NY Times' Ross Douthat Resurrects Debunked Claim That Planned Parenthood “Endorsed A Right To Post-Birth Abortion”

The New York Times' Ross Douthat defended GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's widely-discredited statements regarding footage she claims was in the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, citing a Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist's halting testimony about the unlikely event of a live birth during a failed abortion. Douthat did not mention that Planned Parenthood of Florida issued a statement after the hearing that clarified the fact that illegal “born alive” cases are “extremely unlikely and highly unusual” and eliminated any doubt as to whether its clinics would provide life-saving care in that hypothetical scenario.

NY Times' Columnist Ross Douthat Defends Carly Fiorina's Lies About Planned Parenthood, Cites Dishonest 2013 Weekly Standard Article As Evidence Of “Born Alive” Cases

NY Times' Columnist Ross Douthat Cited A Debunked Weekly Standard Article From 2013 As Evidence To Suggest Planned Parenthood Is Killing Newborns After Failed Abortions. In a September 28 New York Times' blog post, titled, “Lies, Carly Fiorina and Abortion,” Douthat defended Fiorina from accusations of “blatant fabrication” over what she has repeatedly claimed to have seen and heard in deceptively-edited videos released by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress. Douthat writes that anyone who says Fiorina “lied” should have to “marshal evidence beyond just a parsing of her words,” and cites Planned Parenthood's “own testimony” as evidence supporting Fiorina's remarks. From The New York Times (emphasis added):

So for Fiorina to actually be proven as wildly misleading and fundamentally dishonest as her critics keep suggesting, they would need to marshal evidence beyond just a parsing of her words, and demonstrate that the thing she's describing is an inaccurate depiction of what happens inside abortion clinics that double as tissue procurement centers. They would need to prove that, for instance, the technician in the video is lying about what she saw and did, or that the footage of the twitching fetus in the bowl is fake, or that abortionists never approach the procedure with an eye toward making sure the fetal body comes out intact, or that the idea that this leads to “born alive” cases is just a myth and all testimony (including, implicitly, Planned Parenthood's own) to the contrary is false or misleading. [The New York Times, 9/28/15]

Weekly Standard Article Misrepresented Planned Parenthood Lobbyist's Testimony As “Argu[ing] For Right To Post-Birth Abortion.” Douthat's blog linked to a March 29, 2013 article in The Weekly Standard by senior writer John McCormack about the testimony of a lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates before a legislative committee considering a bill to mandate that doctors provide medical care to a fetus that is not terminated in an abortion. The lobbyist told lawmakers, “I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider,” but was nevertheless pushed to answer questions about hypothetical medical situations. From The Weekly Standard (emphasis added):

Florida legislators considering a bill to require abortionists to provide medical care to an infant who survives an abortion were shocked during a committee hearing this week when a Planned Parenthood official endorsed a right to post-birth abortion.

Alisa LaPolt Snow, the lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, testified that her organization believes the decision to kill an infant who survives a failed abortion should be left up to the woman seeking an abortion and her abortion doctor.

“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I'm almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

“We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.

Rep. Daniel Davis then asked Snow, “What happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving. What do your physicians do at that point?”

“I do not have that information,” Snow replied. “I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information.” [The Weekly Standard, 3/29/13]

Just Days Later, Florida Planned Parenthood Denied Any Countenance Of “Born Alive” Cases And Made It Clear That “Appropriate Care” Would Be Given In “Unlikely Event” Of A Live Birth

Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates Issued Follow-Up Statement That Care Would Be Provided. On April 1, 2013, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates issued a statement in response to questions Florida legislators asked the lobbyist during the hearing. From the statement (emphasis added):

“Last week, a panel of Florida state legislators demanded speculation about a vague set of extremely unlikely and highly unusual medical circumstances. Medical guidelines and ethics already compel physicians facing life-threatening circumstances to respond, and Planned Parenthood physicians provide high-quality medical care and adhere to the most rigorous professional standards, including providing emergency care. In the extremely unlikely event that the scenario presented by the panel of legislators should happen, of course Planned Parenthood would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant.” [Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, 4/1/13, accessed 9/30/15]

Multiple Outlets Called Out Weekly Standard For Pushing The “Born-Alive” Myth With Its Article

ThinkProgress: “How The Right-Wing Manufactured A Fake Controversy Over Planned Parenthood's 'Infanticide.'” ThinkProgress was one of several outlets to criticize The Weekly Standard for trying to create a controversy over the lobbyist's answers to Florida state legislators. From ThinkProgress (emphasis added):

That hearing was a debate over HB 1129, a politically-motivated piece of legislation seeking to ensure that any infant born alive “during or immediately after an attempted abortion” is entitled to all of the same rights “as any other child born alive in course of natural birth.” The “Infant Born Alive” measure rests upon the fundamentally flawed assumption that this type of situation is a real risk for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. In fact, Florida does not perform abortions after the fetus has reached viability, so the situation that HB 1129 intends to address is incredibly unlikely.


Last week, a lobbyist representing Planned Parenthood, Alisa LaPolt Snow, testified about the organization's opposition to that aspect of HB 1129. During the hearing, she was questioned by a panel of anti-abortion state lawmakers who demanded that she respond to questions about this highly unlikely hypothetical situation. According to sources from the organization, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored HB 1129 repeatedly insinuated that women who choose abortions cannot be trusted, defending the provision revoking parental rights because “there is at least suspicion that that biological mother may not have the best interest of that born infant in mind.” When posed with a hypothetical scenario in which “a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion,” Snow attempted to make the point that legislators don't need to get in the middle of medical situations. “We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” Snow said.

That was enough for the right-wing media to proclaim that Planned Parenthood endorses “infanticide.”

After the Weekly Standard posted a video of that portion of the exchange, it spread throughout conservative outlets -- eventually inspiring Priebus' breathless editorial suggesting that any politician who supports Planned Parenthood may also support infanticide.

Aside from the fact that Planned Parenthood was essentially backed into a corner by Florida Republicans -- forced to testify against an unnecessary provision within a misleading piece of legislation, and then forced to respond to an imaginary “botched abortion” procedure that's already against the law in the state -- the organization's position on caring for infants is already quite clear. Planned Parenthood has a long history of providing professional medical care to women and their children. Abortion opponents often attempt to misconstrue Planned Parenthood as an irresponsible organization that doesn't adhere to medical standards, but its clinics already provide high-quality primary care and preventative services to millions of people across the country. [ThinkProgress, 4/4/13]

Jezebel: “Planned Parenthood Does Not Endorse Infanticide and We Can't Believe That Even Needs to Be Clarified.” Jezebel pointed out that the Florida hearing was “based on a ridiculous hypothetical,” as the state doesn't allow abortions to be performed after 24 weeks. From Jezebel (emphasis added):

Last week, the Florida House of Representatives held a hearing on HB 1129, also known as the “Infants Born Alive” bill, which would provide legal protection for infants who “survive” an abortion procedure. Given that Florida doesn't allow abortions to be performed after 24 weeks, which is when most doctors define the age of viability, the proposed act is based on a ridiculous hypothetical -- and one that's extremely hurtful to the pro-choice cause, since it perpetuates the concept that abortion providers are butcher-like murderers instead of medical practitioners. We don't need it.

But when Rep. Jim Boyd asked Alisa LaPolt Snow, a lobbyist for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, what Planned Parenthood would “want to have happen to [a] child that is struggling for life” after being born alive in a “botched abortion” situation, she was caught in a catch-22 where she was basically forced to choose between effectively “admitting” that abortion is dangerous for babies or driving home the point that it should always be up to a woman to choose what's best for her. She went with the latter:


The type of “botched abortions” anti-abortion advocates casually refer to as if they happen on the regular are extremely few and far between -- and they usually only happen when women don't have access to the exact sort of reproductive health services Planned Parenthood offers. But why talk facts if you can write headlines that employ the phrase “abortion mill murder”? [Jezebel, 4/3/13]

Congress Has Tried To Find Evidence Of Illegal “Born Alive” Cases -- And Failed

RH Reality Check: “There Is No Evidence Of A Pattern Of Infants Being 'Born Alive' After An Abortion, Much Less Of Doctors Killing Infants In Those Circumstances.” As reported by RH Reality Check, in 2013, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee “sent letters to all 50 state attorneys general, inquiring about criminal prosecutions related to abortion.” According to RH Reality Check, at the time it published, 38 attorneys general had responded and “not one AG office provided evidence that it has ever had cause to prosecute a physician for delivering and then killing a viable fetus.” From RH Reality Check (emphasis added):

The committee sent letters to all 50 state attorneys general, inquiring about criminal prosecutions related to abortion. The letters specifically cite the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a 2002 federal law “which provides that all federal protections for persons apply to every infant born alive.” It asked state attorneys general whether “prosecutors in your state treat the deliberate killing of newborns, including those newborns who were delivered alive in the process of abortions, as a criminal offense?” and requested that state officials provide a log of cases for the years 2008 to 2013 in which the act has been used in prosecutions.

The answers provided by states show that Gosnell was, in fact, a rogue provider, and that there is no evidence of a pattern of infants being “born alive” after an abortion, much less of doctors killing infants in those circumstances. (Pennsylvania's attorney general told RH Reality Check that it did not have a copy of what it had sent to the House Judiciary Committee, or whether it had in fact replied to the committee's inquiry.)

In responses from 38 attorneys general to date, not one AG office provided evidence that it has ever had cause to prosecute a physician for delivering and then killing a viable fetus, indicating that this notion--that there are multiple cases of fetuses surviving an abortion, only to be killed by a doctor--is a confection of the anti-choice camp, designed to replace fact-based arguments with the lowest form of fear-mongering.


The uniformity of responses from state attorneys general on the question of so-called born-alive infants reflects the reality of the practice of legal abortion in the United States: 88 percent of legal abortions performed happen before 12 weeks' gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and well over 90 percent in the first 14 weeks. That reality is nothing like the nightmarish hyperbole put forward by the anti-choice movement.


During a state committee hearing in Florida earlier this year, anti-choice legislators ambushed a Planned Parenthood lobbyist with a “born alive” inquiry. Lawmakers asked her to consider a situation that is very real in terms of the crimes committed by Kermit Gosnell, but wildly hypothetical in the typical day-to-day practice of safe, legal abortion care as it is currently practiced in the United States. Flummoxed, the lobbyist struggled to answer questions that were largely based on a myth.

Responses both from states that heavily regulate abortion providers and abortion as a procedure--as South Dakota does--and states that place very few restrictions on either--as is the case in Vermont--are very much the same: They do not have cause to believe that their abortion providers are committing Gosnell-like atrocities, either rarely or with frequency. [RH Reality Check, 8/22/13]