How The Right-Wing Media Is Orchestrating A Public Health Crisis

GOP Candidates Adopt Media Smears To Try To Defund Planned Parenthood And Deny Millions Access To Health Care

Planned Parenthood march for women's health

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz published an opinion piece in USA Today using Fox News talking points to advocate for the full defunding of Planned Parenthood.

That could result in millions of Americans losing access to crucial health care -- all thanks to a handful of lies pushed by conservative media.

Cruz's August 20 op-ed relies heavily on the deceptive videos from the Center for Medical Progress, which used possibly-illegal methods to capture undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood figures. Those videos cropped out crucial context to demonize the organization's abortion procedures. Cruz provides no evidence of wrongdoing, but demands both that Planned Parenthood's federal funding must end and that the Department of Justice must prosecute “any potential criminal actions.”

The videos have been repeatedly debunked by mainstream media outlets, and a poll has shown that they have done little to change the fact that a majority of Americans still support Planned Parenthood receiving federal funding.

But that doesn't appear to matter to right-wing media or the GOP. Instead, conservative media figures have promoted the videos and continued to loudly condemn Planned Parenthood, and Republican politicians have happily joined the chorus and called for the organization to be defunded.

And the deception is plentiful. Cruz falsely claims the CMP videos show “senior Planned Parenthood officials ... heartlessly discussing killing unborn children in order to sell their body parts,” echoing an allegation made in conservative media. They do nothing of the kind; as many have noted, in reality the videos feature discussions of legal donations and the associated minor reimbursement fees. Cruz misleadingly claims that “Planned Parenthood receives about 45% of its funding from government sources,” without explaining that much of that is in the form of Medicaid dollars, as low-income families use Planned Parenthood for STD testing, cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, and birth control prescriptions.

And Cruz parrots the newest right-wing media attack: the dishonest argument that “ending taxpayer funding of abortion providers will have little impact on a woman's access to healthcare” because providers such as “Community health centers, charities, state health departments and other government entities” already provide those services.

This is a false, and dangerous, claim.

There are many places in the country where Planned Parenthood is the only health provider. About half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in rural areas, where there are often no local providers at all, or none who have the capacity to offer reproductive health services.

When you close a Planned Parenthood clinic in those areas, you create a public health crisis -- for women and men.

In Indiana, for example, after funding cuts forced five Planned Parenthood clinics to close back in 2011, the state became the center of “an exploding HIV outbreak.” The Planned Parenthood clinics -- which had not provided abortions -- had been the only providers to offer HIV testing to both men and women before they were shuttered. Now the state is struggling to deal with the avoidable epidemic.

And in Texas, Republican lawmakers now reportedly regret their systematic defunding of Planned Parenthood, because of the “devastating effect” cuts have had on health care in the state. According to Joseph Potter, the principal investigator at the Texas Policy Project at the University of Texas (emphasis added):

The drastic budget cuts caused many clinics to close, and those that remained open had to curtail their services, especially providing the more expensive and more effective contraceptive methods such as IUDs and implants. Many Texas lawmakers, including Republican legislators, now realize that these massive cuts adversely affected women and were a mistake.

Potter's investigation further found that many of the remaining health care providers “simply do not have the trained personnel and experience in women's health care” necessary to provide the services the Planned Parenthood clinics had, and many women faced severe challenges in trying to change their health care provider. Ultimately, fewer Texas women “have received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies” (emphasis added).

Potter concluded: “If Congress were to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, many of the challenges that Texas now faces would play out on a much grander national scale.”

Over 6.5 million Americans live in Indiana; nearly 30 million live in Texas. And that's just the beginning, if conservative media and GOP politicians have their way.

This is how the playbook works: deceptive videos made by right-wing activists get promoted by conservative media outlets. They get enough attention, and provide enough shock-value, that it gives GOP politicians ammunition to pick up the lies and run with them in legislation across the country.

This has happened before, and will likely happen again, because right-wing activists know they can manipulate the media to push their propaganda.

So now Ted Cruz, a senator and a Republican presidential candidate, is advocating in the pages of the highest circulation paper in the country for a full-scale government attack on health care, using myths and deception ready-made for him by this right-wing propaganda machine.

But how many millions of Americans have to lose access to health care before the cycle stops?