Right-wing media lie about fetal development to justify Georgia’s draconian limits on abortion

Stacey Abrams corrects misinformation about fetal development – and right-wing media are outraged

Right-wing media figures are attacking Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams after she debunked the medically inaccurate idea that a prenatal heartbeat always exists at six weeks of pregnancy. 

Addressing Georgia’s fetal heartbeat-based six-week abortion ban that went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, Abrams said at a September 20 panel discussion that “there is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body away from her.”

Indeed, Abrams is correct. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has spoken out against “heartbeat” legislation, such as the Georgia law, for its deceptive nature:

It is clinically inaccurate to use the word “heartbeat” to describe the sound that can be heard on ultrasound in very early pregnancy. In fact, there are no chambers of the heart developed at the early stage in pregnancy that this word is used to describe, so there is no recognizable “heartbeat.” What pregnant people may hear is the ultrasound machine translating electronic impulses that signify fetal cardiac activity into the sound that we recognize as a heartbeat.

Even Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel, after first railing against Abrams, admitted on the September 23 edition of Fox’s America’s Newsroom that she was right: “There’s no heart there, there’s no valves, but you are seeing a fluttering, a flickering of electrical activity.”

Others in right-wing media were less honest.

RNC Research, a Twitter account run by the Republican National Committee, was the first to circulate the clip, adding, “REMINDER: Abrams supports NO LIMITS on abortion.”

Right-wing media jumped to attack her remarks, including on the September 22 edition of The Faulkner Focus, where Fox host Will Cain argued that Abrams’ comments amounted to a “QAnon-plus level” conspiracy theory, with anchor Harris Faulkner noting that “she’s not a doctor.”

Faulkner and Cain were not alone in making these attacks, as other right-wing figures jumped to smear Abrams and accuse her of radicalism, often twisting her comments to claim she believes doctors intentionally play a fake heartbeat sound to trick women.

  • On the September 22 edition of Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed that “Stacey Abrams is trying to change science. She's trying to deny that the baby has a heartbeat when it does because if you understand how the baby develops, you're going to reject abortion on demand up to the moment of birth.”
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Citation From the September 22, 2022, edition of Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum

  • In a panel discussion on Fox’s Outnumbered, co-host Kayleigh McEnany distorted her comments to claim Abrams was concocting “a conspiratorial plot” in which “heartbeats are manufactured,” calling it “absurd.”
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Citation From the September 22, 2022, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

  • On The Ingraham Angle, The Federalist’s Ben Domenech used Abrams’ comments to claim that Democrats are “radical” on abortion issues: “Look, we do see, I think, right in front of our eyes something amazing happening, which is that the left is being more honest than ever about the radical nature of their views on abortion policy.”

On Twitter, right-wing media figures attacked Abrams extensively in response to the RNC Research clip. Many accused her of lying to create a conspiracy theory and deny science, and echoed Cain’s comments about QAnon:

  • Right-wing pundit Stephen L. Miller wrote, “This is beyond QAnon shit,” “It’s worse than QAnon,” and, “I kind of think this one is just a bit bigger than JFK JR is still alive.”
  • The Federalist’s Sean Davis called Abrams “a BlueAnon nutjob who belongs in an insane asylum.”
  • Daily Caller contributor Eddie Zipperer claimed Abrams’ comments were “another WokeAnon conspiracy theory.” In a second tweet, he said, “Take a moment to consider how truly repugnant this lie is.”
  • Former Trump lawyer and Newsmax contributor Jenna Ellis called Abrams a “crazy science denier.”
  • Townhall’s Larry O’Connor accused Abrams of pushing “a long-debunked myth,” and called her “either a liar or an ignorant conspiracy theorist.”
  • March for Life President Jeanne F. Mancini asked, “So ... being 'pro-science' and 'pro- advances in technology' only matters sometimes? When it supports an agenda?” She added that Abrams' statement “is incredibly disingenous and hurtful.

Some smeared her for not having children and insulted her intelligence:

  • The Babylon Bee’s Ashley St. Clair called Abrams “an evil, miserable, childless woman.”
  • Conservative organizer Phil Kerpen mocked Abrams’ “learned opinion” as a “childless woman.”
  • Turning Point USA’s Alex Clark called Abrams “so demonic. And a moron.”
  • Right-wing radio host Clay Travis tweeted that Abrams is “Off. The. Deep. End” for saying that “ultrasound machines are rigged by men to make fake heartbeats to control women.”
  • Former One America News host Liz Wheeler called Abrams “so deranged.”
  • Newsmax host Sebastian Gorka said “she’s actually certifiably insane.”
  • Fox host Dan Bongino called Abrams “the dumbest candidate in the country,” adding, “What an idiot!"
  • Right-wing attorney and occasional OAN guest David Wohl wrote that Abrams is “dumb as a rock.”
  • McEnany tweeted, “This is one of the most absurd things that I have ever heard uttered by a politician. So much for the science!”
  • The Daily Wire’s Mairead Elordi wrote that Abrams was “saying all ultrasound equipment has fake noise created by pro-life men” and asked, “Do we realize how deranged this is?”
  • Meghan McCain called Abrams “a very sick person to say this and somehow accuse doctors of faking fetal heartbeats.”
  • Conservative podcaster Monica Matthews called Abrams a “wretch.”

Others dredged up false accusations of Abrams being an election denier following the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race in which she was a candidate.

  • Ben Shapiro claimed that “she's not only an election denier, she's a science and life denier.”
  • American Greatness’ Tim Young echoed Shapiro, writing that Abrams “went from election denier to life denier."
  • CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp tweeted, “If Stacey Abrams will lie about voting I guess she will lie about babies.”