Pro-choice abortion protest signs appear in front of blue background

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

After a GOP food fight over a national abortion ban, right-wing media twist the truth on Democrats’ abortion stances

Under the direction of a national anti-choice group, conservative media are trying to control the narrative on abortion by calling out Democrats’ supposed extremism

Following weeks of Republicans and conservative media squabbling over abortion politics ahead of the 2024 election, right-wing outlets are trying to shift the narrative, moving the focus away from GOP infighting and instead emphasizing so-called left-wing extremism.

  • As Republicans are in disarray over abortion policy, the party and conservative media try to pivot the conversation

    • During the first GOP primary presidential debate in August, rifts in the party over abortion policy became especially clear, spurring a similar conflict within right-wing media. In conservative media, a food fight began over a national ban, with one side aligned with candidates that support a 15-week ban and another backing arguments that called such a restriction impractical given the anti-abortion movement’s compounding electoral losses. [Media Matters, 8/25/23]
    • According to the Washington Examiner, the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has directed conservative politicians to reframe the abortion narrative around Democrats’ supposed extremism. Previously, the group has threatened to withhold endorsements of presidential hopefuls unless candidates commit to endorse a 15-week national abortion ban as a “minimum standard” for the party. [Washington Examiner, 9/1/23; The Washington Post, 8/24/23]
    • In the weeks since the debate, right-wing media have fallen into line, increasing coverage that twists the truth about Democrats’ abortion policy and attacking those who fact-check distortions of Democrats’ abortion position. Right-wing media lashed out twice recently, after former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “No one supports abortion up until birth,” and after several mainstream outlets fact-checked GOP candidates falsely describing how Democrats view abortion. [Twitter/X, 8/23/23; Politifact, 8/23/23; Washington Post, 8/24/23;, 8/24/23]
    • Right-wing attacks on Democrats’ abortion stance have exaggerated protections touted by Democrats to make them appear extreme. Some conservatives have tried to twist the truth about a failed 2022 bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, by likening the proposed law to allowing “abortion up until delivery” when in fact the legislation aimed to protect abortion through viability and provide exceptions for the health of the patient after that point. In an interview given by Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday, she called claims about Democrats supporting abortion through birth “ridiculous” and a “mischaracterization of the point.” [Politifact, 8/1/22; CBS News, 9/10/23]
  • Right-wing media outright rejected Psaki’s attempt to correct the record on abortion

    • In a Fox News op-ed written by a SBA-PLA spokesperson, the author shamed Psaki for trying to “cover up Democrats’ awful abortion secret.” The piece falsely asserted, “Today’s Democratic Party is the party of late-term abortions” and told Psaki to “stop gaslighting the American people.” Another extreme anti-abortion outlet, LifeNews, also published the op-ed. [Fox News, 9/1/23; LifeNews, 9/1/23]
    • The anti-choice site Live Action criticized Psaki for using her MSNBC show Inside to highlight the right’s trend of overstating Democrats’ abortion policies. The piece also used the common misleading anti-abortion line about Democrats advocating for “abortion on demand” and undermined the basic notion that abortion is health care. [Live Action, 8/31/23]
    • LifeNews took issue with Psaki’s “bald-faced lie” and argued that the Democratic Party is indeed advocating for so-called “late-term” abortions. While “late-term abortion” is an unscientific term in itself, the piece went on to say that abortion is “murder plain and simple.” [LifeNews, 8/28/23]
    • A National Review headline stated that Psaki “isn’t telling the truth about late-term abortion.” In the piece, the author used graphic language to describe abortions later in pregnancy – a widely-used strategy among the anti-choice movement meant to make abortion more intimidating –  without noting that they are extremely rare and are often carried out as a result of fetal abnormalities or extreme health risk to the parent. The piece also uses the stigma-heavy term “elective” abortion. [National Review, 8/28/23]
    • The online blog for the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America misleadingly described Democrat-endorsed legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act by claiming it “would have radically expanded abortion access nationwide through all nine months of pregnancy.” Arguing that Psaki’s tweet was “blatant misinformation,” the blog cited a National Review piece to try proving the existence of “elective late-term abortion.” [Students for Life of America, 8/27/23]
  • When mainstream fact-checkers tried to correct conservative misinformation, right-wing media attacked them for having a supposed left-wing bias

    • As part of its “Forgotten Fact Checks” series, National Review claimed that abortion is one of “the media’s favorite things to lie about.” The piece slammed “media” for their “Rush to Dems’ Defense” following the debate and took issue with abortion coverage from The Washington Post and Psaki’s MSNBC program. [National Review, 8/28/23]
    • The Washington Free Beacon decried media fact-checkers attempting to debunk Republican abortion misinformation, claiming ,“It was the journalists who got it wrong.” The piece also spread misinformation about the Women’s Health Protection Act, saying the law would “allow abortion up to birth nationwide” and suggested fact-checkers unfairly target conservatives, claiming, “Their mistakes nearly always seem to go against Republicans.” [Washington Free Beacon, 8/25/23]
    • Fox News dedicated a piece to gathering conservative backlash against Washington Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler for dismissing Republican claims about Democrats’ abortion policy during the August debate. In a similar piece from the same day, Fox News highlighted how one of The Washington Post’s own columnists, Ramesh Ponnuru, criticized the Post’s fact checks and stated that Republicans were indeed accurate in their framing of Democrats’ abortion views. [Fox News, 8/24/23; Fox News, 8/24/23]
    • The conservative Media Research Center dinged fact-checkers abusing their platform for having “spun in favor of Democrats” and wrote that Kessler “did the usual pro-DNC tap dance.” The piece baselessly compared abortion later in pregnancy to “execution by guillotine” and attacked Psaki, saying her claims on abortion were “obviously false.” [Media Research Center, 8/24/23]