Media Debunk Pence’s Smear Of Clinton’s Reproductive Rights Positions
In The Vice Presidential Debate, Pence Revived An Anti-Choice Myth To Attack Clinton’s Support For Reproductive Rights
Research ››› ››› SHARON KANN
During the October 4 vice presidential debate, Republican nominee Mike Pence smeared Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s positions on reproductive rights. While Pence falsely alleged that Clinton’s position on abortion was extreme, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine pointed out that Clinton “support[s] the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy.”
At Vice Presidential Debate, Pence Alleged Clinton Supports So-Called “Partial-Birth” Abortion Procedures
During The Debate, Pence Inaccurately Alleged Clinton Supports “Partial Birth Abortion.” During the October 4 vice presidential debate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attacked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s reproductive rights positions, trying to characterize her as extreme by alleging that she supports so-called “partial birth abortion.” As Rolling Stone reported, “‘partial birth’ isn’t actually a thing -- it’s a term made up by [anti-choice] activists to make abortion seem gruesome.” In reality, as The Atlantic noted, Clinton is on record explaining that she favors “a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.” [Rolling Stone, 10/5/16;The Atlantic, 10/5/16]
Right-Wing Media Have Begun Circulating Pence’s Misrepresentation As Factual
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Clinton’s Support For “Partial-Birth Abortion” Falls “Way Out Of The Mainstream” Of Public Opinion. After the debate, during the October 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson argued that Clinton’s supposed support for “partial-birth abortion” is publicly unpopular. Carlson claimed that “a lot of polling” proved that “the Hillary position” falls “way outside of the mainstream.” From Fox & Friends:
TUCKER CARLSON: The remarkable moment, for me, was the abortion moment, because, keep in mind, Pence was not asked about abortion. He was asked more broadly about his religious faith, and he brought it up. Republicans do not do this, they're afraid of the topic, they think it hurts them, but they're wrong on this one specific point: partial-birth abortion. The country is split on abortion. It is not split on late-term or third-trimester abortion. We have a lot of polling on this, we know what the mainstream is, and we know less than 30 percent of the country supports legal third-term abortion, elective abortion during a third term. And the Kaine position, the Hillary position, the Democratic platform position is way out of the mainstream. And so Pence, by saying this, wins.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Sure, and the way he framed it was very sober and very accurate, where he's talking about an almost-born baby. That's what you're talking about, right there.
CARLSON: Exactly. And I have to say, Kaine's position on this is ludicrous. So, his position is, "I'm pro-life personally, I think abortion is immoral, but I'm for unlimited access to abortion, taxpayer-funded abortion." If I think that guns are immoral, do I get a hundred percent rating from the NRA, do they endorse me? No. And yet he's been endorsed by the abortion lobby, NARAL. So come on, it's stupid. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/5/16]
The Daily Caller: Pence Attacked Clinton’s “Extreme Stance On Abortion” By Invoking Her “Support For Partial-Birth Abortion.” The Daily Caller applauded Pence’s effort to attack Clinton’s “extreme stance on abortion” and promote “his own pro-life stance.” In the October 4 article, The Daily Caller alleged that by invoking “Clinton’s support for partial-birth abortion” as well as her promise “to revoke the law that bans taxpayer funding of abortions” -- the Hyde amendment -- Pence successfully challenged the Democratic nominee’s reproductive rights positions. From The Daily Caller:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence challenged Democrat opponent Sen. Tim Kaine to defend Hillary Clinton’s extreme stance on abortion during Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate, saying his own pro-life stance is based on a biblical worldview.
Pence noted that he has sought to expand alternatives to abortion in Indiana, particularly by encouraging adoption, and then brought up Clinton’s support for partial-birth abortion and her plan to revoke the law that bans taxpayer funding of abortions.
“What I can’t understand is with Hillary Clinton — and now Sen. Kaine at her side — is to support a practice like partial-birth abortion, to hold to the view that … The very idea that a child who is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me,” he said. [The Daily Caller, 10/4/16]
Newsmax: Kaine Has “Put His Personal Beliefs Aside” To Support “Hillary Clinton’s Desire For Partial-Birth Abortion.” Conservative media outlet Newsmax criticized Kaine for seeming to “put his personal beliefs aside” about faith and abortion in order to support “Hillary Clinton’s desire for partial-birth and for taxpayer-funded abortion.” In contrast, Newsmax praised Pence’s decision to “oppose abortion” as a matter of upholding what he called “the value of every human life”:
Vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine both boast a strong Christian faith and both oppose abortion as part of their faith, but Republican Pence said in Tuesday's debate Democrat Kaine has put his personal beliefs aside to follow presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's desire for partial-birth abortion and for taxpayer-funded abortion.
"My faith informs my life," Pence said. "I try spend time on my knees every day. But all for me, it begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life." [Newsmax, 10/4/16]
On Fox, Trump’s Campaign Manager Alleged That The Debate Showed “The Extremism Of The Democratic Party On Abortion.” During the October 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Kellyanne Conway -- Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager -- alleged that Pence’s attack on Clinton’s stance on abortion was “an incredible moment to show the extremism of the Democratic Party.” Conway promoted a number of other myths about abortion -- including the medically disputed allegation that fetal pain exists early enough to justify a 20 week abortion ban -- but in particular she emphasized that the vice presidential debate showed that “the Democratic Party platform on abortion is basically anytime, anyone, anywhere.” Fox co-host Brian Kilmeade did not challenge Conway’s false assertions about abortion and instead asked her if “there’s a right way to message” on those claims. From Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): Kellyanne, as a woman, why isn't the mainstream talking about how Tim Kaine flip-flopped on this controversial issue?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Oh because abortion is like a religion to many of them -- and their adherents -- Ainsley, last night was a moment I’ve been waiting for literally for decades. I’ve been working on messaging in the pro-life movement for decades. And finally we have somebody running for president or vice president who articulated it perfectly. Go read the Democratic Party platform on abortion: It is basically abortion anytime, anyone, anywhere. It is not the safe, legal, and rare stance of President Bill Clinton. There’s no exceptions for sex-selection -- you can basically find out the sex of your baby and decide for that reason only you’d like to terminate your pregnancy.
Donald Trump has said if he’s president he will sign into law the Pain Capable bill, which basically is non-partisan scientists and doctors saying that at about 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain, so you should not have an abortion after that. Abortion -- late-term abortion -- they were talking about the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment basically means no taxpayer funding for abortion. I don’t pay for your abortion, you don’t pay for my Viagra -- not to get so personal. But, it sounds like a pretty good deal, it sounds like fair to the taxpayer. But I thought this was an incredible moment to show the extremism of the Democratic Party on abortion. This is probably the only place you’ll hear it today.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So Kellyanne, just to build on this for a second. You say there’s a right way to message it. But do you also say, no matter what your beliefs are, if you got out and say “I’m going to overturn Roe v. Wade,” that that’ll be also something that will hurt any candidate
CONWAY: Well, that’s why Tim Kaine was trying to go there and pretend that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are against women. This is a very stale talking point on their side and the fact is that people believe that the states should decide their health care policy and many other policies, frankly. And this is no exception. I mean, what Roe v. Wade does -- did -- was it made it federal policy. It made federal policy many years ago. I think that when you chip away, you look at very few Americans in this county, those who call themselves pro-choice included, they say: “I’m pro-choice, but I’m not pro that -- what do you mean seventh, eighth, and ninth month? No.” I mean, if this happened --
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So that’s the point?
CONWAY: That’s the point, is how extreme. Because they love to say -- to Ainsley’s point about quote “women’s issues.” They talk about women’s issues and it’s really euphemism for abortion. They’ll talk about women’s health and they really mean abortion. So forcing them to even say that word -- I think, we at the Trump/Pence campaign thinks all issues are women’s issues. I've been doing this for 28 years. I've never a single time heard the phrase men's issues. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/5/16]
Media Have Debunked Pence’s Misrepresentation Of Clinton’s Position On Abortion
The Daily Beast: Pence Used Debate Platform To “Falsely Claim Clinton Supports Partial-Birth Abortion.” According to The Daily Beast, Pence used the vice presidential debate as an opportunity “to bring up his long record of being anti-abortion and to falsely claim Clinton supports partial-birth abortion.” The Daily Beast noted former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s attempt to make a similar smear against Clinton during the Republican primaries,. which “wasn’t any truer when Pence said it Tuesday night.” The Daily Beast also noted, “In fact, so-called partial-birth abortions were outlawed in the United States in 2003” and at no point during the 2016 election “has Clinton advocated for reviving such a practice.” From The Daily Beast:
If the claim that Clinton is in favor of aborting full-term babies sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Rubio made an identical claim—rated as “False” by PolitiFact—during the Feb. 6 Republican primary debate, and Carly Fiorina repeated it during the GOP primary debate on March 30.
It wasn’t any truer when Pence said it Tuesday night. In fact, so-called partial-birth abortions were outlawed in the United States in 2003. That law was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 2007, the court ruled in Gonzalez v. Carhart that the law should stand.
In no speech at any point on the 2016 campaign trail has Clinton advocated for reviving such a practice. In an address she delivered in 2005, Clinton stated she didn’t believe the government should interfere at all in a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but she made those statements in the context of pointing out the way China and Romania had historically treated pregnant women, not in U.S. law, and not in the context of demanding the widespread acceptance of late-term abortions.
While it isn’t clear where Pence is getting the notion that Clinton supports partial-birth abortions (it could be any number of failed Republican candidates for president), his statements in the debate make clear that he, or whoever came up with this particular set of misleading talking points, wishes for the viewer to conflate late-term abortion with a procedure that more than half a million women undergo each year. [The Daily Beast, 10/5/16]
Bustle: During The Debate, “Mike Pence Told A Massive Lie About Abortion” By Alleging Clinton Supported “Partial Birth Abortion.” Following the debate, Bustle’s April Siese wrote that by alleging Clinton supported a so-called “partial birth abortion” procedure, “Mike Pence told a massive lie about abortion.” According to Siese, this is problematic because there's “no such thing as a partial birth abortion.” Instead, she argued, Pence was reviving a term invented by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). Siese further noted that Clinton’s own statements on her abortion stance disprove Pence’s claim, writing that she had “stated that the only way she could support such drastic measures as late-term abortions was if the procedure was deemed life-saving for the mother.” From Bustle:
Who would've thought that the lone vice presidential debate would yield controversial moment after controversial moment? In what many assumed would be a tepid event, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence traded barbs, discredited the opposing party's presidential picks, and uttered some startling phrases. In fact, Mike Pence told a massive lie about abortion toward the latter end of the event. During a particularly contentious exchange, the Indiana governor chose to attack the Democratic party for allegedly supporting what he referred to as "partial birth abortion."
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) first coined the term in 1995, when the procedure was just gaining public attention. It had been referred to medically as intact dilation and extraction and generally occurred after 16 weeks.
During an appearance on Fox News last March, Clinton stated that the only way she could support such drastic measures as late-term abortions was if the procedure was deemed life-saving for the mother. "I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother," Clinton said. "I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, they sometimes arise in the most complex, difficult medical situation." [Bustle, 10/4/16]
The Washington Post: Clinton’s Opponents “Can’t Falsely Assert That Clinton Favors Aborting A Full-Term Baby.” In an April 1 article, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler disputed a claim by former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina that Clinton “literally” supported abortion “any time up until the moment” of birth, giving her charge a rating of four Pinocchios.” The Post noted that not only do “most abortions take place early in the pregnancy,” but that the statement cited by Fiorina as evidence of Clinton’s stance was clearly “taken out of context.” Kessler concluded that “Clinton is on record as accepting that there can be restrictions to abortion well before the imminent birth of the baby” and that opponents “can’t falsely assert that Clinton favors aborting a full-term baby.” From The Washington Post:
First of all, most abortions take place early in the pregnancy. One-third take place at six weeks or pregnancy or earlier; 89 percent occur in the first 12 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Only 1.2 percent of abortions—about 12,000 a year– take place after 21 weeks. (The Supreme Court has held that states may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health” of the mother.)
On top of that, Guttmacher says that 43 states already prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, such as fetal viability, in the third trimester or after a certain number of weeks. So this is already a rare procedure that is prohibited in much of the country.
When Clinton was running for the Senate in 2000, a debate moderator actually noted that in some states a woman can “choose to abort a child either six months into the pregnancy or perhaps almost up to birth.” The moderator asked whether the candidates supported a government saying there are circumstance under which an abortion is not permitted.
Clinton answered: “I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I’ve met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it’s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice.”
After she became a senator, Clinton opposed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003, which did not include a health exception. That law was later upheld by the Supreme Court. [The Washington Post, 4/1/16]
Media Have Previously Noted Pence’s Extreme Positions On Abortion And Reproductive Rights
NY Times: Pence Has A “Reputation As A Longstanding, Implacable, And Dogged Opponent Of Abortion.” Following Pence’s announcement as Trump’s running mate, The New York Times’ Monica Davey and Michael Barbaro noted his “reputation as a longstanding, implacable, and dogged opponent of abortion.” In the July 16 article, they argued that his “most enduring legacy is his unbending battle against abortion and his repeated willingness to test the boundaries of the law in seeking to limit it.” As an example, Davey and Barbaro pointed to Pence’s record as Indiana governor, where he “has signed anti-abortion measures every year he has been in office.” From The New York Times:
One by one, Republican women of the Indiana state legislature rose to describe, in anguished terms, why they could not support an anti-abortion measure hurtling toward passage.
They hated abortion, they said, but this bill went too far. It would have prohibited a woman from aborting a fetus because it had a disability, such as Down syndrome.
Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, waved off the objections of his fellow Republicans: He signed the legislation into law a few weeks later, enacting what advocates and foes agree was a sweeping and unusual set of restrictions on abortion that went further than any other state in the country and openly clashed with legal precedent.
Mr. Pence’s reputation as a longstanding, implacable and dogged opponent of abortion has made him a hero to the country’s cultural conservatives. Now that he is Donald J. Trump’s running mate, it puts him at odds with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and could complicate the party’s outreach to a decisive bloc of voters in the general election: women.
But to a powerful network of grass-roots activists, Mr. Pence’s most enduring legacy is his unbending battle against abortion and his repeated willingness to test the boundaries of the law in seeking to limit it.
He radiated anger over the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, Roe v. Wade, calling it in 2009 “the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott,” which found in 1857 that black slaves were property and not citizens.
And he repeatedly evoked what he said was the evil of the procedure itself — “nascent human life that is ended abruptly and in darkness.”
Since his election as governor, in 2012, he has signed anti-abortion measures every year he has been in office. Most copied the language of conservative state laws around the country, which made it harder for abortion clinics to operate and put new demands on women seeking the procedures, according to abortion rights advocates. [The New York Times, 7/16/16]
Chicago Tribune: Pence “Has Spent His Career In Opposition To Women’s Reproductive Rights.” The Chicago Tribune’s Rex Huppke notes that Pence “fought hard to defund Planned Parenthood” in Congress and that he even remarked, “‘I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history.’” Selecting Pence as vice president “suggests that Supreme Court justice picks under a Trump/Pence administration would be focused on overturning Roe v. Wade.” From the July 15 article:
The real estate mogul's routine sexism has already made him unpopular with female voters. And now he adds a vice presidential candidate who has spent his career in opposition to women's reproductive rights, including the signing of an anti-abortion law earlier this year that even some pro-life Republicans considered too harsh.
In June, a federal judge blocked the new Indiana law, which banned abortions sought because of genetic abnormalities and required burial or cremation services after either an abortion or a miscarriage.
While in Congress, Pence fought hard to defund Planned Parenthood and once said: "I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history."
Trump's opinions on abortion have varied, but Pence solidifies the ticket's anti-abortion stance and suggests that Supreme Court justice picks under a Trump/Pence administration would be focused on overturning Roe v. Wade.
Nothing helps a campaign struggling to win over female voters quite like a guy who thinks he knows what's best for women. [Chicago Tribune, 7/15/16]
Vox: “Mike Pence Launched Republicans’ War On Planned Parenthood.” On July 14, Vox’s Sarah Kliff recalled that Pence was the first congressman to introduce a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, in 2007, and that he “did so repeatedly through 2011, when it finally passed the House.” Before Pence became commited to the issue, “defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t something Congress talked about much at all.” Since Pence “opened up the floodgates,” the “House has now voted eight times to defund Planned Parenthood”:
As a member of Congress, Pence sponsored the first bill to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007 — and did so repeatedly through 2011, when it finally passed the House.
Pence worked doggedly on the issue before it rose to national prominence. Before that, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t something Congress talked about much at all.
After his first attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed — offered as an amendment to an appropriations bill in 2007 — he got to work setting the groundwork for future bills. He requested a Government Accountability Office report on how much money abortion clinics receive from the federal government to bolster his case.
Federal law already prohibits government spending from paying for abortions. But abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood have traditionally received money for other routine health care services they provide, like STD testing or annual exams to provide birth control.
But Pence felt like he could make it harder for Planned Parenthood clinics to provide abortions if they were losing their other revenue streams.
"What’s clear to me [is] if you follow the money, you can actually take the funding supports out of abortion," he says. "We then have a much better opportunity to move forward to be a society that says yes to life."
Pence sponsored an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, and it did pass — although not without causing turmoil at the time.
That vote essentially opened up the floodgates: The House has now voted eight times to defund Planned Parenthood. Legislators took up the fight with renewed vigor in 2015, when the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released sting videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials profiting off procuring fetal tissue for researchers. [Vox, 7/14/16]
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- Reproductive Rights, Health Care, Justice & Civil Liberties
- Fox News Channel
- Mike Pence, Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton, Tucker Carlson, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, Kellyanne Conway
- FOX & Friends, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Daily Caller, NewsMax.com, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Vox
- Abortion, 2016 Elections