Roe v Wade court
Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News reacts to leaked Roe opinion with misdirection, outlandish lies, and conspiracy theories

Following the draft majority opinion leak showing the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that recognized access to a safe and legal abortion as a constitutional right, Fox News hosts, guests, and personalities have engaged in misdirection, outlandish lies, and conspiracy theories while ignoring the dangerous consequences of the decision as millions of people lose access to basic health care.  

Here is a list of lies they have told, with numerous examples of each:

  • Lie: Overturning Roe will lead to the issue of abortion being decided in a more democratic way, and/or it will not severely impact access to health care.

  • Fact: Restricting access to abortion means people will experience inequitable access to reproductive health care, as assaults on abortion and voter voting rights are intrinsically linked.

    According to a Planned Parenthood analysis, 26 states are likely to “quickly move to ban abortion” after a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, putting 36 million people at risk of losing access to abortion health care in their state. There are 13 states that have “so-called trigger laws, which were passed in the years since the Roe decision in 1973 and explicitly note they would outlaw abortion within their borders if the Supreme Court allowed it.”

    These laws exploit existing economic disparities, targeting individuals without the financial means to pay for transportation and accommodations to travel to a state where abortion is legal. On top of the logistical burdens, these individuals face additional barriers such as lost wages, the need to obtain child care for their existing children, and, in some states, mandatory waiting periods. These barriers can discourage and effectively prevent individuals from receiving abortion health care, leading to consequences such as increased poverty and poor health.

    Fox hosts and personalities have dismissed these consequences in favor of clinging to the technicality that abortion will not be banned nationwide and each state will decide its own laws, thus giving voters the agency to choose the legality in their geographic area.

    This reasoning is flawed, as these new bans — on top of a stream of recently passed abortion restrictions — will tie people’s right to access reproductive health care to their location and not to inherent bodily autonomy. Also, they will be enacted in states that simultaneously are targeting communities traditionally most affected by restrictive abortion laws with voter suppression -- minimizing, if not eliminating, the ability for states to reflect the will of the people on abortion access, as right-wing media have claimed overturning Roe will do.

    • Host Laura Ingraham reassured her audience, saying, “Everyone has to remember it tonight, like before everybody freaks out, that this is now going to be determined by you, the people.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/2/22]
    • National Review’s Andy McCarthy complained about hysteria after the leak, saying, “If the court threw out Roe, what we were going to find -- when everybody woke up the next day, the sky will not have fallen.” He also said, “If a woman in the United States wants to get an abortion, she will be able to get an abortion. It might be a little more difficult depending on where she is, but abortion is not gone." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/3/22]
    • Fox News guest and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch argued overturning Roe would exemplify “democracy at work.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/3/22]
    • Host Tucker Carlson stated, “In a single 1973 decision, the high court banned democracy from the debate over abortion.” Carlson argued that overturning Roe would represent “the core idea of democracy” because “things are never resolved by fiat; they’re only resolved by consent.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 5/3/22]
    • Guest Megan Wold called the draft opinion “fundamentally democratic” because the court had originally “take[n] away a question from the people.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/3/22]
    • Guest co-host Lauren Simonetti dismissed the lack of abortion access for some people if Roe was overturned: “They can go live somewhere else where it's more of a free-for-all and they could do whatever they want.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/4/22]
    • Co-host Jeanine Pirro emphasized that the leaked opinion wouldn’t ban abortion but was giving the decision “to the people” so “you and Congress can decide.'' [Fox News, The Five, 5/4/22]
    • Carlson claimed that language in the leaked opinion represents “the very definition of democracy.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 5/4/22]
    • Host Sean Hannity falsely stated that abortion access will be “totally legal in most every state” and “abortion access will exist for every American” if Roe is overturned. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/4/22]
    • Radio host Clay Travis stated that state legislatures being able to decide the legality of abortion is “democracy flourishing” and “democracy in action.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/4/22]
    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that overturning Roe actually gives women more representation in deciding the legality of abortion because “in every state of this union, women in this country are the majority of voters now.” She also accused Democrats of using voters “like a fetish, like a game piece” to “maintain their own power.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 5/5/22]
    • Former presidential adviser and white nationalist Stephen Miller claimed overturning Roe will be “actually a pro-choice ruling” because voters will get to choose the legality of abortion. [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 5/6/22]
    • Co-host Emily Compagno said, “If this draft is published, then that restores power and vote back to the people, which is the definition of democracy." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/9/22]
    • Hannity also claimed that people will realize “they don’t need Roe v. Wade because the state is going to ensure that right for them." [Fox News, Hannity, 5/9/22]
  • Lie: Most Americans support state laws restricting access to abortions

  • Fact: Polling on abortion is extremely complicated and often misses important context or lived experiences of people who have had an abortion.

    For example, most polls on abortion ask voters to categorize their views by reductive labels like “pro-choice” or “pro-life’” or ask if abortion should be legal or illegal. Questions such as the latter usually result in a “divided public,” according to Tresa Undem, co-founder and partner at PerryUndem, a public opinion research firm.

    However, when asked about common situations such as long-term health consequences for the pregnant individual or pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, the majority of voters agree abortion should be legal in those cases. Furthermore, a 2022 PerryUndem poll found that 80% of those polled believe the decision of when to have an abortion should be made by the pregnant individual and their doctor, while only 32% said it should be regulated by law.

    Fox’s own poll reflects the inconsistencies Undem points out that are often seen in abortion polling results: 50% favor abortion bans in their state after six weeks and 54% after 15 weeks, and 54% say abortion should be mostly or always illegal, yet, 63% said they support upholding Roe. The contradictory results are another example for why nuance is needed in abortion polling. Despite this, Fox News figures have repeatedly claimed that Americans support abortion bans after 15 weeks, citing the Fox News poll to support their argument.

    • Anchor Martha MacCallum cut off guest Jehmu Greene, who was asserting that the majority of Americans agreed abortion should be legal, claiming the majority of Americans do not support abortion after the first trimester. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/3/22]
    • Fox correspondent Peter Doocy cited the Fox News poll to refute White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s point that the majority of Americans support abortion access: “A majority of the American public say abortion should be illegal in a new Fox News poll. 54%, up seven points since the start of this year.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/3/22; Fox News, 5/3/22]
    • Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the majority of Americans are “in favor of abortion restrictions after 15 weeks.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/3/22]
    • Co-anchor Bill Hemmer also cited the Fox News poll: “We found in our polling 44% believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time -- 44%. Yet 54% think it should be illegal all or most of the time. So for the first time that portion saying illegal has been above 50% in our Fox News poll.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/4/22]
    • MacCallum said that “54% of those polled favor a ban after 15 weeks,” adding that “54% reveals that they’re pretty much in line with the Mississippi law that was at stake here.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 5/4/22]
    • Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen also cited the Fox News poll claiming 54% of Americans support banning abortion after 15 weeks. [Fox News, America Reports, 5/4/22]
    • Fox News contributor Joe Concha cited a Gallup poll to argue that “the country is basically split right down the middle, if you look at Gallup, between those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice.” Then Concha cited the Fox News poll results on favoring (54%) or opposing (41%) bans on abortion after 15 week, ignoring that the same Gallup poll he had mentioned showed the opposite: 41% favored bans on abortion after 18 weeks and 56% opposed it. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/4/22; Gallup, accessed 5/16/22]
  • Lie: Overturning Roe will not threaten other rights like birth control and marriage equality.

  • Fact: Experts say the logic in Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion can be carried over to other rights like access to contraceptives and gay and interracial marriages.

    The central idea in Roe is that abortion is an “unenumerated right,” meaning that it is protected under the Constitution, even if it doesn’t explicitly say so. The 1973 decision said abortion is protected by the 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, which protects people’s right to privacy. In Alito’s leaked draft majority opinion, the justice argued that because Americans did not view abortion as a fundamental right when the 14th Amendment was passed, abortion does not have constitutional protection. Though Alito emphasized that the draft opinion pertains only to the issue of abortion, as NPR reported, “That logic could carry over to other rights: At the time that amendment to the Constitution was written, same-sex and interracial couples couldn't legally marry, and birth control was being criminalized, legal historian Mary Ziegler told explains.” Other legal scholars have also warned that overturning Roe could threaten other personal rights predicated on unenumerated rights like contraception, interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, and integration.

    • Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi dismissed those voicing concerns that overturning Roe could later affect LGBTQ rights, saying they are “dead wrong.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/3/22]
    • Co-host Jeanine Pirro claimed that Roe is distinct from Griswold v. Connecticut, Loving v. Virginia, and “all those other cases,” because “some of those other rights are based on equal protection, civil rights, not necessarily on the right to privacy. So, that should all be removed from the discussion.” Pirro failed to address what might happen to cases like Griswold that were decided based on the ruling that the Constitution did protect the right to privacy. [Fox News, The Five, 5/4/22]
    • Co-host Kayleigh McEnany scorned warnings that other civil rights may be impacted by overturning Roe, saying, “To at all suggest that, as Biden did, that all of these other cases are under threat, Joy Behar, that integration of schools would be under threat? It's cringeworthy, but it's expected.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/4/22]
    • Anchor Martha MacCallum interrupted her guest, Democratic strategist Richard Goodstein, and dismissed fears that overturning Roe would impact other rights like contraceptives and same-sex marriage, with a laugh: “Don't you think that's kind of getting a little crazy here? … Don’t you think that’s a little much?” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/5/22]
    • Fox contributor Jason Riley called concerns that other rulings may follow the overturning of Roe “scare tactics … said with the November elections in mind.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/6/22]
  • Lie: Democrats and pro-choice people want to increase abortions and are targeting Black communities.

  • Fact: Right-wing media have long launched bad-faith attacks to paint Democrats as “radical” on abortion. It’s irresponsible — and not based on any evidence — to conflate advocating for women’s reproductive health care with wanting more abortions in the U.S. (Also, despite these supposed nefarious efforts by Democrats, according to Centers for Disease Control data, in most states, the “rate of abortions relative to the state’s population of women ages 15 to 49 declined … from 2010 to 2019.”)

    Within those bad faith attacks are accusations that the same radical Democrats target Black communities. The allegations are rooted in the racist and eugenics-based views of Margaret Sanger, who spearheaded the birth control movement and opened a clinic that would eventually become Planned Parenthood. But as the Washington Post Fact Checker noted, while Sanger’s “embrace of eugenics” would be considered “abhorrent today,” there is “little evidence that she targeted blacks for ‘elimination’ or embraced the Nazis, who took eugenics to a horrific extreme.”

    Extremist group Protecting Black Life has claimed that the 2010 census reveals “79% of [Planned Parenthood’s] surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.” However, a more recent 2014 analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, an independent reproductive health research center surveyed all abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, and found that about 60% are in white-majority neighborhoods. The survey also found that less than 10% of abortion providers are in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and 13% are located in neighborhoods with Hispanic majority.

    Claims that abortions target Black communities not only ignore Black individuals’ agency, but are also red herrings to distract from the disproportionate impact overturning Roe would have on communities of color.

    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt allowed guest and U.S. Senate candidate from Oklahoma T.W. Shannon to claim that “Planned Parenthood targets Black communities” and that it benefits from fundraising “on the backs of dead Black babies.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/2/22]
    • Fox host Greg Gutfeld suggested that pro-abortion individuals have a “quota” for abortions in the United States and they want abortion to be “as American as apple pie and hot dogs.” [Fox News, The Five, 5/3/22]
    • Frequent guest and former Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway: “The Democratic Party has really veered to the extreme on the issue of abortion. A majority of Americans disagree with the Democratic Party platform, with Biden, Harris, and the rest of them that we should have taxpayer-funded abortion, late-term abortion, sex-election abortion, forcing medical professionals to perform abortions if they have religious or conscious objections to that.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/3/22]
    • Fox host Dan Bongino claimed that “the radical secular left … believe[s] in a culture of death” and is “obsessed with terminating en masse the lives of children and infants in the womb.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 5/5/22]
    • Fox host Lawrence Jones complained that Democrats “say that they care about Black lives, but yet they support Planned Parenthood whose founding mission was to exterminate Black and brown babies.” [Fox News, The Five, 5/6/22]
    • Host Pete Hegseth claimed Democratic voters are “obsessed with aborting babies.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 5/6/22]
  • Lie: The draft opinion was leaked in an attempt to intimidate Supreme Court justices or distract from failed Democratic policies ahead of midterm elections (or it’s being used for these purposes).

  • Fact: Since the draft opinion story was published, there has been no evidence to suggest the political leanings of the leaker, and Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the source of the leak. Yet Fox personalities and guests have embraced the conspiracy theory that the leak was a desperate attempt by flailing Democrats to galvanize voters for the upcoming midterm elections or influence the Supreme Court justices to change their vote before the court’s decision is published.

    • Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo reacted to the presence of protesters outside the Supreme Court by commenting, “It is hard not to think that this is all part of an orchestrated idea and a plan.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/2/22]
    • Fox contributor Leo Terrell said he believed the leak was “designed to change the current narrative away from the disastrous Biden administration. … This leaker has changed the news cycle. The No. 1 story is the leak, and the Democrats are ecstatic right now.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/3/22]
    • Fox host Brian Kilmeade complained the timing of the leak “is suspicious” and the Democrats had successfully “changed the narrative” of the midterms from inflation to abortion. He then said, “Within minutes of the leak, protesters were marching in front of the Supreme Court with professional-made signs. I did not know Kinkos was open at 9 o’clock at night.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 5/3/22]
    • Co-host Greg Gutfeld admitted that his “little conspiracy voice” was saying that the leak was “dropped at this time” to distract from failing Democratic policies. [Fox News, The Five, 5/4/22]
    • Guest and Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Democrats “will lie, they will lash out, they will leak, and they will try to intimidate our Supreme Court justices” in their push for “the killing of innocent, unborn children.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/6/22]
    • Host Laura Ingraham: “I believe this leak was done with the goal of stoking violence against the conservative justices, primarily, on the court. In other words, the goal [is] to force a change in the court’s makeup before the November election.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/6/22]
    • Guest Donald Trump Jr. accused the Democrats of engaging in “a panic tactic” ahead of the midterms by focusing on abortion because “they can't run on the economy, they can't run on jobs, they can't run on energy.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 5/8/22]
    • Fox anchor Bret Baier claimed that the Biden White House didn't address the leak or potential violence because Democrats see the “political upside of perhaps rescuing some Democrats who are in tough races in purple states.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/9/22]