Reproductive Rights | Media Matters for America

Reproductive Rights

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  • Kentucky broadcast media favor anti-choice voices in covering Operation Save America protests

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE & JULIE TULBERT

    During the final week of July, the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Save America (OSA) protested in front of Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic with the goal of shutting it down. From July 1 through 31, Kentucky broadcast media aired 209 segments on the topic and overall featured a greater number of anti-abortion protesters than pro-choice advocates. Kentucky media also failed to provide context about the violent history and rhetoric of OSA, including group members’ violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE Act) during a protest in May.

  • How anti-abortion groups are using Wash. Post to legitimize their attacks on Planned Parenthood 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On August 2, The Washington Post’s health care newsletter, The Health 202, featured an exclusive preview of an anti-Planned Parenthood report from the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) -- the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. After the full report’s publication, anti-abortion groups and outlets pointed to the Post’s exclusive to legitimize the misinformation the report included or promoted the report themselves. 

  • Anti-abortion media use new smear video to lobby lawmakers before health care vote

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In the early hours of July 28, Republican senators failed to pass a bill to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood on a 51-49 vote. Prior to the vote, the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had released yet another of its deceptive smear videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, and anti-abortion and right-wing media circulated the clip as a reason to vote for the Republican bill.

  • Meet the extreme anti-abortion group trying to close Kentucky's last clinic

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The extreme anti-abortion group Operation Save America (OSA) gathered in Kentucky for a week in July to protest -- and ultimately try to shutter -- the state’s one remaining abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Given that OSA’s protests have garnered national media attention, here’s what media outlets should know about the violent history and rhetoric of the group and its leaders.

  • Fox News hates that an Oregon bill provides immigrants with health care -- including abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    On Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, host Martha MacCallum slammed an Oregon bill that would protect reproductive health care for all -- including undocumented immigrants. MacCallum used the segment to misinform about the bill, combining xenophobic statements about immigrants with misinformation about so-called “sex-selective” and late-term abortions. In reality, the Oregon bill correctly treats abortion as an essential part of health care and ensures access for the most vulnerable communities -- measures that are particularly important as Congress threatens to decimate the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.

    The Oregon bill, titled the Reproductive Health Equity Act, requires insurance providers to cover a range of reproductive services, including abortion, regardless of income, citizenship status, or gender identity. The bill also includes a trigger law that would go into effect to protect the legal right to an abortion if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As Slate explained, “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, abortion care won’t immediately become illegal,” but instead will go back to the states. Oregon’s trigger law therefore ensures the protections of Roe will remain in place, unless the Oregon legislature repeals the protection. The bill has passed Oregon’s legislature and is expected to be signed by Gov. Kate Brown.

    Nevertheless, during the July 13 edition of The Story, MacCallum mischaracterized the bill, claiming it would force “insurers and taxpayers to fund free abortions for virtually any reason, at any time, including sex-selective and late-term abortions.” MacCallum alleged that the bill was “radical” and that opponents had called it “grisly” and “appalling.” MacCallum also continued the long history of Fox hosts invoking undocumented immigrants as a scare tactic to rile up their right-wing audience. As her colleagues on Special Report with Bret Baier, Happening Now, and America's Newsroom had previously done when reporting on the Oregon bill, MacCallum peppered her segment with outrage that bill provided so-called "illegal immigrants" with access to abortion and reproductive health care.  

    As the United States Congress threatens to eliminate access to abortion and reproductive health care, Oregon is moving to protect access -- for everyone, regardless of their citizenship status, gender identity, or income. Here are the myths MacCallum presented about "sex-selective" and late-term abortions to attack the Oregon bill, and the facts that counter them:

    Sex-selective abortions are an anti-choice myth repeated by the right-wing media

    During the July 13 segment, MacCallum repeatedly pushed the myth that the Oregon bill would enable so-called “sex-selective” abortions, alleging that the bill would say “it’s OK for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months." Fox News and the right-wing media have long promoted this myth, which was pushed by anti-abortion groups in order to encourage state and federal legislatures to introduce or pass bills restricting abortion.

    The Oregon bill includes no language about "sex-selective" abortions -- probably because no such procedure is legally practiced or promoted in the United States. Instead, the discussion of "sex-selective" abortions appears to be an allegation conjured directly from right-wing media. As the National Review speciously complained, because the bill did not expressly "prohibit sex-selective abortions," the natural consequences would be that an "insurer has no choice but to cover that."

    Bans against “sex-selective” abortion have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.” Laws banning “sex-selective” abortions also rely on “false stereotypes and misleading language” to allow providers to deny access to people of color, particularly Asian Americans. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found that “these bans are detrimental to the reproductive health of Black and Asian American women” and violate the trust in a doctor and patient relationship by “turning a doctor into an interrogator of any woman seeking an abortion, especially women of color.” 

    Fox claimed Oregon bill pushes “abortions on demand” and promotes late-term abortions

    MacCallum consistently fearmongered about what she described as the Oregon bill’s promotion of “abortion on demand” or even “full-term” abortions. At one point, MacCallum argued that the bill would allow “free abortions for virtually any reason at any time” and alleged that it would enable “late-term, even full-term, abortions.” These are all talking points used by right-wing media to create unease about late-term abortions and promote limitations on abortion access. In reality, abortion is a personal decision, like any other health care decision, and has been specifically protected by the Supreme Court as such. In contrast to MacCallum’s argument, late-term abortions are extremely rare and performed largely for medically necessary, or health-related, reasons.

    The personal accounts of the people who’ve actually had late-term abortions are far more representative than what Fox News continually invokes. A woman profiled in a ThinkProgress article about late-term abortion described her pregnancy with twins as “the most wanted and planned pregnancy ever,” but after her one of the twins died and the other was discovered to have a fatal birth defect, an abortion was necessary to save her life. 

    Although MacCallum used the Oregon bill as an opportunity to recycle all of right-wing media’s favorite myths about late-term abortion, in reality it has little to do with the type of abortion allowed. Instead, the bill prevents insurance providers from denying people coverage based on immigration status, income, or gender identity. Unfortunately, segments like this are not uncommon on Fox. As a study by Media Matters found, Fox News frequently and consistently uses its platform to advance inaccurate information on abortion.

  • Fox & Friends stacked its panel of "everyday American” moms with conservative media activists 

    The segment’s on-screen banners included the professions of only the liberal-minded panelists

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    On the July 13 edition of Fox & Friends, Ainsley Earhardt hosted a “panel of moms” from “all walks of life” to find out whether “everyday Americans” care about President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia. As Earhardt introduced the panel, the show’s on-screen banners failed to disclose the professions of the panelists who are conservative Republicans and Trump supporters, one of whom claims to work for a Fox affiliate.

    The panel featured seven women who, as they spoke, were introduced via on-screen banners using the following descriptions: 

    • Danielle McLaughlin -- mother and Democratic strategist
    • Dr. Rebecca Grant -- mother and national security analyst
    • Dr. Wendy Osefo -- liberal commentator, mother of two
    • Carla D'Addesi -- mother of three
    • Kathy Barnette -- armed forces veteran, mother of two
    • Angel Voggenreiter -- mother of two
    • Hope Houston -- mother of six

    The first three women, who all had left-leaning opinions, were assigned identifiers related to their professions; Fox ensured its viewers knew McLaughlin and Osefo’s political leanings. But the other four women who all professed conservative political beliefs were identified only as mothers (one was also described as an "armed forces veteran," but her current profession was omitted).

    Carla D'Addesi is a conservative Christian blogger, anti-choice radio host, and "proud conservative." She's an active member of Berks Republican Women in Berks County, PA, and her Twitter feed is full of statements of support for Trump. Her Facebook page prominently features anti-LGBTQ posts and photos and videos documenting her activism against Planned Parenthood and promotion of anti-choice group Students For Life. D’Addesi recently hosted an event at her house titled “Protecting Liberty,” to which she invited anti-gay T-shirt business owner Blaine Adamson, representatives from anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute. 

    Kathy Barnette is the founder of a “Christian conservative news” website and has previously appeared on another “panel of moms” on Fox & Friends. She claims to host a show on a Fox affiliate radio station in Philadelphia on which she has discussed topics like “an examination of Islam” and the “Homosexual AGENDA” (emphasis original). Her Facebook page contains multiple posts in support of Trump. Last year, Barnette spoke at an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Oath Keepers, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”

    Angel Voggenreiter works for McLean Bible Church’s radio show in Virginia. She has previously appeared in multiple Republican National Committee advertisements.

    Media Matters could not find any information online about Hope Houston.

    From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): The mainstream media's number one obsession still the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia. But do everyday Americans care about this? We brought in our panel of moms from all walks of life to find out. It's a segment we're calling "Parental Advisory."

    [...]

    What are your concerns, as a mom?

    HOPE HOUSTON: As a mom I'm really concerned about tax reform and the economy and reform of health care because I have six kids and they are all kind of entering the workforce at different stages. And I really want a robust and positive economy for them to participate in.

    [...]

    CARLA D'ADDESI: I'm not concerned about Russia. We're not following that. We feel that there's no evidence that is putting our president and commander-in-chief in a bad light. We have full confidence in our president that is he going to do an amazing job with the economy. He has hired tens of thousands of employees. He's highly successful. And we are very confident in the team that he has put around him. 

    EARHARDT: Kathy?

    KATHY BARNETTE: Yeah, likewise. The issues regarding jobs, taxes, health care, all those things are very important. And one thing that has not been mentioned yet, I'm also concerned about the rampant amount of lawlessness that we are seeing on the streets, as well as throughout the ranks of our government. When I have to think twice about wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt because I don't know what kind of liberal lunatic is going to meet me at the grocery store, I think that is a very important concern of ours today. 

    EARHARDT: Angel? 

    ANGEL VOGGENREITER: I agree with that also. Something I didn't hear anyone mention is Obamacare. I'm ready for that to be repealed and replaced for my family. Our premiums have gone through the roof. And that's what I hear a lot of moms talking about for our kids. 

    CORRECTION: The language in this post has been updated to clarify that Kathy Barnette claimed she is a radio host on a Fox affiliate, that broadcasts her show

  • How anti-abortion extremists are using Tucker Carlson's show to cultivate the far right

    Tucker Carlson is readily providing anti-choice extremists with a platform and a message that appeals to his radical base 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    When he’s not busy harassing Teen Vogue columnists, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has made a habit of hosting anti-abortion activists and packaging their misinformation and lies in a way that appeals to his base of “alt-right” extremists and Reddit trolls. 

    Since the white nationalists’ golden boy scored a prime-time spot in the Fox News lineup, he has gained a reputation for bullying and insulting his guests, deceptively editing segments, and even booking actors to represent highly curated versions of “opposing viewpoints” to his own. His most recent trick, however, appears to be hosting anti-abortion extremists and giving them a platform to cry “censorship” while simultaneously spreading misinformation about abortion.

    Although Carlson is no stranger to hosting anti-abortion guests -- a Media Matters study found that he did so frequently over the span of a year -- his more recent segments have heavily relied on the false proposition that anti-abortion groups or individuals are somehow being censored.

    Alleging censorship is a common tactic among anti-abortion activists to rally support and rile up sympathetic right-wing media audiences. And for his part, Carlson appears more than willing to amplify such voices and give them an even larger platform from which they can spread their misinformation to millions. 

    For example, on June 26, Carlson hosted anti-choice activist Lila Rose for a segment about Twitter’s alleged censorship of ads by her organization, Live Action. During the segment, Rose argued that Twitter was secretly “blocking the advertisement of pro-life speech” by not allowing Live Action to buy ads on the platform. Rose frequently referenced what she called the “hate and sensitive” policy as the reason for the ads being rejected.

    In reality, the so-called “hate and sensitive” policy is Twitter’s “sensitive advertising content policy” -- guidelines that are publicly available and a far cry from being a means of censorship. Despite this, Carlson ramped up his incredulity and further sensationalized Rose’s claims, calling Twitter’s decision “an atrocity” and alleged that Twitter was treating Live Action’s tweets like “hate speech.”

    Previously, Rose appeared on the May 31 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight to promote deceptive footage from the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Before her appearance, federal Judge William Orrick had barred the release of the footage, and ultimately required all copies of the illicitly spread footage be removed from the internet. Ignoring the substance of these orders, Carlson and Rose alleged the videos had been censored, and attacked Orrick for being biased. At one point, Carlson suggested that the footage should be shared in spite of the court order because “if there was ever a time for civil disobedience, it seems like some might think this would be the time.” 

    On June 9, Carlson hosted CMP founder David Daleiden on his program to continue this line of attack on Orrick and advance the narrative that anti-abortion misinformation was being censored. During the segment, Daleiden alleged he was a victim of “viewpoint discrimination” and detailed evidence of Orrick’s supposed “pre-existing personal bias and prejudice” against anti-abortion groups that should “disqualify” him from the case.

    Just as with Rose’s appearances, Carlson acted as an instigator for Daleiden -- amplifying outrage, crying censorship, and fanning the already over-inflated persecution complex of his anti-choice guest. Carlson called Orrick’s order to bar the footage from release “a clear violation of free expression” and complained that it was “totally un-American” as well as “completely authoritarian and insane.”

    One would think that sustaining this level of outrage over exaggerated censorship claims would be exhausting, but it appears Carlson’s ability to conjure expressions of faux incredulity and take offense from phantom injury knows no bounds. And regardless of the veracity of these censorship claims, the frequency with which Carlson fuels and spreads them is a dangerous tactic meant to specifically appeal to the radicalized base of his show’s viewers.

    Media Matters has consistently documented Carlson’s history of noxious commentary about any number of topics. Notably, it’s his very commitment to attacking women, people of color, and the most vulnerable -- while positioning proponents of those attacks as victims of persecution or censorship -- that has appealed to Carlson’s “alt-right” base the most. In fact, it's become common for "alt-right" and white supremacist trolls to harass guests on the program if they don't agree with Carlson's extreme views. 

    As Rewire’s Amy Littlefield explained, the tactic of attacking so-called media bias has also been largely embraced by the anti-choice movement. Reporting on the most recent National Right to Life Conference, Littlefield noted that there had been a “general tenor of anti-journalism throughout the conference, as speaker after speaker condemned and mocked outlets from the New York Times to the Washington Post to CNN.” In one particularly revealing moment, Littlefield noted that Daleiden refused to speak with her claiming that Rewire was not only “American Pravda,” but also “very fake news.”

    Being wrong about abortion and reproductive rights is nothing new to Carlson. What’s different, though, and potentially more dangerous, is Carlson’s latest trick: manufacturing, amplifying, and ultimately over-inflating claims of censorship made by anti-abortion extremists in order to convince his radical base that it would be “un-American” not to rally behind their cause.

  • It’s never been more important to talk about the human cost of rolling back health care

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    Republican senators produced a version of health care reform behind closed doors that would repeal and replace key aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would put potentially millions of people at risk of losing access to vital medical care. Americans deserve to hear from those who would be most directly impacted by the proposed legislation.

    On June 22, Senate Republicans released their proposed health care reform bill, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). The bill was drafted in secret by a small group of white Republican men without input from women, minorities, Senate Democrats, or even the majority of Senate Republicans. Overall, the Senate bill is largely similar to the House’s earlier health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in that it guts Medicaid spending, denies federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, reduces subsidies for health care coverage, and offers a windfall in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

    As if taking cue from the Senate Republicans, cable and broadcast news media have largely shut out women and minorities in their coverage of the Senate’s health care bill, focusing instead on white men to provide analysis and opinion. As Media Matters has documented, men comprised two-thirds of all appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill. The study also found that 87 percent of all appearances were made by white guests. Media Matters found this trend with guests continued on cable news into the first full day of coverage of the Senate bill’s release.

    However, reports indicate that women and minorities would be disproportionately affected by the Republican Party’s legislation. The LGBTQ community, people of color, and women would be disproportionately hit by cuts to Medicaid. For low-income Americans, losing health insurance could mean they would not receive regular care needed to keep them alive, even if they were to go to the emergency room. The GOP plan may also force those with disabilities into institutions. Women would find that some realities of being a woman -- having heavy periods or getting pregnant -- are now pre-existing conditions.

    Medicaid cuts have a real impact on people’s lives -- impacts evident in rare examples of television news telling these stories. One such story was presented during the June 23 edition of CBS’ CBS Evening News, when reporter Mark Strassmann interviewed Jodi Maness, a 22-year-old mother and Medicaid recipient. He said she is worried about losing Medicaid and having to pay more for health care, saying that her biggest fear is the possible impact on her small children:

    But highlighting the personal impact of the Republican health care plans has been rare, as television news channels largely have not emphasized the impact these proposals would have on women and minorities. Last Febuary, Media Matters reported that cable news outlets featured only three prime-time interviews of individuals who had participated in congressional town halls during the February 18-26 week -- informally called “Resistance Recess” -- instead relying primarily on talking heads to discuss the week of action. It’s still true that audiences would be better served by hearing directly from the women and minorities who would be directly impacted by this legislation rather than just pundits endlessly debating it.

    If the congressional Republicans’ health care agenda is successful, it would cause real harm to wide swaths of Americans. With nearly 75 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, there are plenty of individuals who would be affected by the Senate’s health care bill for the media to interview, if only the press would be willing to sit down with them.

  • Anti-abortion extremist group resurfaces to promote anti-choice misinformation in Wash. Times

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After disbanding earlier this year, the anti-choice extremists behind Protest ABQ are back and operating under a new name -- and thanks to The Washington Times, they’re getting a bigger platform than ever to spread misinformation about late-term abortion and demonize abortion providers.

    In a June 20 article, The Washington Times gave an uncritical platform to a newly re-formed New Mexico anti-abortion group, Abortion Free New Mexico (AFNM). This group is the latest venture of longtime anti-choice extremists Bud and Tara Shaver. The Shavers are acolytes of Troy Newman, the head of the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which has for years pushed violent rhetoric against, and harassment of, abortion providers. Prior to forming AFNM, the Shavers headed a similar campaign in New Mexico, called Protest ABQ. Protest ABQ operated from 2014 to March 2017 and not only targeted individual abortion providers and clinics, but also deceptively recorded comments made by clinic staff in order to allege wrongdoing. Before concluding the Protest ABQ campaign, the Shavers leaked their baseless information to a congressional panel investigating disproven claims against Planned Parenthood.

    According to the Times, AFNM and the anti-abortion group Priests for Life “have released a series of undercover audio recordings of abortion clinic workers” engaged in behavior they consider unlawful. Although there has been no external confirmation of these claims -- or validation of the recordings themselves -- the Times drew a comparison between AFNM’s recordings and a set of deceptively edited videos from the discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The Times excluded the information that multiple investigations have disproved CMP’s claims of wrongdoing. Instead, the article credited AFNM for attempting to “to raise awareness about the prevalence of late-term abortion, especially in New Mexico,” via similar tactics.

    The Shavers launched AFNM in April, using a model touted by Newman in his book Abortion Free that centers on surveilling and harassing abortion providers. AFNM then began what it calls the #NewMexicoTrue project, a “6 Part Series exposing the [New Mexico] Abortion Cartel.” As part of this effort, AFNM began posting audio it claims represents illicit practices by abortion providers at clinics across the state. As of late June, AFNM had posted four videos that it alleges demonstrate discriminatory and dangerous practices by abortion providers. For example, in the most recent installment, AFNM claims that its “undercover recording … reveals just how arbitrary the standard is for determining which baby lives or dies” in New Mexico. Despite having no external corroboration, the Times not only promoted AFNM’s recordings, but also thus legitimized the tactic of deceptively filming and releasing video of abortion providers.

    Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of right-wing media giving a platform to an anti-abortion group that is attempting to manufacture outrage through deceptive “undercover” recordings. In May, when CMP released footage that identified abortion providers in violation of a court order, right-wing and anti-choice media did much of the legwork of spreading the organization’s disproven and malicious claims. 

    There is an even longer history of right-wing media figures assisting anti-choice groups by amplifying their attacks on individual abortion providers. For example, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly spent years openly bullying abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009. O’Reilly often referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was “a special place in hell for this guy.” Indeed, Newman praised O’Reilly in Abortion Free for how he “spoke passionately against Tiller’s late-term abortion business” and “often used television as a bully pulpit to denounce” Tiller. O’Reilly also actively collaborated with Newman to more effectively target Tiller, as Newman explained, helping “locate Tiller gassing his armored Jeep at a QuikTrip near his abortion clinic” so Fox News’ Jesse Watters could be filmed “surprising Tiller with questions about his late-term abortion business.”

    This type of targeted harassment and monitoring of abortion providers breeds conditions for anti-choice violence. According to a recent report from the National Abortion Federation, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats.”  

    Late-term abortion is an essential and legal medical service in the United States -- and neither patients nor providers should be demonized for receiving or performing the procedure. Nearly 99 percent of abortions performed in this country take place “before 21 weeks” of pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. After the 20th week, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected a woman’s right to an abortion if it is “necessary to preserve [her] life or health.” By promoting the work of anti-abortion groups like AFNM, the Times and other right-wing media are not only encouraging such groups to use deceptive tactics, but also enabling the type of targeted harassment that endangers abortion providers, patients, and clinics.

  • Trump champion Hugh Hewitt gets his own show on MSNBC

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative talk radio host and Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt will host his own show on MSNBC. Hewitt, who has called himself a “‘reluctant Trump’ voter," has a history of flip-flopping on Trump and his policies. He's been critical of Trump, even calling on him to be removed as the nominee twice during the presidential campaign, but has also defended him during his campaign, transition, and presidency. Hewitt's record suggests he will simply serve as a Republican shill on MSNBC and will continue spreading his right-wing punditry and misinformation.

  • Trump's appointees are promoting anti-choice “alternative science” ripped from right-wing media

    LA Times describes appointees as “the four horsewomen of disinformation” on abortion and contraception

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion -- policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

    In a June 14 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Law School professor R. Alta Charo, who focuses on the law and bioethics, wrote about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council. Charo lamented that these appointments exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

    In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” Most alarmingly, Charo told Hiltzik that these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

    For example, Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at DHHS and the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United For Life, has a long history of misinforming on contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an assertion that Charo explained “will only encourage the alarming pattern of state legislation requiring physicians to provide this misinformation in the name of ‘informed consent.’”

    Similarly, Teresa Manning, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at DHHS, is a former legislative analyst for the hate group Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee. Although Manning doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. As Charo noted, there is ample evidence that “hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.”

    Trump’s recent appointment of Valerie Huber to serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health is problematic given the department’s oversight of adolescent health programs. As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. Indeed, as multiple studies have found, abstinence-only sex education failed to prevent a long-term delay in sex or teen pregnancy, and, in some cases, actually led to a decrease in the use of condoms or contraception, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, which is not supported by the majority of scientific studies. To demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence behind Talento’s claims, Charo pointed to an article Talento had written in which she incorrectly cited a study to claim birth control is “breaking your uterus.”

    According to Charo, misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. Such rewriting of science, Charo claimed, is not done by “reasonable people” for they “may disagree about how to interpret data, but they do not ignore scientific method by giving credence to flawed, fraudulent, or misrepresented studies.”

    Although the appointment of these anti-choice stalwarts may be recent, the misinformation they advance is nothing new in the world of right-wing media. Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. During the 2016 election, Fox News also alleged multiple times that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported “partial-birth” abortion, a term that has no medical basis and was, in fact, invented by anti-abortion groups to demonize people seeking medically necessary late-term abortions. Similarly, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives relied heavily on claims from anti-abortion groups that were promoted as credible evidence by right-wing media.

    Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country.

  • HBO’s Vice News Tonight shows the reality of living in a state with just one remaining abortion clinic

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On June 12, HBO’s Vice News Tonight highlighted the struggles abortion providers and patients face in the seven states with only one abortion clinic remaining. In particular, by allowing providers to speak in their own words about what it’s like to operate in a one-clinic state, HBO shined a light on the consequences of dwindling abortion access across the country.

    During the June 12 edition of Vice News Tonight, abortion providers in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Mississippi discussed the challenges of operating the single remaining abortion clinic in their states. Although Vice News had previously profiled these clinics, the June 12 segment gave providers an even larger platform.

    For example, several providers underscored the pivotal role their clinics play for patients seeking abortion services and other forms of essential health care. Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said, “We’re resolute that we must stay open because if we’re not there, there is no one to take care of the women in our state and in our community.” Shannon Brewer, the clinic director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, MS, said that her clinic must stay open because people “have nowhere else to go. They can go to neighboring states, but why should they have to?”

    Research echoes these clinic directors’ comments about impact of abortion restrictions in their one-clinic states. The greatest burden of anti-choice restrictions is faced by already marginalized groups, particularly low-income individuals and people of color. These patients and others seeking an abortion in one-clinic states may have to travel great distances to even reach the clinic in their state. As The Daily Beast explained, in the center of the country, where "roughly 400,000 women of reproductive age" live, they have to travel at least 150 miles to get to the nearest clinic.

    In other cases, patients may be forced to travel to another state for abortion care. Before even getting to the clinic, however, those seeking an abortion will face any number of economic and logistical barriers -- including the cost for transportation and childcare, and the loss of income caused by taking time off work. This is further complicated in states with mandatory waiting periods, which force patients to not only take multiple days off work but also to arrange several trips to the clinic.

    Along with the burdens placed on patients, abortion providers face elevated threats of violence in states with one clinic remaining. Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic director and owner of Red River Women’s Clinic in North Dakota, told Vice News Tonight that the first abortion provider in the state faced threats from protesters coming to her home. As Ms. Magazine explained, the threat of violence against abortion providers means that sometimes when physicians leave a clinic, there is no one to replace them and the clinic must close. Nevertheless, right-wing media continue to push violent rhetoric against abortion providers and spread misinformation about abortion safety.

    With many states continuing to consider and pass abortion restrictions -- as well as the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood at the federal level -- more states may join the seven HBO highlighted, with just one clinic left to serve their entire population.

  • Broadly highlights how crisis pregnancy centers promote misinformation instead of medical care

    “It’s reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith -- as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true.”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a May 30 article, Broadly’s Callie Beusman highlighted the “public health crisis” posed by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) -- anti-abortion organizations that represent themselves as reproductive care clinics, but that employ deceptive tactics and medical misinformation to mislead patients into continuing their pregnancies.

    According to Beusman, the recent opening of the Hartford Women’s Center, a CPC located “a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage,” is an entirely intentional decision by the anti-abortion organizers behind it. As Beusman explained, CPCs often “employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices” so that they can “bombard them with spurious information” until they either reject abortion or delay the decision long enough “to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination.”

    Beusman said NARAL described the consequences of allowing CPCs to supplant legitimate reproductive health and abortion care in many communities as a “public health crisis.” For example, despite appearing as a “legitimate family planning clinic on its surface,” Hartford Women’s Center in reality provided “none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control.”

    This is not uncommon. A year-long investigation by Cosmopolitan found that CPCs often “do not provide or refer [patients] for contraception or abortion” and that many employees, “even those who provide medical information, are not licensed.” According to Salon, in some cases, states directly fund CPCs to provide misleading information anti-choice in lieu of actual medical services. In one example, in 2016, Texas awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health program to anti-abortion extremist Carol Everett and her network of CPCs, The Heidi Group. In mid-March, The Dallas Morning News reported that despite being “armed with $1.6 million taxpayer dollars, the Heidi Group has delivered nothing.”

    As Beusman explained, “It's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.”

    From Broadly:

    Hartford Women's Center, which opened its doors for the first time this month, is the newest St. Gerard's location. It's a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage. This is very confusing, and intentionally so. Hartford Women's Center is what's known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), a term used to describe anti-abortion organizations whose sole purpose is to convince women to carry pregnancies to term, oftentimes by posing as legitimate reproductive health care providers.

    CPCs typically employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices. Once women are in their clutches, they bombard them with spurious information: that abortions are extremely painful and perilous, that ending an unwanted pregnancy may result in permanent psychological damage, that an abortion might not even be necessary because miscarriage is so common. In some cases, staff will even lie about the fetus' gestational age in order to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination. There are currently over 3500 CPCs operating in America, compared with around 800 abortion clinics.

    [...]

    Although Hartford Women's Center resembles a legitimate family planning clinic on its surface, it offers basically none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control. Women who end up in the center are told that abortion is murder, that several forms of contraception are also murder, and that choosing to terminate a pregnancy could have ruinous repercussions, including PTSD, breast cancer, and infertility. They're urged to carry their pregnancies to term and promised financial and emotional support if they choose to do so. (In addition to the services advertised on its card, St. Gerard's currently offers free baby clothing and diapers for women who enroll in its education program, social service referrals, and baptism preparation for infants and mothers alike.)

    [...]

    I do not doubt that numerous volunteers and "prayer warriors" who had flocked to the new St. Gerard's location genuinely felt they were doing the right thing: saving the mother from sin, saving the fetus from abortion. I think they believe all their own stories, the Biblical parables and anti-abortion propaganda materials alike. But it's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.