While midterm elections near, both conservative and mainstream coverage of abortion is portraying Democrats as out of touch with the public despite Americans’ well-documented support for reproductive rights.
With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the protection of abortion rights has become a key issue for many Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterms. California, Michigan, and Vermont will be voting on ballot initiatives that would change their current constitution to codify the right to abortion. President Joe Biden has also pledged that if Democrats continue to control the legislature in 2023, he will sign a law to codify abortion rights in January. The House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act which would protect the right to abortion access, however it is currently held up in the Senate by the GOP and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). The right to have an abortion is very popular in the U.S., with polling showing that 61% of the country thinks it should be legal in all or most cases.
Conservative media have long sustained attacks against abortion access, spreading health misinformation and normalizing violent rhetoric aimed at both abortion providers and patients. Though mainstream media have produced more varied coverage, some coverage from mainstream outlets has failed to scrutinize anti-abortion politicians. These outlets have also left audiences of millions in the dark when it came to updates about the reversal of Roe, downplaying the threat to abortion access posed by the Supreme Court before Roe’s reversal and often leaving out important context about damage caused once it was.
With health care protections on the line in the upcoming midterm elections, conservative outlets are falsely labeling vulnerable Democratic candidates as abortion extremists. While mainstream outlets don’t usually outright label Democrats as radical on abortion, some have presented positions Democrats have taken on abortion as extreme or suggested that the GOP has opted for the middle ground on the issue, unlike Democrats.
Right-wing media label Democrats as “abortion extremists”
- A Washington Examiner article titled “Democrats are finally being forced to own their abortion extremism” said that “it’s impossible to overstate just how extreme" the positions of Arizona Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs and Pennsylvania senatorial nominee John Fetterman are, based on their lack of support for abortion restrictions.
- In an opinion piece for the National Review about Georgia Democratic Senate nominee Sen. Raphael Warnock’s “hideous abortion extremism,” editor Rich Lowry attacked Warnock’s support for the Women’s Health Protection Act and supposed failure to “signal some moderation” toward the subject as a “man of the cloth.”
- Anti-abortion website Lifenews.com condemned the Biden administration for “doubl[ing] down on abortion extremism” by vowing to codify abortion if the Democrats keep the legislature in their power, labeling nominees like Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, as extreme for not supporting restrictions on abortions.
- Fox and Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth labeled Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) as being extreme on abortion “because she believes in abortion all the way until effectively the moment of birth” while presenting opponent Don Bolduc, who opposes abortion in any form, as a “mainstream candidate.”
- Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway argued that Republicans are presenting a moderate alternative on abortion as opposed to the “extremism of many Democrat candidates who do not want any restrictions on abortion for any reason.”
Mainstream outlets suggest that Democrats are out of step with the public’s views on abortion
- MSNBC host Joe Scarborough attempted to frame Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) proposed 15-week national abortion ban as a “compromise.” During his Morning Joe program, Scarborough asserted that such a ban was “middle ground of the abortion debate” and falsely claimed that 15 weeks is “where most Americans are.” In reality, just 39% of Americans expressed support for a 15-week national ban.
- Morning Joe co-host Willie Geist suggested polling shows that Democrats who support abortion without limits have “an extreme position.” According to Gallup, 35% of Americans support legal abortion under any circumstances. Geist also repeatedly asked White House senior adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms what abortion limits, if any, Biden supports.
- CNN contributor and former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Scott Jennings dismissed claims that Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker paid for an abortion, averting attention to Sen. Raphael Warnock’s abortion position. Jennings said, “There are a lot of Republicans out there saying in a worst case scenario it is true, and Herschel Walker did pay for an abortion. You know what, Raphael Warnock wants to pay for all of them and up to the moment of birth.” He accused Warnock of voting “for unlimited abortion access” and falsely claimed the Women’s Health Protection Act “absolutely had no limits on access to abortion,” even though the act allows for post-viability restrictions except in cases of detrimental health risks to the pregnant person.
- During an interview with Manchin, Scarborough implied that Democrats couldn’t pass a bill codifying Roe because they went “far beyond” simple protections. Scarborough asked Manchin, “Why couldn't they [Democrats] just pass a simple bill that would codify Roe and keep it at that instead of going so far beyond that?” Scarborough also asserted that more expansive abortion protections aren’t “where America is.”
- In an opinion piece for The Hill, a professor at the conservative Patrick Henry College criticized what he termed “the pagan roots of Democrats’ abortion extremism,” decrying Abrams and the Women’s Health Protection Act. The op-ed likened abortion to infanticide and called it “an extreme position” to say that a “woman alone can, in consultation with her doctor, make any decision at any time on abortion.”
- The Hill also published an op-ed critiquing Democrats’ position on abortion as extreme, authored by right-wing commentator and frequent Fox News guest Katie Pavlich. In the piece, Pavlich lauded the GOP for its ability “to turn the argument around and expose that it isn’t Republicans who are extreme on abortion, but rather the Democrats.” Pavlich also referred to 15-week abortion restrictions as “political consensus” and condemned Democrats like Rep. Tim Ryan (OH), Warnock, and Fetterman for not publicly stating support for abortion restrictions.