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  • 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.

  • Right-wing media are filling a void of abortion-related coverage with misinformation

    Fox News is dominating the conversation about abortion on evening cable news -- and the network is doing it all wrong

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that Fox News dominated discussions of abortion and reproductive rights and that the network was wrong about four common abortion-related topics 77 percent of the time.

  • 60 Minutes’ interview with Stormy Daniels airs tonight. Here are 5 ways conservative media figures have attacked or downplayed her story.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, recorded an interview about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to air tonight on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Since she first came forward, some conservative media figures have chosen to attack her or to minimize her story.

    According to Daniels, she and Trump had an affair in 2006. She first gave an interview about the affair in 2011 with In Touch Weekly, but it was only published in full earlier this year. While Trump has denied the affair took place, one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just a month before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump and Daniels have recently sued one another over the 2016 agreement.

    Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered legal action to stop the broadcast of Daniels’ pre-recorded 60 Minutes interview, which will air tonight on CBS. And in recent weeks, some conservative media figures have also run defense for the president.

    Smearing Daniels over her adult film career

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Daniels is a “washed up porn star.”

    [Gateway Pundit, 3/6/18]

    CNN conservative political commentator Jason Miller: “I think it is clear that Ms. Clifford is trying to essentially launch a second act to her career now.”

    CNN guest Michael Caputo: “Let's not forget, this is a woman who gets paid for sex wanting more money.”

    Telling other media outlets they shouldn’t be giving Daniels’ story much attention

    Fox host Sean Hannity dubbed CNN president Jeff Zucker the “‘porn king’ of cable news” for coverage of Daniels. Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity lashed out at CNN for covering Daniels’ allegations against Trump, calling CNN president Jeff Zucker the “porn king” of cable news. He also called CNN’s “non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels” a “new obsession” of “basically soft-core pornography.” [Hannity.com, 3/23/18]

    Fox media critic Howard Kurtz suggested other media outlets were devoting too much coverage to Daniels and accused them of being “rather gleeful in covering these stories.”

    Conservative talk radio host Mark Simone: “Media [are] now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election” by covering Daniels.

    [Twitter, 3/11/18]

    Accusing Daniels of faking evidence

    Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl pointed to one photo to claim Daniels’ reported polygraph test was fake. NBC News acquired a report of a 2011 polygraph test Daniels took about her relationship with Trump, which came with a sworn declaration from the examiner about its authenticity. According to NBC, “the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006.” Jacob Wohl of The Washington Reporter used an image taken from a video of the polygraph test to claim it was fake.

    [NBC News, 3/20/18; Twitter, 3/21/18]

    Downplaying the relevance of the interview

    Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen: Conservative Christians will stand by Trump because he keeps his promises to them. Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended conservative Christian supporters of President Trump from accusations of hypocrisy for violating their espoused values because he “does have one moral quality that deserves admiration: He keeps his promises.” From Thiessen’s March 23 FoxNews.com column:

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to defend religious liberty, stand up for unborn life and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly what he promised. The abortion-rights lobby NARAL complains that Trump has been "relentless" on these fronts, declaring his administration "the worst .?.?. that we've ever seen." That is more important to most Christian conservatives than what the president may have done with a porn actress more than ten years ago.

    [...]

    No one upholds Trump as moral exemplar. He is not the most religious president we have ever had, but he may be the most pro-religion president. Christian conservatives are judging Trump not by his faith, but by his works. And when it comes to life and liberty, his works are good. [FoxNews.com, 3/13/18]

    National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson: “People knew the accusations against the president” but didn’t care about them. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about Daniels upcoming 60 Minutes interview, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson said conservative Christians just don’t care that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife Melania:

    "Christians want the president to be pastoral. We like that but that isn't really the job assignment," National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson told CBN News. "People knew the accusations against the president before he was elected and they said, 'Actually, we care about security. Actually, we care about the economy.' "

    Johnson added that Christians "should identify with Christ" before any politician and called his vote in the 2016 election a "prudential" one. "You've got to vote. You have a choice. Who are you going to vote for?" Johnson said. "I voted for Mr. Trump. I don't regret that vote. I don't think Christians who voted for him regret that vote. We knew this was in the past, but his job is to keep us safe and to keep the government out of the way of business so the economy can grow and I think he's doing that." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Anti-gay hate group Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins: Trump’s behavior was in the past. Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, also told CBN that Trump’s past behavior doesn’t matter because he’s keeping political promises he made to conservative Christians:

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, echoed the same sentiment to CBN News and said Trump should be judged on his behavior and accomplishments in office.
     
    "To date, what has the president done?" Perkins asked. "The president has not engaged, to our knowledge, and I think we would know, in any of the behavior that he did in the past, prior to the election. What he has done is he's actually followed through on political promises." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Barely mentioning Daniels’ alleged affair with Trump

    In early through mid-March, Fox News barely mentioned Daniels’ story. The news explainer website Vox examined cable news transcripts and found Fox News has barely even mentioned Daniels’ name, especially compared to its main competitors.

    [Vox, 3/21/18]