Louisiana bars abortion pills
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News completely ignored Louisiana criminalizing abortion pills

Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC spent a combined hour and a half on coverage

On May 24, Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law legislation which classifies the two most popular abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, as dangerous controlled substances. From May 23, when Louisiana’s Senate passed the bill, to May 28, Fox News did not air a single segment on the story. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC aired a combined 1 hour and 33 minutes of the legislation coverage. 

  • Louisiana, already one of the most restrictive states on abortion, has now reclassified popular abortion medications as dangerous controlled substances

    • Louisiana’s legislature has reclassified mifepristone and misoprostol as Schedule IV drugs, placing them on a list of substances that includes narcotics, and people could potentially be sentenced to prison for possession. The Guttmacher Institute has already labeled Louisiana as a “most restrictive” state for abortion, as the health care procedure is “completely banned with very limited exceptions.” Although pregnant people will be exempt from prosecution under this law, anyone who helps them obtain the drugs, such as family or friends, will not. [Reuters, 5/28/24; Louisiana State Legislature, accessed 5/29/24; Guttmacher Institute, accessed 5/29/24]
    • The legislation has wide-ranging consequences for those seeking abortion pills and for pregnant people generally. More than 200 Louisiana physicians have signed a letter in protest of the bill, pointing out that these medications are not only used in elective medication abortions, but during spontaneous miscarriages, labor, and in treatment of other conditions as well. [The Guardian, 5/29/24]
  • Fox News ignored all reporting around the legislation, while CNN and MSNBC covered it for a combined 1 hour and 33 minutes

  • cable news bar chart Louisiana abortion legislation

    Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

    • From May 23, when Louisiana’s Senate passed the bill, to May 28, Fox News did not mention the legislation. All “news-side” and opinion shows on the network failed to include a single segment or mention of the legislation during the five-day period Media Matters reviewed. 
    • During that same period, CNN and MSNBC aired a combined 1 hour and 33 minutes worth of coverage. MSNBC led the pack with 1 hour of coverage. CNN devoted 33 minutes to the legislation. 
    • CNN and MSNBC also aired informative interviews about the legislation, which noted its various consequences. Kaitlyn Joshua, who previously documented her struggle with Louisiana’s abortion ban, told CNN’s The Source with Kaitlan Collins that the reclassification legislation is “taking a step back and putting women’s lives at risk just to check a box.” In another interview on MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Joshua said that bans like Louisiana’s make it “impossible for us to thrive in a way that's safe and effective for a lot of us that are wanting to grow our families.” [NPR, 12/29/22; CNN, The Source with Kaitlan Collins, 5/23/24; MSNBC, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 5/27/24]
  • Fox ignoring Louisiana’s legislation follows the network’s pattern of burying reproductive news

    • Over the past few months, Fox News has offered minimal coverage on news relating to abortion and reproductive rights, seemingly in order to shield viewers from any unpopular news that could damage the Republican Party or former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Abortion rights are extremely popular in the U.S., with 63% of the public agreeing that “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” Media Matters has repeatedly found that Fox News dramatically underreports changes to reproductive rights. For example, the network spent less than 6 minutes covering the Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos are legally equivalent to children and only 12 minutes reporting on the Arizona Supreme Court trying to bring back a 160-year-old abortion ban. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC each spent at least 2 hours covering the reinstatement of Arizona’s abortion ban bill from 1864. [Pew Research Center, 5/13/24; Media Matters, 2/20/24, 4/10/24, 5/2/24]
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for the term “Louisiana” within close proximity of either of the terms “mifepristone” or “misoprostol” or the term “abortion” within close proximity to any of the terms “pill,” “chemical,” or “drug” or any variation of the terms “medical” or “prescription” from May 23, 2024, when Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation reclassifying common medication abortion pills as controlled substances, through May 28, 2024.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Louisiana’s bill reclassifying medication abortion pills as controlled substances was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the legislation. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the law with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the bill without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the law scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.