased since the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Although CMP’s work has been consistently discredited, anti-choice legislators have frequently repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood as part of an ongoing mission to defund the organization.

    Texas’ latest decision to allocate a sizeable contract for reproductive health care to an organization founded and run by an anti-choice activist, with little experience providing the contracted medical services, represents a continuation of a dangerous pattern of misinformation about Planned Parenthood. By ignoring Planned Parenthood’s role in providing health care to low-income patients, this pattern has a demonstrably detrimental impact on those who need access to affordable reproductive care most.

    The Texas Observer’s Andrea Grimes demonstrated the issue with awarding a public health contract to an organization with little health care experience. She noted that The Heidi Group primarily runs a series of crisis pregnancy centers -- organizations that are notorious for misleading women about abortion and reproductive health. The anti-choice group, which has said it “sets women free from abortion,” is also headed by Carol Everett, an anti-choice activist known for making dubious, fringe medical claims related to abortion:

    Everett made headlines in early August following her testimony at a Texas Department of State Health Services meeting on new rules about fetal tissue disposal in Texas. There, she asserted that currently allowable means of fetal tissue disposal could result in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections being released into public water supplies, which she later repeated to an Austin Fox affiliate. Her concerns are not echoed by any major medical or public health groups.

    Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Heather Busby further explained the concerning medical background of The Heidi Group in a statement to the Texas Tribune: "It’s very inappropriate that the state would contract with an organization that has never performed the services required by the contract … The Heidi Group is an anti-abortion organization; it is not a healthcare provider.”

    Busby also told the Austin American-Statesman that Texas officials’ selection of The Heidi Group was “especially troubling, given that the organization is run by a person who is so terribly misinformed about public health.”

    Texas’ award of the contract comes at a time when the Zika virus -- which impacts pregnant persons and developing fetuses -- has been linked to one death in Harris County. Given that Texas already lacks a sufficient number of OB-GYNs necessary to address Zika’s spread, further curtailing access to contraception and abortion care by awarding contracts to anti-choice groups could additionally burden Texas communities.

    As the chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Sarah Wheat explained:

    The looming threat of Zika makes the need for this care more urgent than ever. Instead of helping women get the care they need at proven, qualified providers they know and trust, Texas is funneling hard-earned tax dollars in support of their anti-abortion agenda.

  • How A Right-Wing Media Myth About Planned Parenthood Could Hurt Florida’s Fight Against Zika

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    At the end of July, the first outbreak of the Zika virus occurred in Miami, FL -- confirming many experts’ fears that it was only a matter of time before the mosquito-borne virus began to impact the United States. But efforts to fight the spread of the virus have been stymied by anti-choice lawmakers’ reliance on the right-wing media talking point that Planned Parenthood isn’t an essential service provider.

    Since last winter, the Zika virus has spread among a number of Latin American countries, predominantly affecting pregnant persons. Experts have classified the virus as a “public health threat” due to the suspected link between Zika and the neurological disorder microcephaly, which severely stunts the development of a fetus during pregnancy. This link prompted concerns about the accessibility of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for pregnant persons affected by Zika in Latin America.

    Rather than prepare for an outbreak of Zika in the United States by making these essential reproductive health services more accessible, however, anti-choice lawmakers instead invoked a right-wing media myth to attack Planned Parenthood and block its efforts to help combat a potential outbreak.

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated misinformation about Planned Parenthood and the essential services it provides as part of an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. To justify these attacks, legislators have relied on the right-wing media talking point that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    Prior to the Zika outbreak, anti-choice lawmakers in Florida had already attempted to block access to abortion and other reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood.

    In March, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that not only emulated provisions of Texas’ unconstitutional HB 2, but also barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds. Although parts of the law have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, if enforced in full the bill would functionally defund the reproductive care provider. The Guardian’s Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reported that supporters of the Florida bill echoed right-wing media’s false claim that community health clinics could fill in by “insist[ing] that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual healthcare” even without Planned Parenthood.

    However, as Slate’s Christina Cauterucci explained, the list of replacement providers in the state was “laughable” because it was filled with “dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” She continued:

    Nevertheless, proponents of HB 1411 have used this list to pooh-pooh concerns for women’s health, claiming that there are 29 public health clinics for every Planned Parenthood in the state; therefore, the argument goes, no poor women will miss Planned Parenthood when it’s gone. The Guardian reports that in 2010, according to Guttmacher Institute data, there were just five public health clinics that offered family planning services for every Florida Planned Parenthood.

    Indeed, experts have confirmed that the idea of community clinics filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.” According to earlier research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Access to contraception and abortion care are essential to address the spread of Zika in the United States. As Emma Grey Ellis wrote in an August 2 article for Wired, “To actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” She continued that although enabling people “to delay pregnancy to avoid passing Zika to their children is an obvious, vital step,” there were a number of “political stumbling blocks” preventing access to reproductive health services.

    These “stumbling blocks” have included opposition from public officials. During an August 6 interview with Politico, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he believed those impacted by Zika should not have the option to abort the pregnancy.Gov. Scott has urged pregnant people to “contact your OB-GYN for guidance to and receive a Zika prevention kit.”

    However, according to Mother Jones, “Planned Parenthood hasn't received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak.” The outlet noted that this failure is problematic given the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in caring for low-income and uninsured patients, who are “more likely to get pregnant by accident.”

    Furthermore, even when pregnancies are intentional, the threat posed by Zika is still substantial. In an article for The Atlantic, journalist Liz Tracy reported on her fraught experience being pregnant in Miami during the Zika outbreak. She wrote that the threat of Zika transformed “nine-and-a-half months into a horror movie with a monster that is almost impossible to locate and hard to avoid.” As Tracy explained, thanks to the numerous barriers to abortion access, “if a Zika infection terribly damaged the fetus, and we decided on having an abortion, those restrictive laws would pose an overwhelming emotional, practical, and financial challenge.”

    Tracy also quoted another pregnant woman saying that with the lack of testing, kits, and care in Florida, “It just feels like too little too late” to contain Zika in the state. She added, “It’s crazy how much they could have done in advance and nothing was done.”

  • FL Editorial Boards Call Out Republicans For “Playing Politics” With Zika Funding

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    Florida editorial boards have lambasted the Republican-led Congress for killing legislation that provided funding for states combating Zika by attaching “poison pill provisions.” The House Republican-backed legislation would defund Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act in communities most affected by Zika, reducing accessibility to family-planning services that could “prevent sexually transmitted Zika cases and unwanted pregnancies for women at high risk of contracting the virus.”

  • Texas Media Call Out Anti-Choice Logic Behind Proposed Fetal Tissue Disposal Rules

    “Texas Is Trying To Get itself Sued Again Over Abortion Rights” By Secretly Pushing Fetal Tissue Disposal Rules

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following the Supreme Court’s 5-3 rejection of Texas’ extreme anti-choice law HB 2 in June, state lawmakers attempted to quietly pass a new abortion restriction requiring fetal tissue from any abortion -- “regardless of the period of gestation” -- be buried or cremated. On August 4, Texas health officials will hold a public hearing on the proposed restriction. Ahead of this, Texas media have consistently called out the proposal as an overt, anti-choice attack on abortion access.

  • Fox News Cites Anti-Choice Group’s Poll To Push Myth That Americans Oppose Abortion Access

    Once Again, Fox’s Shannon Bream Pushed Dubious Polling To Argue That “Social Conservatives” Are “Turning The Tide” On American’s Abortion Beliefs

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the July 27 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream reported that the Democratic Party’s positions on increasing abortion access and funding run contrary to the “personal convictions of average Americans.”

    To support this argument, Bream cited a recent poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus -- a self-identified “pro-life” group that has waged “a decades-long battle against abortion legislation.” Beyond failing to disclose the ideological affiliations of the group commissioning the poll, Bream also attempted to use the data to misleadingly suggest that Americans have a unified and consistently anti-choice position on abortion access.

    According to Bream, the Knights of Columbus poll shows that “78 percent” of Americans “say they support substantial restrictions on abortion, including 62 percent of those who self-identify as pro-choice.” However, as previous research has shown, polling on individuals’ support for abortion is complicated and highly contextual.

    For example, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explained, 39 percent of Americans do not self-identify as either “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” and this determination is often influenced heavily by the wording of individual poll questions. She noted that although many people had “strongly held” feelings about abortion, much of the phrasing in polls fails to capture “the personal factors and situations that influence how each individual thinks about the issue.” Kliff continued that in poll questions, “a simple wording change can significantly alter whether Americans say they support legal abortion.”

    When MSNBC’s Irin Carmon compared the questions asked in different polls she, too, found that a simple shift in phrasing or question style could substantially alter a poll’s findings:

    You could ask Americans if they want Roe v. Wade overturned, as the Pew Research Center did in 2013, and learn that 63 percent want to see it stand. Or you could ask Americans to choose between two vague statements, like the recent poll the Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted for the Knights of Columbus, a group that opposes abortion. Asked to pick between “it is possible to have laws which protect both the health and well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn; or two, it is necessary for laws to choose to protect one and not the other,” 77 percent said it was possible to do everything. The policy implications of the first statement are unclear.

    [...]

    Asking about what the law should be, whether generally or specifically, is when it gets really messy. According to one pollster, the most popular question of all – asking people if they think abortion should be legal in all, most or certain circumstances – is the most problematic.

    “I don’t even want to ask this dumb question anymore, because it doesn’t work,” says Tresa Undem. “It’s a bad polling measurement.” She conducted the Vox poll as well as a recent one for the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which supports abortion rights, and has written about the problem with polling on abortion.

    Why? When Undem looked only at the 34 percent of people who said they thought abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest and health risk, she found contradictory views.

    [...]

    But Undem says that internally conflicting views on abortion are par for the course. “On this topic, where people haven’t sorted through all their thoughts about it, you ask one question, the next you can get a reverse response.”

    Americans across the ideological spectrum also tend to share a variety of fundamentally incorrect perceptions about the frequency and safety of abortion procedures. As Kliff wrote in a February 29 article, Americans often significantly “overestimate the safety risks for women who have abortions" and underestimate the prevalence of procedure itself. Despite the fact that abortion is both common and incredibly safe, these misconceptions can negatively skew an individual’s perception of the procedure.

    The July 27 Special Report segment was far from the first time Bream has used selectively framed polling data to suggest Americans oppose abortion access and reproductive health care.

    In January 2016, Bream cited another poll from the Knights of Columbus to allege that “81 percent of Americans think abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy.” During the report, Bream did not note that the poll was commissioned by the anti-choice group.

    Beyond pushing selectively framed polling, Bream also has a history of presenting misleading reporting on a number of reproductive rights topics. For example, long after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood were discredited, Bream gave CMP founder David Daleiden an unchallenged platform to continuing pushing misinformation.

    While Fox News and Bream used selectively framed polling to criticize the Democratic Party’s platform as “out of step with the majority of Americans,” they have ignored the fallacious positions on abortion and Planned Parenthood codified in the official Republican Party platform.

  • Houston Press: “Why The Dropped Charges Against The Anti-Abortion Activists Is Not A ‘Vindication’” Of Their Claims

    CMP’s Indictment For Actions Taken During Its Campaign Against Planned Parenthood Was Dismissed On A Technicality

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In January, a grand jury in Harris County, TX, indicted Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden and associate Sandra Merritt on a felony count for “tampering with a governmental record” as well as on a separate misdemeanor charge for “illegally offer[ing] to purchase human organs.”

    Daleiden and Merritt were accused of using fake California driver’s licenses in order to gain access to a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Houston. They used the access to secretly film inside and later release a deceptively edited video alleging Planned Parenthood employees were involved in the illegal sale of donated fetal tissue. A judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge in June on a technicality regarding “language left out of the original indictment.” The judge wrote that the indictment “does not include both that Daleiden intended to buy, sell or acquire human organs in violation of the law, and that he isn’t subject to a legal exception that allows medical entities to recoup expenses for obtaining or transporting organs.”

    On July 26, prosecutors moved to drop the felony counts against Daleiden and Merritt, citing the “limits” to what evidence a grand jury can investigate after being granted an extension order.

    The Houston Press’ Meagan Flynn reports in an article headlined "Why The Dropped Charges Against The Anti-Abortion Activists Is Not A 'Vindication'" that the case was not dismissed because of arguments about Daleiden’s “First Amendment” rights, as he has proclaimed, but rather on narrow, and somewhat unusual, technical grounds. From the Houston Press (emphasis original):

    Almost immediately after prosecutors decided, abruptly, to drop charges against the anti-abortion activists who infiltrated a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston using fake IDs, conservatives pro-lifers were calling it a "vindication." Even though the charges were dropped because of technicalities.

    […]

    When a Harris County grand jury investigated the case, it cleared Planned Parenthood entirely and instead indicted Daleiden and Merritt in January for their shady tactics, prompting outrage from conservatives across the country. The Center For Medical Progress, the group the activists really worked for, said in a statement: "The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press."

    When the Harris County District Attorney's Office let them off the hook not because of the merits of the case, but because of technical procedural issues, supporters of Merritt and Daleiden considered it a validation of their defense. After the hearing, Daleiden told reporters, "I'm glad the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists have been vindicated today." (To be clear, all journalists learn in J-school 101 that using fake IDs to "go undercover" will land you jail time, not a Pulitzer, which we discussed with a law professor in January.)

    Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law School, said that this case "isn't a vindication for anybody." And, she said, what's strange about this entire case is that the technicalities used to drop both Daleiden's solicitation of the sale of fetal tissue charge and the tampering with government records charges are rarely ever seen. "Cases are dropped all the time for procedural issues—but not these," she said.

     
  • Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment

    The Hyde Amendment Has Long Stymied Abortion Access -- And Media Are Taking Note That It’s Time For A Change

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.

  • Vox: Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards Was First Convention Speaker To Mention Abortion On Stage

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
    On Tuesday night, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards addressed the Democratic National Convention in a speech that CSPAN was the only cable network to air in full. Richards was also the first speaker at the convention to use the word "abortion" on stage. 
     
    Vox’s Emily Crockett pointed out that reproductive rights advocates in recent years have pushed to de-stigmatize abortion, a campaign that involves encouraging people to publicly talk about a procedure -- including by naming it -- that one in three U.S. women will have in her lifetime.

    It might seem strange that Democrats, most of whom are pro-choice and willing to speak out against things like Planned Parenthood funding cuts, are often so reluctant to actually use the word "abortion."

    But it’s very common for Democrats and other pro-choice advocates to instead use euphemisms like "a woman’s right to choose." There’s also a tendency to implicitly apologize for abortion by emphasizing that federal funds for Planned Parenthood don’t go toward abortion, or to focus only [on] how great the organization's contraception and sexual health services are.

    […]

    In recent years especially, pro-choice advocates have pushed to fight the stigma against abortion in order to protect it as a fundamental right. They say that about one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and many people don’t realize that abortion is a safe, routine medical procedure.

    Abortion should be treated like the normal medical care it is, advocates say, not separated out and turned into a political football. And they say that saying the word "abortion" like it’s a normal thing is one way to break the stigma and accomplish that goal.

  • LA Times Editorial Board Joins Critics Of GOP Attack On Abortion Providers

    LA Times: Select Panel’s Interim Report is “Long on Innuendo but Remarkably Short on Revelation”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On July 14, the Republican members of Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released an interim report of its ongoing investigation of abortion providers and medical researchers, which, they allege, were involved in the sale of donated fetal tissue.

    In a July 25 editorial, the Los Angeles Times editorial board criticized the select panel’s interim report and called for the panel to be disbanded based on the complete lack of evidence the document contained. As the editorial board wrote, despite “months of investigation and subpoenas for staggering amounts of records … the chairman and Republican members of the panel released an 88-page interim report this month that is long on innuendo but remarkably short on revelations.”

    The select panel was formed in October 2015 after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue procurement companies. In the past year, CMP’s deceptive videos have been consistently debunked while multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, CMP and its founder David Daleiden have been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Houston, TX, have been subject to several lawsuits, and have had their work soundly rejected by multiple judges and journalists.

    Undeterred, Republican members of the select panel have sourced numerous documents from CMP’s website and videos to use as “evidence” in their ongoing campaign against Planned Parenthood. Despite calls by congressional Democrats and 50 organizations to disband the panel, House Speaker Paul Ryan has reiterated his support for its work. Furthermore, the House Administration Committee has also approved supplemental funding for the panel’s continued operation.

    Although the select panel’s interim report made a variety of allegations against Planned Parenthood, tissue procurement firms, and universities engaged in medical research, the Los Angeles Times noted that the panel “has yet to find any proof that anyone is selling or buying fetal tissue.” In fact, as the editorial board explained: “One of the panel’s main findings” -- concerning allegations against the University of New Mexico (UNM) -- “is actually just speculation.”

    Prior to their release of the interim report, select panel Republicans sent a letter to the New Mexico attorney general arguing that UNM was improperly contracting with a nearby abortion clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options (SWWO). In an accompanying press release, select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) accused UNM of having a “symbiotic relationship” with SWWO that was in violation of federal and state law. In reality, the Times explained, UNM “has categorically denied both allegations” and also “contends that the panel is misreading state law.”

    In another section of the report, the panel’s Republican members recounted their recommendation to the Department of Health and Human Services that the tissue procurement company StemExpress be investigated for violating federal patient privacy laws. The panel alleged that StemExpress employees placed in abortion clinics were allowed too much access to patients’ private medical information in order to assess candidates for potential fetal tissue donation.

    As the Times noted, however, this allegation, too, was unproven. Quoting a lawyer for StemExpress, the editorial board explained that StemExpress did not violate any privacy laws because “its technicians did not review medical files,” and “the panel would have known this had it interviewed any of the witnesses ‘repeatedly offered by StemExpress.’”

    Since the select panel’s inception, media have criticized its actions as a politically motivated “witch hunt” against abortion providers and medical researchers. The Times endorsed this critique and added that the panel’s Republican members have “made no secret of their mission” to advance an anti-choice agenda, regardless of its veracity:

    Having found no smoking guns in the University of New Mexico and StemExpress cases, the panel has passed its allegations to other authorities to settle while it continues to search for criminality. Beyond that, the report does little more than serve the panel’s antiabortion narrative in which clinics are desperate to get more business, fetal tissue companies are intent on getting more product, and the technicians who collect these specimens send out emails blithely discussing fetal organs and limbs. Even if this portrait were accurate — and the panel offers little evidence to back that up — it establishes no wrongdoing.

    Even if the panel’s allegations are baseless, there are still costs associated with attacks on fetal tissue research. Since the start of CMP’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, there has been a “chilling effect” on fetal tissue donation and research. As the Times editorial board wrote, “The real danger here is that the panel’s work will chill the activities of fetal tissue suppliers and the researchers who use it to study retinal degeneration, fetal development, the Zika virus and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

  • 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 abort 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.