Fox News' Dangerous Anti-Choice Rhetoric Downplays Impact On Women's Health

Fox News has devoted a significant amount of time to finding new ways to baselessly attack the Women's Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would counteract laws that single out and punish abortion providers. The network parroted extreme anti-choice talking points and largely ignored the opinion of leading health organizations that these laws have dangerous consequences for women.

Congress Considers Legislation To Counteract Laws That Attack Abortion Providers

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Women's Health Protection Act. As the Huffington Post reported, the bill would help protect access to reproductive services by prohibiting states from imposing restrictions on abortion that are more severe than restrictions on “medically comparable” outpatient procedures:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal's (D-Conn.) bill, the Women's Health Protection Act, prohibits restrictions on abortion “that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures.” The legislation would nullify mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds and counseling before abortion; gestational limits on abortion before viability; requirements that abortion clinics become ambulatory surgical centers; and other state laws that abortion-rights supporters believe are designed to make it impossible for women to access a safe and legal medical procedure.

“This bill is about stopping laws that purport to be about health, when really they interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and have the very practical effect of harming women and their constitutionally protected rights,” Blumenthal said at the hearing. “Our goal is to stop politicians from playing doctor.” [The Huffington Post, 7/15/14]

Fox News Uses Extreme Anti-Choice Talking Points Against The Legislation

Megyn Kelly Invokes Tiller Assassination While Baselessly Claiming Women “Abused” Exception To Third-Trimester Abortion Ban. During the July 15 edition of The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly discussed the proposed Women's Health Protection Act with former National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland. Kelly asserted that the legislation could “open the door on late term abortions,” and then proceeded to invoke the assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller while baselessly claiming that women and their doctors “abused” exceptions to late-term abortion bans (emphasis added):

KELLY: The critics say, this is basically going to open the door on late term abortions, because the bill would allow late term abortions nationally, if necessary, not just to save the mother's life, but to save the mother's health.

IRELAND: Well, the Women's Health Protection Act would knock down state restrictions on abortion that don't apply to other medical procedures, and that don't promote women's health and safety. Women's health is important, and if in the good faith determination of a doctor, a woman's health is at risk, then she ought to be able to have an abortion.

KELLY: OK. The controversy there is that some women abused that when it was allowed and would get a law -- I'm sorry, a doctor to say, yes, her health requires a late term abortion. And then this happened in the case of Dr. Tiller, who wound up murdered, that he was providing late term abortions based on “health concerns,” when you had a viable fetus, a baby, growing in the third trimester. And no one really wants to return to those days, Patricia, do they? [Fox News, The Kelly File, 7/15/14]

Bill O'Reilly Suggests Senators Who Support Women's Health Protection Act Are “Executioners.” On the July 15 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly teased a segment on the Women's Health Protection Act by asking if the two U.S. senators who proposed it were “executioners.”

O'REILLY: Two U.S. senators demanding fewer abortion restrictions by the states. Are these people executioners? Or is that unfair? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/15/14]

Kirsten Powers Promotes Medically Unnecessary Restrictions On Clinics. Later on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers joined the program to discuss the Women's Health Protection Act and state-level abortion restrictions. Powers claimed that state laws restricting access to abortion “were put in place to make abortion clinics safe” and linked the wave of state-level abortion legislation to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell (emphasis added):

O'REILLY: So, there was a hearing today in Congress on this, and how do you see it, Kirsten?

POWERS: Well, first of all, it's obviously an election year stunt. This probably won't even pass the Senate, let alone the House, and this is something to get the women ginned up in the Democratic Party base, who, as you know, have been ginned up before on the so-called War on Women, and I think this is part of that strategy. I also think that this is destructive because most of the laws that I think that they would like to roll back are laws that were put in place to make abortion clinics safe. For example, like the Gosnell clinic in Pennsylvania. These types of laws were created to respond to what happened to women. There was a woman who died. There were multiple women who died there. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/15/14]

Fox Correspondent Uses Gosnell Case To Justify Abortion Restrictions. During the July 15 edition of Special Report With Bret Baier, host Bret Baier tried to discredit the Women's Health Protection Act by claiming it was a tactic to “gin up support.” While reporting on the bill, correspondent Molly Henneberg suggested that Gosnell's case justified restrictive abortion legislation, noting that states “did take notice” of the case and imposed new laws in response to it. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 7/15/14]

Anti-Choice Rhetoric On Abortion Has Dangerous Consequences For Women

National Partnership For Women & Families: Conservative “Political Agenda” Undermines Women's Health. According to a recent report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, allowing extreme anti-choice ideology to dictate the discussion around women's health care has broad implications and has been recognized by many leading health organization as “detrimental to patient care” (emphasis added):

This report focuses on women's health and, specifically, on the provision of abortion care. However, the growing trend of imposing ideology on medical care has far broader implications. Similar restrictions impair health care providers' ability to counsel patients on gun safety or environmental risk factors, among other health and safety concerns. Major medical organizations from the American Medical Association (AMA), to the American College of Physicians (ACP), to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG),  have all recognized that this trend of political interference in medical decision-making is detrimental to patient care.

All patients deserve accurate information, high-quality care and the treatment options that best meet their needs. Health care providers should not be forced to choose between adhering to their ethical and professional obligations to provide the highest standard of care and following legal restrictions enacted in pursuit of a political agenda. [National Partnership for Women & Families, Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women's Health Care, July 2014]

NY Times Editorial: Abortion Restrictions Are About Undermining Choice, Not Women's Health. In a July 14 editorial, The New York Times editorial board explained that the Women's Health Protection Act would prevent states from passing laws that purport to protect “women's health and safety but [are] actually meant to undermine their constitutionally protected right to choose.” Quoting Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Times noted that such laws are “disingenuous” and “promoted by politicians, not the medical profession” (emphasis added):

The measure was introduced by two Democrats, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who will be leading the hearing, and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Its purpose is to stop states from implementing laws billed as protecting women's health and safety but actually meant to undermine their constitutionally protected right to choose. The bill would bar states from imposing uniquely oppressive “safety” rules on reproductive health care providers in a thinly veiled effort to drive them out of business. These rules impose limitations far exceeding those on other medical procedures and practices with comparable medical risks. They range from rules stipulating the exact width of an abortion clinic's hallways to rules requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals that are medically unnecessary and often impossible to obtain.

Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who is scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing in support of the bill, accurately terms these disingenuous restrictions “wolves in sheep's clothing” devised and promoted by politicians, not the medical profession.  [The New York Times, 7/14/14]