On Cable News, Women's Health Experts Noticeably Absent From Women's Health Debate

Cable news channels hosted only four women's health experts during two weeks of coverage on a Texas bill that would restrict women's constitutional right to safe and legal abortions and that experts claim would “erode women's health.”

Texas Lawmakers Debate Bill That Would Restrict Abortion Rights And Be Detrimental To Women's Health

The New York Times: Bill Could Force 37 Of The 42 Abortion Clinics In Texas To Close. The New York Times reported that Texas' Senate Bill 5 (SB5) would restrict access to abortion by closing all but five clinics in the state, all of which are in large urban areas: Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Included in the bill are a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, requirements that clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and a mandate that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.  [The New York Times6/25/13]

Texas House Provisionally Approved Abortion Bill; Measure Is Expected To Pass In The Senate.  After State Senator Wendy Davis successfully filibustered the bill, the Texas House of Representatives provisionally approved new abortion restrictions, which will face a final vote on July 10:

The Texas House on Tuesday night provisionally approved tough new abortion restrictions, making good on a third attempt to pass the measure this year.

Activists on both sides of the issue from across the state and nation descended on the Capitol building, and the demonstrators erupted into screams, cheers and chants immediately following the vote.

Lawmakers debated for more than 10 hours Tuesday, before voting on the Republicans' signature legislation. They approved the bill mainly along party lines.

A final, formal vote is scheduled for Wednesday. The measure will then go to the Senate, where the Republican majority is also expected to approve the bill. [ABC News, 7/9/13]

Cable News Hosted Only 4 Women's Health Experts To Discuss The Texas Legislation

Only Four Of 92 Cable News Guests Who Discussed Texas Abortion Bill Were Women's Health Experts. In the two weeks following June 25th, when Sen. Davis filibustered the bill, cable news hosted a total of 92 guests to discuss the bill, only four of whom were women's health experts. Fox News hosted no women's health experts, while CNN and MSNBC hosted two and three, respectively. 

texas abortion coverage totals

Texas abortion coverage individual

Women's Health Experts Agree That Texas Abortion Legislation Would “Erode Women's Health”

American Congress Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists: Bill Would “Jeopardize Women's Health Care.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) argued that the legislation sets “a dangerous precedent” of overreaching measures that would endanger women's health:

“The Texas bills are a compilation of over-reaching measures to control when, where, and how a woman has an abortion,” said ACOG Texas District Chair Lisa M. Hollier, MD, MPH. “The bills are not based on sound science, despite our efforts to provide the legislature with the best available medical knowledge. The bills would erode women's health by denying the women of Texas the benefits of well-researched, safe, and proven protocols.” [ACOG, 7/2/13]

Whole Women's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller: Bill Would “Put More Women At Risk For Later Term Abortions Or Illicit Abortions.” During her testimony on SB 1, the current session's version of SB5, to the state Health and Human Services Committee, Whole Women's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said that the bill would force more women to seek abortions later or from illicit providers outside the medical community:

Abortion facilities in Texas are licensed, inspected, and highly regulated. We operate safe and professional facilities all over this state, and the ASC requirements will not improve care, but rather reduce access for women in Texas and put more women at risk for later term abortions or for illicit abortions outside the medical community. ASC regulations are primarily related to the physical plant and they do not make abortion any safer. [RH Reality Check, 7/8/13]

ACOG: Proposed Requirements Would Prevent Clinics From Providing Important Non-Abortion Services. According to ACOG, new restrictions would close many clinics that provide important women's health care services, including mammograms and pre-natal care:

These bills would also impose a number of requirements for abortion facilities that are touted as necessary to ensure the health of the woman, but are, in fact, unnecessary and unsupported by scientific evidence. These proposed requirements, concerning door width and other irrelevant issues, would only make it extremely difficult or impossible for most clinics, including clinics that primarily provide important non-abortion well-woman health care services such as mammograms and prenatal care to low-income women, to stay open. For example, the bills would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and allow abortions only in clinics that meet surgical clinic standards, imposing government regulations on abortion care that are much stricter than for colonoscopy and other similar low-risk procedures. The fact is that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with minimal--less than 0.5%--risk of major complications that might need hospital care. [ACOG, 7/9/13]

Guttmacher Institute: Targeted Regulation Of Abortion Provider Laws “Have Nothing To Do With Protecting Women.” A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit focusing on sexual and reproductive health, found that new legislation instituting “onerous and irrelevant licensing requirements” on abortion clinics is simply a veiled effort to shut down clinics across the country, and has “nothing to do with” women's health:

Over the years, these have been among the many favored obstacles antiabortion activists have thrown in the path of women seeking to terminate their pregnancies--all under the guise of protecting women's health. Hundreds of these requirements are now law across the country at the state level. And at this point, having mostly exhausted legal means of discouraging women from choosing abortion, opponents recently have stepped up their efforts to block clinics from providing them. More than half the states now have laws instituting onerous and irrelevant licensing requirements, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws, which have nothing to do with protecting women and everything to do with shutting down clinics. [The Guttmacher Institute, Spring 2013]


Media Matters searched internal TV archives and closed captioning for media reports on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox that focused on the Texas abortion legislation from June 25 through July 8 between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. Given that State Senator Dr. Donna Campbell, Charles Krauthammer, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius all currently hold a primary occupation as politicians, pundits, or government officials, and not as physicians or women's health experts, they were not considered as such for the purposes of this study. The total number of women's health experts is calculated as four to avoid double counting of Ilyse Hogue, who was a guest on both CNN and MSNBC.