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“Partial-Birth” Abortion Is A Right-Wing Media Myth Used To Completely Eliminate Abortion Access After 20 Weeks
During the final presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump invoked the right-wing media myth of “partial-birth” abortion to falsely allege that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy.]”
Trump’s “scare rhetoric” about so-called “partial-birth” abortion is both misinformed and problematic, but the issue goes beyond his repetition of this particular stigmatizing, anti-choice talking point. Media take note: Trump isn’t just echoing right-wing media myths about abortions occurring moments before live full-term birth; he’s using them to advocate for an unconstitutional ban on all abortions after 20 weeks.
If elected, Trump has promised a panacea to right-wing media’s favorite anti-choice complaints: He’s promised a “national ban on [all] abortions after 20 weeks,” committed to “defunding Planned Parenthood,” and even pledged to appoint “pro-life justices” who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade.
Trump’s anti-choice agenda, much like the right-wing media myths at its foundation, fails to account for the realities of abortion, or those who have them.
The term “partial-birth” -- and by extension Trump’s misleading description -- is a fiction conjured up by anti-choice groups to vilify and shame individuals who have an abortion later in pregnancy. Although approximately 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 20th week of pregnancy, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected the right to an abortion beyond this point when the life or health of the mother is endangered. As a result, some courts have rejected late-term abortion bans that either exclude these exemptions or attempt to restrict abortion prior to the point of fetal viability.
For Trump and right-wing media to suggest women impudently or frivolously terminate pregnancies at the 20th week or beyond is not just insulting, but also a blatant misrepresentation of the circumstances many women face. As Vox’s Emily Crockett explained, women can obtain an abortion at this stage only when "there is something seriously wrong with either the fetus or her own health." She continued that "pretending otherwise" not only "misrepresents reality," but also “inspire[s] legislation that does real harm to women who have to make heartbreaking medical decisions very late in pregnancy” by eliminating their access to a necessary medical procedure.
Unfortunately, these lived realities appear unimportant to Trump, who pushes what Talking Points Memo called “a grossly inaccurate view of abortion in the United States.” Rolling Stone concluded that “nowhere in [the third debate] was his ignorance on brighter, flashier display than on the subject of late-term abortion.”
Following the debate, Breitbart News published its approximation of a fact-check: an inaccurate article claiming that Trump’s description of “partial-birth” abortions as “ripping babies apart” was “correct.” To reach this conclusion, the article conflated the “dilation and extraction” (D&X) procedure -- which it described as “puncturing the skull [of the fetus] with scissors” -- with the legal, and most common, late-term abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E).
In Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court decided that although D&X procedures could be prohibited under the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, banning the vastly different -- and in fact, medically necessary -- D&E procedure constituted an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to an abortion. As Justice Kennedy explained, “The Act does not proscribe D&E,” which was found by a district court “to have extremely low rates of medical complications.” Clearly, the procedure being described by the Supreme Court as both legal and safe is a far cry from Breitbart News’ “partial-birth” abortion fever dream.
In a similar show of ignorance, during the October 20 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly denounced women’s health exemptions for late-term abortion because “the health of the mother could be anything.” O’Reilly previously had the audacity to suggest that women abuse health exemptions by fabricating conditions like sprained hands or headaches because they have glibly decided to terminate pregnancies, even if the “kid is going to be born next week.”
After a campaign steeped in misogyny, it’s not surprising that these are the right-wing media talking points Trump has adopted about abortion. And they are every bit as insulting, ignorant, and inaccurate as when anti-choice groups first invented them in order to stigmatize both abortion and those who exercise their constitutionally protected right to have one.
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Media commentators are noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has to “win big” at the final presidential debate or “he will lose the general election,” given that he is “down in the polls nationally and in key swing states.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the presidential election will be “rigged” because of widespread voter fraud is based on a series of myths that the right-wing media has pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.
As Planned Parenthood Celebrates 100 Years Of Providing Essential Health Care, A Look Back At Right-Wing Media’s Most Common Smears About The Organization
On October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated 100 years of providing quality reproductive health care to millions of Americans. Despite the essential role Planned Parenthood has and continues to play in facilitating access to both primary and reproductive health care, right-wing media have frequently provided a platform for numerous smears and misinformation about the organization. Here are right-wing media’s favorite myths about Planned Parenthood.
From September 15 to October 15, while many in the United States celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring the culture of the largest minority population in the country and commending its contributions, Fox News continued to demonstrate its disconnect from Latinos and the issues that affect them most. The network’s coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month was limited to highlighting one high-level Hispanic person during three-minute segments every Saturday, while simultaneously ignoring numerous relevant stories concerning Latinos, denying the impact certain issues have on Hispanic people, mocking relevant members of the community, and providing a platform for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to smear them. Here are six examples:
On September 12, senior political writer Henry Gomez of Cleveland.com wrote a piece outlining the influx of “racist, hateful messages” from Trump supporters attacking his Mexican heritage, messages that he says “parrot[ed] a lot of Donald Trump’s greatest hits.” CNN and MSNBC interviewed Gomez and asked about the ethnic slurs he received while covering Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Fox News was the only prominent cable news network not to cover the story.
On the October 4 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly dismissed Tim Kaine’s Spanish language skills by arbitrarily taking a jab at one of the “most influential” Hispanic people in the U.S., journalist Jorge Ramos, commenting, “You can be boring if you speak Spanish. Have you ever seen Jorge Ramos?” Attempting to rehabilitate his unwarranted insult on Ramos, O’Reilly later called his remarks “a good line and a cheap line” and said that “Jorge Ramos is not boring” but did not apologize.
After it was revealed that Donald Trump had attacked former Miss Universe Alicia Machado about her weight and Hispanic heritage, Fox & Friends provided him with a platform to further smear the pageant winner, and he claimed she was “the absolute worst” and “impossible” to work with because she “gained a massive amount of weight.” Trump’s smears were met with no pushback from the Fox hosts.
After the October 4 vice presidential debate, Fox host Sean Hannity and Fox regular Rudy Giuliani made the case for stop and frisk. But the policy has been shown to have disproportionately "targeted blacks and Latinos," according to CNN's Jason Carroll, who noted that the practice was deemed unconstitutional in New York City in 2013 and that officials "say the practice severely eroded relations between police and the communities they serve.” Fox figures routinely laud the use of stop and frisk, even though Hispanic media and mainstream outlets have discredited the practice as ineffective and an example of racial profiling.
During The O’Reilly Factor’s pre-vice presidential debate analysis, Bill O’Reilly misidentified debate moderator Elaine Quijano as Latina and commented that because of her ethnicity “you’ve got to assume that she’s going to go after Pence about Trump’s statements, and Miss Universe, and all of these other things.” Quijano is in fact Asian-American. Meanwhile, Latinos in the media had been blasting the debate commission for its failure to include a Latino moderator.
On the September 23 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling insisted that “the number of people killed [by police], whether white, black, or Hispanic, is proportional to the amount of violent crimes [they] commit.” This runs contrary to statistics and feeds into a deceiving right-wing media narrative that downplays police brutality against blacks and Latinos. In fact, many media outlets have been pointing out that police brutality against Latinos is often underreported, and Hispanics are increasingly more concerned about racial discrimination.
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Right-wing media have bolstered Donald Trump’s campaign strategy of falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton has targeted women who have accused her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of sexual misconduct, in order to distract from numerous reports that Trump sexually assaulted several women. Multiple independent fact-checkers and media organizations have debunked the claims as unsubstantiated, calling them an “exaggeration too far.”
In the 2016 election cycle, right-wing media have spread misinformation about the Democratic position on abortion access by alleging that the party supports so-called “partial-birth” abortions, often invoking the term as a description of an abortion that takes place in the final months or “moments” of pregnancy. In reality, “partial-birth” abortion is a term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have an abortion. Here is what the media should know about this common anti-choice myth and why media figures should not deploy it.
Evening cable news programs rarely discuss college affordability issues, and they even more rarely feature guests who present relevant expertise or recent personal experiences in these discussions. In a recent analysis of evening cable news programming, Media Matters found an overall apparent lack of student or borrower guests participating in these conversations, while the majority of guests were white, male, and 35 or older. Though Fox News programs featured the most student guests, the network’s discussions of college affordability were limited and they often allowed older, white hosts and guests to push outdated math about college costs and dismiss the experiences of students who are struggling to afford higher education.
In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed an entire year of evening cable news programming and found that Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC together spent just 2 hours and 22 minutes -- 56 total segments -- airing substantial discussion of topics related to college affordability. Of the 56 segments, almost half (24) were aired on Fox News. Of the 127 total guests participating in these segments across all three networks, eight were identified as current students -- all appearing in segments on Fox.
Considering the overall lack of interviews and panels discussing college affordability across all the networks, including four segments with eight student guests throughout a year of programming is not a significant accomplishment. All three networks ought to be including more guests who can share recent, personal experiences with paying for higher education in conversations about college costs or student debt. Two Fox News evening programs -- On The Record with Greta Van Susteren and Hannity -- took this initial step by featuring student guests, but the discussions were still largely dictated by the hosts.
And Fox’s comparatively better inclusion of student guests in college affordability discussions did not yield more substantive discussions.
On The Record featured a total of seven college students in discussions of student debt or college affordability, across three panel segments. The stated topic of all three segments was the millennial vote, yet each featured some exchanges about college affordability issues. In two of the segments, host Greta Van Susteren asked Democrat student guests if they were planning to vote based on their desire for “free” college. In the third segment, Van Susteren asked student guests, “Who do [millennials] blame for the student loan problem? ... Republicans or Democrats?” And later she asked which party the guests believed would help alleviate student loan debts. The guests -- all of whom explained that they were planning to vote for Republican candidates in the 2016 election -- all declined to “blame” a single party or to conclude that only one party could provide solutions. Together, as defined by the Media Matters analysis, substantial discussion of college affordability in these three segments totaled eight minutes.
In another segment, Fox News’ Hannity featured a 37-second exchange in which a young viewer asked in a video message what host Sean Hannity would do to “help students like me who are going to be in crippling debt after graduation.” Hannity advised students to forego attending a “big-name school” in favor of a (supposedly) more affordable option, then concluded that “of course, working hard never hurt anybody.”
Meanwhile, other Fox News evening programs -- although they included ostensible firsthand experiences -- were responsible for some of the most misleading and dismissive segments in our analysis. In discussions on The O’Reilly Factor and The Kelly File, Fox figures pushed claims that students could afford higher education in 2016 if they simply “work for it,” citing their own experiences attending college 24 to 45 years ago when it was still practical to afford tuition through part-time work.
On The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly and Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade discussed Fox colleague Neil Cavuto’s daytime interview with a student activist guest about the Million Student March. Kilmeade began the discussion by diminishing student concerns about affordable loan payments, then pivoted to listing the cost of tuition at several private, four-year colleges and suggesting that if students are accepted to those schools but cannot afford the sticker price, “Guess what? Maybe you can’t go. You have to go to a college that you can afford, and you work your way up.” Kelly cited her own college experience, arguing, “I took out loans. I paid them back. That’s how it works in this country.” Kilmeade agreed, saying, “It’s unbelievable.” Throughout the segment, Kelly repeatedly mocked student protesters, suggesting they were asking for “the one percenters to pay for your life,” and asking, “Why do they even have to buy a crib? It’s unfair.”
In 1992, when Kelly graduated from college, the average sticker price (tuition, fees, room, and board) for a full year of full-time attendance at a private research university like her alma mater was $17,572, which amounts to $30,166 in 2016 when adjusted for inflation. For Kilmeade, who graduated in 1986, it was $11,034, or $24,248 in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, both schools cost more than twice what they did when Kelly and Kilmeade were students -- attending Kelly’s alma mater as a full-time student costs $63,344. For Kilmeade’s alma mater, the figure is $49,582. These numbers do not include transportation, books, or health insurance, among other additional costs.
On The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly blamed students for incurring student debt by choosing to attend “Harvard,” arguing that students ought to attend state universities or community colleges where tuition is more “reasonable.” Schools in the New York state system, according to O’Reilly, cost “a bit, but it’s not punitive.” Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers attempted to explain that rising costs can be prohibitive for students from low-income families and that his argument reinforces a “class system where only certain people can go to college.” O’Reilly responded, “The argument can be made that -- and millions of Americans have done it -- that you can get a good education, but you must work for it.” O’Reilly asked Powers, “Why do they think they’re owed all this by the government? What is that mentality? I don’t get that. I never took a penny from the government.” The discussion then devolved into O’Reilly claiming that child hunger was a “myth.”
In another segment from April, O’Reilly disparaged young people who supported free public college tuition -- at the time, a policy proposal from then-Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- explaining that he had “never taken anything from anybody in [his] life.” O’Reilly dismissed attempts from economist Austan Goolsbee to point out how college costs have risen significantly since O’Reilly was a student. O’Reilly focused instead on his mid-career graduate school attendance at Harvard University in the 1990s (years after he became a nationally recognized media figure) to attempt to rebut Goolsbee, rather than drawing the more appropriate and even less compelling analogy to his undergraduate college experience decades earlier.
O’Reilly graduated college in 1971, when the average sticker price for a full year of full-time attendance at a private liberal arts college like his alma mater was $2,599, or $15,456 in 2016 dollars when adjusted for inflation. Today the cost for the first year of full-time attendance at the same school -- which, again, does not include many estimated additional costs associated with attending college -- is $49,860.
Images created by Sarah Wasko.