In its June 15 Upshot newsletter, The New York Times falsely claimed that people can no longer schedule abortions in Missouri. However, the state’s last abortion clinic in St. Louis is still accepting and keeping abortion appointments. The newsletter has since been updated, but the Times’ failure to accurately depict abortion access to its audience of millions speaks volumes about the improvements newsrooms must make to prepare their readers for a post-Roe landscape.
The June 15 edition of The Upshot, the Times’ twice-weekly newsletter that puts an emphasis on data and charts in its analysis, discussed waning abortion access in the U.S. The newsletter examined the availability of abortion services across the country and noted that the services have prematurely ended in some states even before the Supreme Court has issued its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the case in which the court could potentially upend abortion protections enshrined in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade. The Upshot originally claimed that individuals “can no longer make an appointment” in Missouri. The updated version of the newsletter now states that in Missouri, “the only clinic is booked and not accepting new appointments.”
Though Missouri has implemented onerous restrictions on abortion care, the procedure is still available for those seeking one. That morning, the St. Louis Planned Parenthood confirmed via Twitter that “abortions are scheduled and available in Missouri today.” According to Planned Parenthood, “abortion is legal in Missouri up to 22 weeks from a person's last menstrual period” with exceptions for substantial health risks after that point. The state also requires a 72-hour waiting period for abortion-seekers in between state-mandated “counseling” -- which aims to deter individuals from proceeding with an abortion -- and the procedure itself. If Roe is overturned, Missouri has a trigger law in place that would ban abortions in all cases except for medical emergencies.
With the future of Roe hanging in the balance, accurate reproductive health reporting is especially crucial for people looking to make these health care decisions while they still can. In the wake of overlapping abortion news about new restrictions and looming court decisions, media’s failure to inform the public on the state of abortion access is already impacting people. In Alabama, a clinic is reportedly receiving calls from patients incorrectly thinking that abortion is already illegal. In Texas, after the Dobbs majority opinion was leaked in early May, abortion advocates had to rush to correct misinformation that abortion rights had already been fully revoked.
Despite the decades-long conservative movement to undo Roe, newsrooms still remain unequipped to adequately tackle stories about reproductive health. And as the country braces for an abortion ruling this summer, “there’s no time like right now to right this ship.”