Reproductive Rights | Media Matters for America

Reproductive Rights

Issues ››› Reproductive Rights
  • Right-wing media's anti-abortion misinformation playbook for 2020

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump and other conservative candidates have already signaled that anti-abortion lies will be a core part of their 2020 playbook -- tactics that right-wing media are certain to amplify in order to fearmonger and rally support ahead of the election. In line with this, right-wing outlets have already been badgering Democratic candidates about their stances on abortion access, in some cases smearing them with sensationalized and inaccurate tropes about later abortions.

    Following the introduction of measures in New York, Virginia, and other states to ensure abortion access if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, right-wing media generated a firestorm of coverage that mischaracterized Democrats’ efforts to protect abortion rights as promoting “infanticide” or so-called abortion “up to birth.” In reality, the idea that abortions happen up to the “moment of birth” is a fiction fueled by right-wing media and does not reflect any actual medical procedures performed in the U.S. Rather, abortions that happen later in pregnancy are performed for complicated personal and medical reasons, with the people anti-choice advocates compare to murderers often having to make the difficult decision to end a wanted pregnancy. In other instances, people need abortions later in pregnancy due to anti-choice restrictions prohibiting or greatly delaying earlier access.

    Beyond broadly alleging that Democrats support abortion “up to birth,” right-wing media have also promoted the false claim that pro-choice candidates are in favor of denying care to babies “born alive” after so-called “failed abortions.” These alleged “born alive” abortions that right-wing media protest are not based in any medical practice or standard of care, as Rewire.News reported in 2013. Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress recently introduced the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to aid so-called “abortion survivors” who are “born alive” following an attempted abortion procedure. As doctors Daniel Grossman and Jennifer Conti pointed out to The New York Times, it is more likely that the bill would force doctors to pursue treatment options that run counter to patients’ wishes -- such as ensuring that a fetus delivered “at the edge of viability” but unlikely to survive could not receive “comfort care” which would “allow the child to die naturally without extreme attempts at resuscitation.” In addition, as writer Robin Marty explained, the bill could also be used opportunistically by anti-choice opponents to prosecute abortion providers.

    Right-wing media and anti-abortion groups have used these manufactured controversies as part of a playbook for attacking abortion rights supporters and have already proven they'll deploy the same strategy against candidates. The playbook involves:

    1) Hounding candidates with anti-choice questions -- and spinning any abortion-related answers -- to generate an outrage-based news cycle

    2) Manufacturing fake “grassroots” support for anti-choice misinformation

    3) Using candidate comments about unrelated topics as a jumping-off point to criticize them about abortion

    1. Hounding candidates with anti-choice questions -- and spinning any abortion-related answers -- to generate an outrage-based news cycle

    The tactic

    Although right-wing media have long represented Democratic positions on abortion in bad faith, the campaign trail has given these outlets more opportunities to hound candidates with inaccurate and sensationalized questions about abortion to intentionally generate outrage. In addition, others in the right-wing and anti-abortion media echo chamber are then able to pick up these comments -- or really any comment from candidates on abortion -- and spin them to fit predetermined anti-choice narratives. Thus far, those anti-choice narratives have been focused on Democrats’ alleged support for abortion “up to birth” or even after.

    Unfortunately, this has permeated beyond right-wing media and several outlets outside of this ecosystem have adopted this inaccurate framing. Already in 2019, non-right-wing outlets have uncritically repeated dangerous lies about abortion from Trump’s State of the Union address and echoed the language used by right-wing media and Republicans about efforts to secure a vote for the so-called Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

    Examples

    Beto O’Rourke

    Presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) received a flurry of inaccurately framed questions about his stance on abortion in March. On March 18, at a campaign event in Ohio, Millie Weaver (also known as “Millennial Millie”), a staffer from the far-right conspiracy outlet Infowars, questioned O’Rourke about his support for abortion access later in pregnancy. Relying on an inaccurate right-wing framing of the topic, Weaver asked:

    Are you for third-trimester abortion or are you going to protect the lives of third-trimester babies? Because there is really not a medical necessity for abortion. It’s not a medical emergency procedure because typically third-trimester abortions take up to three days to have. So, you would -- in that sense, if there was an emergency, the doctors would just do a C-section, and you don’t have to kill the baby in that essence. So, are you for or against third-trimester abortions?

    In her subsequent article about the event, Weaver continued to distort the premise of the question, as well as misrepresenting O’Rourke’s answer. Weaver claimed that she asked “if he supports up-to-birth abortions” and that his answer that abortion should be “a decision that the woman makes” showed he “endorses third-trimester abortions.”

    After that, O’Rourke was peppered with similar questions about abortion from other right-wing outlets and reporters. For example, after Weaver's question, The Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito -- known for producing “revealing dispatches from Trump country” that have drawn claims of fabrication and plagiarism -- asked O’Rourke whether he supported access to third-trimester abortions “to make sure” there was “clarity” about his previous answer. Zito ultimately wrote that “O’Rourke has refused to rule out abortions more than six months into a pregnancy,” but she noted on Twitter that supporters’ “cheers” in reaction to his answer “told me so much about the state of what Democrats want from their eventual nominee.” Apparently dissatisfied that his answer didn’t garner broader coverage, Zito followed up with another piece about O’Rourke’s “extreme abortion stance” days later, complaining:

    It is hard to find any D.C. reporters in a mainstream news organization writing about a viewpoint professed by a Democratic presidential candidate as being “extreme” or “radical.” Yet had this been a Republican candidate coming out in support of something the majority of Americans find impossible to support, it would be a headline for days, followed by asking every Republican running or holding office if they support that radical position as well.

    Right-wing media used O’Rourke's answers to these bad faith questions to claim that he supports abortion “up to birth” or beyond and to say that this view represents the Democratic “party line” on abortion. Fox News, Townhall, and The Daily Wire published articles condemning the alleged position of O’Rourke and the Democratic Party on abortion access. Right-wing media figures echoed this approach, with the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro saying on Fox & Friends that “Beto O'Rourke and every other major Democrat feel forced to embrace this position, that you have to be for abortion up to and sometimes beyond the point of birth. It just demonstrates the radicalism of the Democratic Party.”

    Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicated an entire opening monologue on March 19 to this claim. Hannity claimed that O’Rourke’s comments were further evidence of the Democratic Party’s “barbaric abortion agenda” and said, “If Democrats get their way, well, third-trimester abortion, including infanticide during and after birth -- well, that would be perfectly legal and readily available. Sadly, they’re fighting for that. They would protect infanticide seemingly above all else.” To further his point, he also displayed this on-screen graphic:

    Anti-abortion groups and other conservative figures signal-boosted right-wing media’s claims about the alleged “extremism” of O’Rourke’s position (and by extension, the Democratic Party’s). For example, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp presented the comments as part of Democrats’ efforts to allow so-called “post-birth abortion.” Anti-abortion group Live Action claimed O’Rourke “barbarically defends abortion until birth." Kristan Hawkins, president of anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, tweeted:

    Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List even sent supporters a fundraising appeal citing O’Rourke’s comment, saying the organization needed followers to make “a pro-life contribution” to help the group “fight back in the name of saving ALL babies and to STOP Beto O’Rourke’s extreme pro-abortion and pro-infanticide agenda.”

    Outlets outside of the right-wing media ecosystem have also adopted this framing at times without offering pushback. Newsweek published Weaver’s question to O’Rourke (but identified her as “a crowd member”) and O’Rourke’s response, but did not provide adequate context about what support for abortions later in pregnancy means or dispute the flawed premise of Weaver’s question. The Hill also reported on O’Rourke’s responses to Weaver and to the Washington Examiner, but focused on his “fundraising status” and "national prominence” without noting the flawed basis of the questioning itself.

    Bernie Sanders

    During a Fox News town hall event, candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was also asked an inaccurate question based on anti-abortion misinformation. Notably, Fox News is attempting to leverage Democratic candidate town halls to sanitize the network’s image, which is currently suffering as companies become less willing to associate with its toxic commentary. During Sanders’ town hall, anchor Martha MacCallum -- who works on Fox’s “news” side but has a history of pushing anti-abortion lies -- asked Sanders, “With regard to abortion, do you believe that a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy up until the moment of birth?”

    Sanders’ answer that abortion in the third-trimester "happens very rarely” and “the decision over abortion belongs to a woman and her physician” predictably evoked the ire of right-wing and anti-abortion media, with one headline proclaiming “Bernie Sanders Supports Abortions Up to Birth, Okay to Kill Babies Up to Birth Because ‘It’s Rare.’” During the April 16 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson said of Sanders’ comments, “Like 10 years ago, that would be considered like an extreme position. Today, it's the moderate position in the Democratic Party. Some are defending ‘infanticide’ just flat-out. Safe, legal, and rare. No. That's not at all the position today. It should be free, frequent, and horrifying.” Anti-abortion advocate Lila Rose similarly (and inaccurately) summarized Sanders’ response:

    Elizabeth Warren

    In March, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) received a question about the so-called “Born Alive” bill when someone in a crowd shouted at her, “What about the babies that survive abortion? How come they can’t have health care?” Warren replied that “infanticide is illegal everywhere in America” and moved on. Despite Warren’s accurate characterization of the bill, right-wing outlets spun the answer as Warren defending her “abortion extremism” or intentionally avoiding answering the question.

    Cory Booker

    In April, candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said people have started to ask him if he voted for a bill that allows “us to kill babies when they’re born.” Booker responded by saying, “That is a felony” and explaining that the bill (meaning the “Born Alive” bill) was “put forth to try to create schisms and differences between us.” Predictably, anti-abortion and right-wing media claimed Booker was “defending voting for infanticide.”

    Pete Buttigieg

    Right-wing and anti-abortion media utilized comments from South Bend, IN, Mayor and candidate Pete Buttigieg about abortion and reproductive rights to push misinformation -- with at least one outlet outside of right-wing media circles falling for this false premise in subsequent coverage.

    Following comments from Buttigieg in March that he supported measures introduced to protect abortion access in Virginia and New York, National Review’s David French argued that Buttigieg “has zero appeal to religious conservatives so long as he holds to the Democratic party line on the right of a woman to hire a doctor to kill a viable, living unborn baby.” During Buttigieg’s candidacy announcement speech, he said that “women’s equality is freedom, because you’re not free if your reproductive health choices are dictated by male politicians or bosses.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham argued during the April 15 edition of her show that Buttigieg’s vision of “reproductive freedom” apparently does not include “the unborn child in the womb or, for that matter, the child born ... after a botched abortion in this new Democrat Party. I don't see the freedom there.”

    This framing spread beyond the right-wing media echo chamber on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. During the segment, co-host Willie Geist asked Buttigieg about third-trimester abortions, and, after Buttigieg noted that it can be an “incredibly painful set of decisions in these horrifying medical cases,” Geist said, “But to people who would criticize that, they’d say, ‘Actually there is a pretty easy answer -- that’s a fundamental child in the third term … of pregnancy, that is a human being who could be born alive and have a great and full life,’ and so it is a pretty easy question to people who would criticize your answer.” Geist’s question relied on right-wing framing and anti-abortion misinformation that he and the other hosts did not refute. The back-and-forth was picked up by right-wing and anti-abortion outlets, which spread further misinformation about Buttigieg’s answer, with LifeNews.com tweeting that Buttigieg “is perfectly fine with killing defenseless unborn babies in abortions right up to birth.” 

    In each instance, right-wing media relied on either inaccurately framed questions or dishonest spin to generate outrage and drive additional news cycles about alleged Democratic extremism on abortion.

    2. Manufacturing fake “grassroots” support for anti-choice misinformation

    The tactic

    Beyond peppering Democratic candidates with incendiary and inaccurately framed questions about abortion, right-wing media have also attempted to propagate the idea that there is “grassroots” opposition to supporting abortion access. Following the introduction of Virginia and New York’s recent measures, right-wing media heavily promoted the narrative that Democrats are pushing an “extreme” position on abortion that is not supported by their base. This is an approach that the Republican Party -- including Trump himself -- has adopted as part of a 2020 election strategy at both the federal and the state level. Right-wing media and Republicans previously deployed this strategy during the ultimately failed 2017 special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama.

    Right-wing media have also attempted to extrapolate about voters’ probable opposition to a candidate’s position on abortion based on polling about specific abortion policies or viewpoints. Most frequently, right-wing media have touted polls claiming to represent likely voters’ support for bans on abortion after 20 weeks -- which would include procedures performed in both the second and the third trimester. While some polls have suggested that support for abortion access decreases as a pregnancy advances, polls that provide adequate context about the specific circumstances surrounding why a person would choose to have an abortion after 20 weeks don’t show the same results. In fact, as experts have explained, these polls better reflect the reality of abortion later in pregnancy and thus show that people support maintaining this health care option.

    Examples

    To prove allegations of so-called Democratic extremism, right-wing media have cherry-picked examples of people opposing abortion and presented these views as being widely held. For example, after O’Rourke responded to Infowars' question, Fox & Friends First aired two segments that shared the thoughts of random Twitter users who disliked his answer:

    On Fox News’ Hannity, Fox News contributor Lawrence Jones was sent to Texas to ask voters about O’Rourke’s alleged position on abortion, with many in the resulting segment claiming he was problematically extreme.

    Some right-wing media also specifically noted when questions came from non-media participants in an effort to imply that those questioners represented the views of many voters. For example, on One America News’ The Tipping Point, host Liz Wheeler applauded a “student who asked a question” about abortion, saying “professional reporters” wouldn’t do it “because Beto’s a Democrat, and the mainstream media wants to protect the left.” Conversely, many right-wing media outlets failed to note that Weaver, who asked O’Rourke if he would “protect the lives of third-trimester babies,” works for Infowars. The Daily Caller, Fox News, TheBlaze, Washington Free Beacon, and National Review credited either an “attendee” or “a woman” at the event for the question.

    Right-wing media have also pointed to imprecise polling on abortion and a supposed lack of public support for the health care staple in discussions of candidates' answers. Townhall’s Lauretta Brown wrote that O’Rourke’s answer about abortion to Infowars “marks a significant departure from public opinion and state laws.” CBN News said the Democratic presidential candidates “are out of step with the public.” After candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) answered a question on abortion during MSNBC’s Morning Joe by saying “the reality of it is that you got to protect the woman’s right to choose,” Townhall’s Guy Benson tweeted that Ryan was “pandering to” a supposedly extreme position that he claimed was only “shared by roughly one-fifth of the electorate.” The Washington Free Beacon also wrote that Booker had cast votes against anti-abortion legislation “despite popular public opinion” supporting them.

    These assertions are largely based on polling that asks generic questions about abortion. However, polling that puts into context why someone would have an abortion after 20 weeks shows a different result. There’s a drastic drop in support for 20-week bans when people realize that abortions in later stages of pregnancy are often undertaken out of medical necessity or for particular personal circumstances. For example, a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that when asked in the abstract about later abortion, “less than a quarter of people (23%) believe women should have access to a legal abortion after 24 weeks.” However, that flipped when people were asked about access to a later abortion when a pregnant person had been infected with the Zika virus -- with results showing “a majority of Americans (59%) believe a woman should have access to a legal abortion after 24 weeks” in that situation. In other words, as Hart Research Associates found, “once voters consider the range of circumstances in which abortions would be made illegal under most 20-week abortion ban proposals, a majority of Americans oppose them.”

    In each instance, right-wing media have relied on selective samples of public opinion and opinion polling to give the appearance of widespread opposition to Democratic support for abortion access. In reality, right-wing media have been intentionally fearmongering about so-called Democratic extremism on abortion as part of a 2020 strategy being pushed by Trump and other members of his administration.

    3. Using candidate comments about unrelated topics as a jumping-off point to criticize them about abortion

    The tactic

    Anti-abortion groups and right-wing media have also tried spinning non-abortion comments from candidates to fit anti-abortion groups' stereotypes about Democrats. Right-wing media relied on this approach to spread misinformation and stigma before, employing similar spin to try to connect abortion to the Parkland school shooting, the Trump administration’s family separation policy, and Christine Blasey Ford’s report that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

    Examples

    At a CNN town hall, when Warren said her “favorite Bible verse” includes the lesson that “there is value in every single human being,” the anti-abortion group Concerned Women for America asked, “But only the ones that are wanted? What about the ones who survive an abortion?” Warren repeated this comment on her Twitter account, prompting The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh to claim that her comment proved Democrats “will actually jump on any opportunity to extol the virtue of human life and the value of human life,” but “you would think they would avoid talking about that because they know 60 million babies have been slaughtered in the womb and they are perfectly OK with that.” He also asserted:

    Even though the Democratic Party is the party of Satan, and even though it has embraced satanism and it has embraced infanticide and all of these forms of just the most -- the darkest, most debauched, evil you can imagine, even in spite of all that, still most Democrats feel the need to pretend to be Christian.

    In response to a tweet from candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) explaining her belief that “housing is a basic human right,” anti-abortion activist Lila Rose replied, “If housing is a basic human right, then I imagine you’re even more passionate about the right for a child to be born?” Following comments from Buttigieg about Trump’s religion, Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy dismissed his criticism because Buttigieg “is a guy who is on the record as a supporter of late-term abortion.” Tucker Carlson said on his show of Buttigieg, “This is a guy telling us what a great Christian he is, who’s for abortion up until birth and for sex-selection. Spare me your Christian talk, please. It's absurd.”

    Similarly, when candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called Trump “a coward,” right-wing radio host Stacy Washington replied, “You believe in abortion up to birth, gun confiscation, open borders and limp-wristed governance. You have no room to call anyone a coward.” When Gillibrand later tweeted about legislation she introduced that would “limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to 7 days,” Fox News’ Brit Hume replied with an inaccurate comparison between her comments and the idea that abortion should be between a patient and a doctor. He wasn’t the only one to make this inaccurate “joke.”

    Anti-abortion activist Alveda King wrote a piece for Newsmax claiming that “Booker is touting a new reparations bill for African Americans while secretly supporting an agenda of genocide and infanticide by abortion of millions of black babies.” After comments from candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) that the “number one cause of death for a black child in America today is gun violence,” LifeNews.com tweeted, “Actually @ericswalwell the #1 killer of black children is abortion.”

    Right-wing media regularly dominate the conversation about abortion -- so it is unsurprising that these outlets are working overtime to drive an inaccurate narrative in advance of the 2020 election. Trump and the GOP have emphasized anti-abortion misinformation as a core part of their electoral strategies, and right-wing media have already shown their willingness to manufacture or signal boost these attacks. It is crucial for other media outlets to recognize these tactics and provide important context, rather than repeating lies and misinformation from these sources.

    Graphics by Melissa Joskow

  • Media highlight how to help people in states passing restrictive abortion laws

    Blog ››› ››› MADELYN WEBB


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law banning almost all abortions in the state, without exemptions for cases of rape or incest. Other states (including Missouri and Louisiana) are working to pass similarly draconian bans. Importantly, none of these bans have yet gone into effect, and abortion is still legal in every state in the U.S. Media have responded to their audiences’ desires to protect abortion access and support people living in these states -- what follows is a roundup of these outlets' advice.

    Support groups already doing work on the ground

    In every state working to pass restrictive new abortion bans, there are already organizations on the ground that have been working to protect abortion access, fight anti-choice laws, and support patients seeking abortions. These groups are best positioned to know and support the needs of patients in their communities, as InStyle explained:

    Abortion funds are organizations that help people pay for and access abortion care. This can include the cost of the procedure itself; transportation and lodging before, during, and after; funds to alleviate the financial pressure of taking off work, paying for childcare, and so forth. While some have started GoFundMe’s and the like to individually fundraise for people who need abortions, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There are many abortion funds and grassroots initiatives that already exist and need your help.

    Here are other suggestions: 

    • Glamour: “Here’s How You Can Help Women in States With Extreme Abortion Bans Right Now”

    In addition to supporting national organizations leading the fight to protect women's reproductive rights—like Planned Parenthood—there are many grassroots organizations helping women on the ground. Here are a few organizations to consider that are providing resources and access to local women looking to obtain abortions:

    The Yellowhammer Fund: Located in Alabama, the Yellowhammer Fund offers funding for women seeking treatment at one of Alabama's three remaining abortion clinics. The fund will also help with other barriers to access, such as travel or lodging.

    National Network of Abortion Funds: NNAF is a network of funds—including the Yellowhammer Fund—across 38 states that helps eliminate economic for low-income women looking to obtain an abortion. They work with funds everywhere from Georgia to Texas to Ohio.

    Magnolia Fund: A Georgia-based organization that provides resources to support the reproductive choices of women in the South, as well as to help defray the cost of abortion fees for women in Georgia.

    Access Reproductive Care—Southeast: ARC helps people in the South—in states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, or Tennessee—receive access to safe and affordable reproductive care by offering financial and logistical support. [Glamour, 5/15/19]

    • Teen Vogue: “Where to Donate and How to Help Keep Abortion Legal”

    Give your money and time to organizations that are led by women of color, who are most affected by abortion bans.

    Causes like Sister Song, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, National AsianPacific American Women’s Forum, and Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE), to name a few, are doing the vital work of centering on women of color, who are often the most endangered by abortion bans and restrictions to reproductive rights. [Teen Vogue, 5/17/19]

    • Complex: “How You Can Help Women Living in States Facing Extreme Abortion Bans”

    Donate directly in states most affected. While Planned Parenthood is a well-known abortion provider and an incredible organization, many women go to local clinics for their procedures. HuffPost published a list of clinics in each state, which included Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Mississippi, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Kentucky, A-Z Women’s Center in Nevada, Capital Care Network in Ohio, and Alabama Women’s Center LLC. [Complex, 5/16/19]

    • HuffPost: “Here’s What You Can Do (Other Than A Sex Strike) To Fight Draconian Anti-Abortion Laws”

    Alabama has just three [abortion clinics]: the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives (fundraiser here), Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery and the West Alabama Women’s Center, both of which told HuffPost that those who wish to donate should give to the Yellowhammer Fund.

    If you have time you’d be willing to give, consider becoming a clinic escort. (If you’re in the Montgomery area, P.O.W.E.R. House is a great place to start.)

    You can find a clinic in your area through the National Abortion Federation. [HuffPost, 5/15/19]

    Don’t create “auntie networks” without talking to groups already facilitating abortion access

    Although it may be tempting to respond to the latest wave of anti-abortion legislation by creating new support groups, animated pro-choice supporters should defer to those organizations already working in these communities. The rise of so-called “auntie networks” are but one example of such a well-meaning but misguided attempt to help people seeking abortion care. As The Boston Globe explained, these networks are made up of volunteers who see themselves as “preparing for the possibility that abortion will be severely restricted” by “extending a hand and offering to open their doors to women who may find themselves in need of assistance.” In reality, as other outlets noted, these networks not only undermine groups that have been doing this work for decades, they are also potentially dangerous. As tempting as it may be for abortion rights supporters to get creative, the most helpful thing people can do is support existing organizations:

    • Truthout: "The 'Auntie Network' Already Exists"

    Yamani Hernandez is the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, a network of organizations across the United States and three other countries that are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural and political change. Hernandez was among those who took to Twitter in recent days to point out that abortion funds provide the framework that is needed for these efforts, saying “we need folks to join not reinvent.” [Truthout, 5/19/19]

    • The Daily Dot: "Nonprofit groups express concern with pop-up abortion networks"

    The nonprofit groups are claiming that even if pop-ups are well-intentioned, they pose a safety risk to participants and divert much-needed resources from established organizations.

    The Midwest Access Coalition, for example, provides women with transportation, places to stay, medicine, and emotional support.

    “I would caution anyone from doing this, both for their own safety but first and foremost for the patient’s safety,” Marie Khan, director of operations for the Midwest Access Coalition, told the Daily Dot. “Advertising free housing on Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook is incredibly dangerous.” [The Daily Dot, 5/17/19]

    Share abortion stories, and help spread the word to combat abortion stigma

    As several outlets noted in the wake of Alabama’s anti-abortion bill, people can only help defend abortion access in their states if they know that it is threatened -- and if they understand the impacts of such harmful legislation. By having conversations online and in their own communities, people can share stories to reduce abortion stigma and express their concerns about these dangerous bills:

    • Well+Good: “Anti-abortion Legislation is About All of Us—Here’s How You Can Fight It.”

    You can advocate for abortion rights now without leaving your home state. (This Twitter thread provides suggestions based on your geographical location.) Start by circulating a message championing reproductive rights throughout social media, and to any acquaintances, relatives, or friends you may have in Alabama and Georgia. [Well+Good, 5/15/19]

    • Paper: “How to Help Women in States With Severe Abortion Bans”

    Abortion is one of the most divisive topics in the country right now, and one of if not the most highly stigmatized medical procedures a person can obtain. If you have the courage and privilege to speak out, on whatever platform you choose or among your own circles, please do. For many reasons, abortion (and reproductive health in general) is mired in misinformation, dogma and stigma. So educate yourself on the consequences of extreme abortion bans, which aren't going anywhere and may only get worse, and help the people around you understand them too. Don't panic and give up — look to the people who have been doing reproductive rights work for years, give them the resources (money and time) that they need, and wherever you can, amplify their work. [Paper, 5/15/19]

    • The Cut: “What You Can Do to Help Women in States With Extreme Abortion Bans”

    If you can’t donate to organizations or volunteer, you can still vocally condemn attacks on abortion rights, and speak to those around you who may not fully grasp the chilling effect these laws have.

    “Have the critical conversations with your family members and friends to activate them in the fight for abortion access and reproductive justice,” Quita Tinsley, the deputy director of ARC, told the Cut. “Being clear about our beliefs not only challenges stigma, but it also shows the people that have had abortions that they have allies and supporters in their community.” [The Cut, 5/17/19]

  • Right-wing media and abortion opponents celebrate and defend Alabama law banning abortion

    The law will likely be challenged before it takes effect

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On May 15, Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law banning nearly all abortions in the state with no exceptions for rape and incest. While the law will likely be challenged before it takes effect, right-wing media and abortion opponents defended the lack of exceptions and celebrated it as a sign of Roe v. Wade’s end.

    The Alabama law prohibits abortion with only limited exceptions for “serious health risk” to the life of the pregnant person or because of a “lethal” fetal anomaly. As CNN noted, before the law’s signing, Democrats in the state legislature had “re-introduced an amendment to exempt rape and incest victims, but the motion failed on an 11-21 vote.” In addition to allowing for few exceptions, the law would also it a felony “punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors” to perform an abortion. Given patients’ concerns about the immediate accessibility of abortion care, it is important to note that abortion is still legal in Alabama. As Vox’s Anna North noted, the law has been signed by the governor but “does not take effect for six months,” and there are already plans underway to challenge it in court.

    As Republicans and right-wing media have repeatedly fearmongered about Democrats advocating for expanded abortion access and the codification of Roe’s protections at the state level, anti-choice politicians have pushed increasingly extreme anti-abortion bills -- likely as an attempt to capitalize on the opportunity for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe with conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch both now confirmed.

    Here are some of the extreme reactions and celebrations of right-wing and anti-abortion media to the Alabama law

    • Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, celebrated the law as a “landmark victory for the people of Alabama who, like most Americans, overwhelmingly reject the extreme status quo of abortion on demand imposed nationwide by Roe v. Wade.” She added that she believed that “the time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate” on the legality of abortion “go forward.”
    • Fox News’ Tucker Carlson responded to outrage over the law’s passage by characterizing it as being indicative of "the modern Democratic orthodoxy: If you love women, you will encourage them to kill their own offspring.”
    • Anti-abortion group American Life League responded to an article saying the law bans “nearly all abortions” by arguing that the law didn’t go far enough. The group tweeted: “All of them should be banned.”
    • Former Turning Point USA Communications Director Candace Owens repeated the myth that Planned Parenthood and pro-choice advocates are promoting “genocide for black America” in a tweet about the Alabama law.
    • Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano claimed on Fox & Friends that abortion opponents believe that “the time is now” to dismantle Roe and therefore return regulation of abortion to the states. Napolitano repeated the false claim that states like “New Jersey or New York” allow “infanticide.”
    • Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson:

    Caption

    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh repeatedly defended the law’s lack of a rape exception, claiming on his podcast that “abortion helps rapists cover up their crimes.” Walsh also said on Twitter that “abortion restrictions protect rape victims” and argued (inaccurately) that Planned Parenthood uses abortion to “assist an abuser in covering up abuse.” As an example, Walsh tweeted a hypothetical scenario alleging that denying an abortion to a “12 year old” who was “raped by her father” meant that there was a better chance that “his crime will be discovered.”
    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro also defended the law’s lack of exceptions, saying on his podcast that those “concessions with regard to rape and incest” are only “a sop to public opinion rather than a principled stand about the value of human life.”
    • On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt speculated about whether abortion laws like Alabama’s are a potential solution to address the declining U.S. birth rate, asking, “Will we see the numbers go up because more people won't be able to have access to abortions?”
    • LifeNews.com’s Steven Ertelt tweeted, “Democrats are so determined to make sure babies conceived in rape are killed in abortions. If only they were as concerned with putting the rapist in prison.” Ertelt’s outlet LifeNews.com responded to outrage over the draconian Alabama law with a tweet saying, “Funny how everyone complaining about Alabama banning abortions has already been born.”
    • National Review also praised the law:

    • On Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, celebrated the law as a sign that Roe was on the way to becoming “a historical footnote in our country.” Hawkins also tweeted that “abortion is a war on preborn women and men” and offered an inexplicable take on why people were “freaking out” about Alabama’s law:

    • Hawkins’ organization celebrated the Alabama law as “a great step for abolishing abortion and protecting the civil rights of all people, born and preborn!”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson tweeted in defense of the law’s lack of exception, writing: “Btw the reasoning behind no exceptions for rape/incest in abortion bans is that an unborn child shouldn't lose their right to life on account of the circumstances that produced them.”
    • One America News Network’s Liz Wheeler asked, “Two questions to ask about the Alabama abortion bill. 1) When does life begin? Science says human life begins at conception. 2) If life begins at conception, what right to do we have to end that life? We don't, therefore abortion cannot be legal.”
    • On Fox News’ Fox News @ Night, conservative writer Eric Metaxas celebrated the Alabama law and other state abortion restrictions. He said these bans are “exactly what's supposed to happen. That's why Roe v. Wade is an abomination. It is not itself constitutional.”
    • Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, lauded Alabama and other states pushing anti-abortion bills and wrote, “We will make our states a safer home for mothers & children.” Rose went on to defend the Alabama law’s lack of exceptions, saying, “It’s disgusting to use the horrific trauma of child rape as pretext for the barbaric 1M legal abortions.” Rose’s organization also claimed that the law does not “go too far” even without the exceptions.
    • Religious media outlet Eternal World Television Network tweeted:

    • Michael Brown, a senior contributor to right-wing Christian site The Stream, wrote about the Alabama law in the context of a literal “civil war” that he alleged was “coming to America” and would be fought over abortion rights. Brown said that although “I hope with all my heart that it will not be a physically violent war,” he expressed concern about “violent attacks by pro-abortion extremists leading to retaliation by those being attacked. (By definition, if you are pro-life, you will not seek to take the life of an innocent person.)”
    • Kimberly Ross, a Washington Examiner contributor, tweeted that supporting rape exceptions “is not pro-life” because “You do not ‘unrape’ a woman by taking an innocent life. This confers worth on another based on feelings, not facts. What’s next?”
    • On Anderson Cooper 360, CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum said that “it does make sense” for abortion providers to get more jail time for performing an abortion than a rapist under Alabama’s law.

    What right-wing media and abortion opponents ignore or attempt to downplay is that the impact of a post-Roe Alabama will be felt mostly by marginalized communities, including poor people and people of color, who may lack the resources to access abortion care by leaving the state. As Rolling Stone’s Alex Morris explained, this new ban -- and the disparities it would exacerbate -- adds to a health care landscape in Alabama where “over a quarter of mothers don’t receive adequate prenatal care and less than half the counties have a delivery room.” In addition, he noted that “not once but twice in the past five years,” Alabama “has ranked 50th in the country in infant mortality.”

    Despite the celebrations of so-called "pro-life" figures, these terrible outcomes are likely to be more common if Alabama's law is allowed to take effect.

  • Tucker Carlson's wild new talking point is that abortion is somehow a tool of "corporate" oppression

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion extremist Tucker Carlson has seemingly developed yet another far-fetched theory in his crusade against reproductive justice -- the idea that abortion is a tool of the capitalist class designed to trap women in the workplace and force them to forgo motherhood. The latest examples of this absurd argument came just this month: During the April 17 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, Carlson said that protecting abortion access isn't about "autonomy" but about "making sure women can be obedient workers." And on April 8, he said that abortion access is merely a backdoor tactic for employers to ensure women are “dutiful little worker bees who would rather have an abortion than disappoint shareholders.”

    Beyond being ludicrous, Carlson’s allegation (and the underlying assumptions) intentionally obscures what’s at stake in the fight over access to essential reproductive health care. When women and gender nonconforming people are denied access to an abortion, the entire family suffers, and the ripple effects disproportionately disadvantage low-income people and people of color.

    Carlson's baseless conspiracy theory only further demonstrates the emptiness of his supposed criticisms of capitalism. His refusal to air a February segment of his show with Dutch historian Rutger Bregman is evidence that he does not promote policies that would actually hold the super wealthy to account. These extreme anti-choice comments are not unique for the network. In fact, this latest attack is simply an extension of the Fox News playbook to spread anti-choice misinformation and rile up viewers for the 2020 elections.

    This theory that "pro-choice means pro-corporate" is just another data point in Carlson's quest to attack people who make choices about pregnancy he disagrees with. After the first wave of advertisers left his show because of his comment that immigration makes America "poorer, dirtier, and more divided," Carlson was forced to try to rebrand. He kicked off 2019 with a monologue about the importance of families as "the building block of everything." Harkening to Donald Trump's nationalist rhetoric, Carlson demanded that "if you want to put America first, you've got to put its families first," and he criticized free market forces for harming the family and targeted Republican leaders who do not support this point of view. This monologue, which is pinned to the top of Carlson's Twitter feed, set off a flurry of chin-scratching op-eds on right-wing sites.

    Carlson went out of his way to endorse an obscure proposal by the far-right government of Hungary

    Carlson's enthusiasm for white nationalism and the reconstruction of a "traditional family unit," combined with his opposition to abortion access, adds up to a bleak picture of rigid gender roles and forced domesticity for women who want control over their own lives. Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that Carlson has explicitly endorsed a proposal by the far-right Hungarian government meant to "ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation" by incentivizing women to have more children. Put forth by authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the proposal would exempt women with four or more children from paying income tax for life and give them other benefits to assist in child rearing.

    Tucker's excitement for the Hungarian proposal fits comfortably within the overlap between the messaging of white nationalists and anti-abortion extremists -- and it paints a picture of his ideal America, a place where women don't have access to abortion but are incentivized by the government to have children they may or may not want. The idea that this is Carlson's goal is reflected in the fact that American media has generally not covered this proposal, which is motivated by the white nationalist sentiments prevalent in Hungary. But Carlson not only donated time to the cause but also forcefully endorsed it.

    While hosting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on his show, Carlson praised Orban’s policy as an example of a country taking “pro-family policies seriously” and called it “a great idea” to address Hungary’s “low birth rate” without “immigration and importing new people.” Carlson said he has “rarely thought we could learn something important from another country, but I think in this case, we really can.”

    Misogyny is at the core of white supremacism and Carlson channels both

    This obsession with birth rates, combined with the oppression of women by eliminating pathways for bodily and economic autonomy in favor of unpaid familial labor, is a perfect example of the intersection between misogyny and the anti-choice movement. In the context of Carlson's regularly scheduled white identity politics, it’s unsurprising that his desire to promote so-called "family values" has morphed into attacking people who choose to have an abortion. His recent line of argument fixates on the importance of women having babies to “perpetuate the species.” (Conveniently, he has no problem with separating children from their parents at the border.)

    During a February 4 segment, Carlson claimed that the reason “our ruling class keeps pushing abortion on the country” is because bodily autonomy makes women “loyal to company first,” which is not only patronizing but also ignores the personal and medical reasons people have abortions. Carlson’s argument also treats people's access to essential health care as a conspiracy by “corporate” bosses to prevent them from experiencing parenthood:

    TUCKER CARLSON: So why does our ruling class keep pushing abortion on the country? Well, [Virginia Gov.] Ralph Northam just explained it as clearly as anyone has. Abortion leads to economic freedom, he said. It brings prosperity. Almost everyone in coastal America believes this as a matter of faith. Former hedge fund executive Chelsea Clinton once explained the reasoning here in some detail, quote, "American women entering the labor force from 1973 to 2009 added $3.5 trillion to our economy. The net, new entrance of women -- that is not disconnected from the fact that Roe became the law of the land in January of 1973." End quote.

    In other words, abortion boosts markets. It frees women from the tiresome demands of motherhood and allows them to fulfill their higher duty which is to corporations. Childless women make more dutiful, obedient workers. They can work longer hours. They take less time off. They are loyal to company first.

    And from the perspective of private equity, they’re right. Having children may perpetuate the species, it may add meaning to your life, but it won't boost the stock price. It does nothing for shareholder value.

    As economists at the United Nations put it, and it's on their website right now, when more women work, economies grow. Well, that means that when women decide to have and raise kids, economies shrink.

    So, from this perspective, motherhood is a selfish choice. We have got widgets to make, forms to fill out, meetings to attend, mush, get to work.

    Two years ago, a columnist in The Daily Telegraph called for the government to ban stay-at-home moms. They should be in the workforce, adding to the bottom line. So this is the real reason our elite so enthusiastically support abortion.

    It doesn't set you free. It won't make you happier. But it make companies more profitable and that's what matters most to them. Pro-choice means pro-corporate.

    This rhetoric is part of a pattern. During a February 1 segment, Carlson mischaracterized Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments on later abortion and claimed that abortion rights advocates care only about the “economic freedom” afforded to people able to make choices about their own bodies because such autonomy makes them “more efficient employees” who can “work longer hours without worrying about anybody but their bosses.”

    TUCKER CARLSON: Northam explained that abortion at any stage is a positive good -- and this is worth listening to carefully -- because, quote, "reproductive freedom leads to economic freedom." In other words, abortion is virtuous because it makes women more efficient employees, better and more dutiful servants of Northam's donors. They can work longer hours without worrying about anybody but their bosses.

    Carlson also attacked former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for her criticisms of Georgia’s recently adopted draconian six-week abortion ban (also referred to as the “heartbeat bill”). On his April 8 show, Carlson disingenuously claimed that Abrams’ opposition to the bill stemmed from her desire to make women into “dutiful little worker bees” who wouldn’t dare prioritize “superfluous concerns like their own children or perpetuating the species” over the needs of “shareholders.”

    Carlson not only ignored Abrams’ actual criticism that the ban was “bad for business” and an “abominable” attack on people’s rights and health, he also oversimplified the numerous reasons someone might want or need an abortion. Although in Carlson’s mind, abortion access is a tool to deprive people of parenthood, in reality, people can choose to have abortions because they don’t want children, aren’t ready to be parents, or in many cases already are parents:

    [BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

    STACEY ABRAMS: We have to be a state that is not only friendly to business, we've got to be friendly to the women who work in these businesses. You should not have to worry about your ability to control your bodily autonomy because the governor has pushed such an abominable and evil bill that is so restrictive. It's not only bad for morality and our humanity, it's bad for business.

    [END VIDEO CLIP]

    TUCKER CARLSON: "It's bad for business." So according to Stacey Abrams, who went to Yale Law School, protecting the life of a child whose heart is beating is evil because, as she just said, it's bad for business. Business needs reliable workers who will give everything to the company. Workers who won't be distracted by superfluous concerns like their own children or perpetuating the species. Dutiful little worker bees who would rather have an abortion than disappoint shareholders.

    Stacey Abrams wants to make the world safe for workers like that. It's better for the bottom line. This is the face of corporate liberalism. It's a lot crueler than the old version.

    Carlson's extremist anti-choice apologia fits squarely into white nationalist conspiracy theories about “the great replacement” and white “genocide” (some of Carlson’s other favorite talking points). His absurd argument framing abortion rights advocates as tools of capitalist oppression is yet another example of him using his show to elevate anti-abortion extremists and mirror the rhetoric of white nationalists on an ongoing basis.

  • Fox News gave anti-abortion film Unplanned over $1 million in free promotion this year

    One of the film’s funders is also one of Fox News’ most loyal advertisers

    Blog ››› ››› MADELYN WEBB


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News and the anti-abortion film Unplanned have more in common than elevating anti-choice misinformation: They’ve both been heavily subsidized by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. Despite Fox’s aggressive advertiser losses in the past year, Lindell has remained one of the network’s most loyal supporters -- and the network appears to be rewarding his loyalty, providing over a million dollars in free promotion to Unplanned since the beginning of 2019.

    Between January 1 and April 12 of this year, Fox News has aired 33 segments about or including discussion of Unplanned -- equal to roughly $1 million in promotional value. Given that Unplanned reportedly cost $6 million to produce, Fox provided free promotion equivalent to at least one-sixth of the film’s total budget. During Unplanned’s opening week alone, Fox provided the film with approximately $470,310 in free promotion based on Media Matters analysis of the network’s advertising value from March 29 to April 5.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    MyPillow has remained one of Fox News’ most consistent advertisers, even as others have fled the network after increasing awareness by many companies that being associated with Fox is bad for business. MyPillow is not only the biggest sponsor of Tucker Carlson Tonight, but the company was also recently cited by Fox News host Laura Ingraham as evidence that advertising with the network is still lucrative. Beyond continuing to advertise on Fox, Lindell also invested $1 million in the film Unplanned, an anti-abortion movie rife with inaccurate information about abortion clinics and procedures. Notably, Lindell makes an appearance in the film as a construction worker "'bulldozing a Planned Parenthood site to make way for the headquarters of an anti-abortion group.'"

    Fox has gone above and beyond in promoting the film. The network not only aired clips from the movie and urged viewers to see it, but also granted five interviews to the film’s lead actress, Ashley Bratcher, three with its directors, and one interview with the musician behind the film’s title track, complete with a live musical performance. Unplanned’s marketing has also relied heavily on alleging that the film has been censored, a technique for generating outrage and attention perfected by right-wing and anti-abortion media. Fox News has helped amplify this the inaccurate narrative, repeating the completely unfounded claim that the movie’s Twitter account and wider social media roll-out plan were censored.

    It is in Fox’s best interest to keep their advertisers happy, especially as pressure mounts for companies to reconsider associating their products with the network’s reliably toxic content. Just this past weekend, Lindell was granted an episode-long interview on Fox News’ Life, Liberty & Levin -- a rare privilege for an advertiser. By promoting Unplanned, Fox News was able to accomplish two goals at once: spreading anti-abortion misinformation and rewarding one of the network’s most loyal advertisers.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of “abortion” in close proximity to either “unplanned” or “pro-life” on Fox News Channel between 4 a.m. and midnight starting January 1, 2019 and ending April 12, 2019.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which speakers mentioned the movie Unplanned, or alleged “censorship” of the movie’s social media accounts. Segments that were about abortion but did not mention Unplanned or it’s social media accounts were not included. Teasers for upcoming segments were not included. For discussions of the movie in segments generally about abortion, we only timed the relevant speech. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, movie clips, and guest panels. We did not include rebroadcasts.

    After determining the amount of time in each segment spent talking about Unplanned, we utilized the media monitoring service iQ media to calculate the amount of advertising value each segment was worth.