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  • The Supreme Court just enabled fake health clinics to lie to patients

    Right-wing media are calling it a "win" for the First Amendment

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT & SHARON KANN

    On June 26, the Supreme Court decided National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra in favor of a network of fake health clinics. Right-wing media and anti-abortion organizations framed the decision as a “win” for the First Amendment, but those outlets (and even some more mainstream ones) ignored that these clinics are harmful and actively deceive people seeking abortions.

  • Must-read pieces about how anti-choice fake clinics manipulate pregnant people

    The Supreme Court "held that part of California's crisis pregnancy center disclosure law is unconstitutional and that another part is likely unconstitutional."

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On June 26, the Supreme Court decided NIFLA v. Becerra, a case involving a California law that curtails the deceptive practices of anti-abortion fake health clinics. The Court ruled against the California law regulating fake health clinics. The court "held that part of California's crisis pregnancy center disclosure law is unconstitutional and that another part is likely unconstitutional." Some outlets have recently published essential pieces about the tactics and negative impacts of these fake health clinics, which manipulate and mislead people seeking abortions in hopes that they will carry their pregnancies to term.

  • Crisis pregnancy centers hurt people, and it's time the media noticed

    In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear a case about regulating the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: On June 26, the Supreme Court decided NIFLA v. Becerra, ruling against the California law regulating fake health clinics. The court "held that part of California's crisis pregnancy center disclosure law is unconstitutional and that another part is likely unconstitutional." [Supreme Court, accessed June 2018; BuzzFeed News, 5/26/18]

    In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law requiring crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) -- anti-abortion organizations that erroneously represent themselves as comprehensive reproductive care clinics -- to inform patients about their eligibility for low-cost reproductive health services, including abortion. If previous abortion-related cases are any indication, before the Supreme Court even hears oral arguments, media will be inundated with attempts by abortion opponents to downplay CPCs’ deceptive tactics and instead promote CPCs as harmless institutions simply trying to protect their freedom of speech.

    On November 13, the Supreme Court agreed to hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a case that involves a California statute called the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act. Under California’s FACT Act, licensed CPCs are required to display a notice at their facility and in their advertising materials that states that California provides “immediate free or low-cost” reproductive services, which includes abortion. Unlicensed CPCs are required to post a notice that they are not a medical facility and do not have a medical professional doing on-site supervision. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) -- which represents both licensed and unlicensed CPCs in California -- challenged the law as a violation of their CPCs' free speech rights to not promote abortion or contraceptives. The lower courts ruled in favor of upholding the state law, and the case is now before the Supreme Court.

    Although the case will likely not be decided until summer 2018, right-wing media have already started to spin the California law as an attack on CPC’s free speech rights, as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson did during a November 15 segment of his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. According to Carlson, California is “forcing” CPCs “to provide information on how to get a state-subsidized abortion.” Carlson also incorrectly implied that CPCs should not be regulated because they are “not hurting anybody.”

    CPCs are deceptive organizations that often rely on fearmongering, deceptive advertising, and medical misinformation to scare or persuade individuals into continuing pregnancies. As proceedings around NIFLA v. Becerra ramp up in 2018, here are some of the harmful tactics and impacts of CPCs that media should not ignore.

    The impact and tactics of crisis pregnancy centers

    CPCs have a significantly negative impact on access to comprehensive reproductive health care

    CPCs fail to provide comprehensive reproductive health services

    CPCs don’t address the health care needs of those most requiring low-cost service

    CPCs employ a variety of tactics meant to deceive individuals seeking abortion

    Deceptive advertising

    In-clinic misinformation and tactics

    Media manipulation and outreach

    CPCs have a significantly negative impact on access to comprehensive reproductive health care

    CPCs fail to provide comprehensive reproductive health services

    CPCs often position themselves as providing a full set of comprehensive reproductive health care services. For example, The Weekly Standard wrote that CPCs have such services as “pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and testing for sexually transmitted infections,” “onsite prenatal programs,” and “material assistance” for low-income individuals. Similarly, abortion opponents often advocate that Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics are unnecessary because some CPCs provide identical or even better care for less money.

    In reality, many CPCs fail to provide the same range of services that Planned Parenthood and other clinics do -- and, yes, that list includes abortion. Broadly’s Callie Beusman detailed the services of one CPC in Hartford, CT, called Hartford Women’s Center, which provided “no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control,” although these were all services (in addition to abortion) available at the actual reproductive health clinic, Hartford GYN Center, next door. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) stated that CPCs “use deceptive practices to entice women into the center,” which “purposefully lead women to believe that they will receive comprehensive health information.” However, as NWLC’s explained:

    However, many of the over 4,000 CPCs in the United States have no licensed medical personnel and provide no referrals for birth control or abortion care. What is worse, they fail to disclose this to women who are seeking accurate and timely health information. Once women are in the door, CPCs then give misleading and false information about birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion care in order to stop women from using or obtaining these critical health care services. This undermines women’s ability to make informed decisions about their pregnancies.

    CPCs don’t address the health care needs of those most requiring low-cost services

    The inadequate care provided by CPCs exacerbates the lack of access to health services experienced by already vulnerable communities. This problem is compounded by the fact that some CPCs receive federal and state funding through both direct or indirect avenues, depriving programs dedicated to facilitating actual health care access of resources.

    As Reproaction’s Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt explained, “Not only do the individuals seeking information and services from crisis pregnancy centers suffer, communities as a whole pay the price.” As but one example, the authors pointed to Missouri where “funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are diverted to go toward the Alternatives to Abortion Program,” which allocates funding to CPCs. As they described, although Missouri “has the second-highest number of food-insecure residents in the country,” funds for TANF are instead diverted to the deceptive work of CPCs to the tune of $2 million in 2016 and at least $4.3 million in 2017. Missouri is not alone: When Vice President Mike Pence was governor of Indiana, he signed a contract giving part of the funding for TANF to the state’s Real Alternatives CPC program.

    Perhaps the most illustrative example of how CPCs can take millions in state funding without providing any comprehensive reproductive services for low-income people can be seen in the failure of The Heidi Group in Texas. In 2016, Texas awarded a $1.6 million contract to The Heidi Group -- an anti-abortion organization run by serial misinformer Carol Everett -- for the purpose of providing low-cost reproductive health care. As Rewire reported, “The Heidi Group had never before provided health care services,” and had “focused predominantly on supporting anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.” Unsurprisingly, despite promising to improve health care access, The Heidi Group directed the funding to CPCs, which were unable or unwilling to rise to the challenge. In 2017, the Associated Press reported that the efforts of The Heidi Group were “quietly sputtering” and that the organization had “little to show for its work.” As the Dallas Morning News stated, the group had “no fresh initiative of social media outreach, no overhaul of outdated clinic websites, no public service announcements, no 1-800 hotline to help low-income women find affordable services in their communities.” As a result, in August 2017, Texas took back some of the money awarded to The Heidi Group.

    Low-income individuals who rely on a CPC for either health care needs or material support could find that such services stop once they reach a certain point in pregnancy. Elite Daily spoke with one abortion clinic provider in Connecticut who detailed the story of a woman who went to a CPC and was “promised money, baby clothes, and furniture,” but “once she got to her 24th week of pregnancy, the point at which abortion is illegal in Connecticut,” the CPC “discontinued contact with her.” According to the provider, this situation was not “a rare occasion.”

    Beyond CPCs’ inconsistent support for low-income patients, some of these centers go out of their way to target communities of color. In a 2013 report, NWLC identified that some national associations of CPCs emphasize outreach to black communities because “of the high rates of abortion in certain communities” -- a statistic that gets used by abortion opponents to suggest that abortion providers are engaged in so-called “black genocide.” As NWLC explained, high rates of abortion are due to high rates of unintended pregnancy which “reflect widespread disparities in health outcomes and access to health care which are in turn influenced by social factors such as income, education, employment and earnings, and neighborhoods” -- inequalities not addressed by CPCs.

    Access to reproductive services is already complicated by recent attacks on Planned Parenthood funding, as well as wider clinic closures that “leave low-income women with few alternatives for reproductive and preventive health care.” In addition, because the Hyde Amendment restricts Medicaid funding for abortions except under limited circumstances, many low-income people are left without a means to pay for abortions, which can reach staggering out-of-pocket costs. As Jessica Arons, the former president of Reproductive Health Technologies explained, “Women of color are particularly burdened by the Hyde Amendment, as they are disproportionately represented among those living in poverty, enrolled in Medicaid and at the highest risk for unintended pregnancy.”

    CPCs employ a variety of tactics meant to deceive individuals seeking abortion

    Deceptive advertising

    CPCs begin their deception before people ever step into their clinics, using deceptive advertising to imitate abortion clinics.

    On November 8, the Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the Massachusetts attorney general about a CPC called Attleboro Women’s Health Center (AWHC), which the watchdog said “masquerades as an abortion clinic.” The complaint alleged that despite the AWHC not offering any abortion care, the website was full of misinformation suggesting otherwise:

    AWHC hosts a website, the home page of which includes tabs for “Abortion Pill” and “Surgical Abortion.” The site even lists costs for these services. Hidden in a different portion of the site is a disclaimer noting AWHC does not “offer, recommend, or refer for abortions or abortifacients.” In addition, the website is riddled with exaggerations and inaccuracies regarding abortion, listing psychological risks associated with abortion and advertising an abortion reversal option, all of which has been debunked by medical experts.

    As Rewire noted before the complaint was filed, AWHC’s website also contained “a near-verbatim repetition of the stated mission of the abortion clinic nearby: ‘to empower women to make informed decisions that support their privacy, dignity and self-respect.’” Later, AWHC deleted this passage and other misleading claims from its website.

    AWHC’s advertising and imitation tactics are, unfortunately, not an anomaly. In another striking example, the anti-abortion organization Human Coalition (which both supports and runs CPCs) centered its mission on using “internet search engine marketing” to target what it calls “abortion-determined” people in order to redirect them from abortion clinics to one of its CPCs. Human Coalition places ads on Google using “keywords” that people seeking abortions might use to locate a clinic, even though Human Coalition does not provide and will not refer anyone for an abortion. Those ads direct people to landing pages that have Human Coalition’s call center number, where Human Coalition employees then try to dissuade them from abortion. Although Human Coalition has become particularly adept at this tactic, Broadly detailed a similar practice used by Heartbeat International (HBI) -- a national association of CPCs. As Broadly found, in its “2014 annual report, HBI boasted that ‘a woman who makes a Google search such as “pregnant and scared” finds a local Heartbeat International affiliate or Option Line in her search,’” even though Heartbeat International’s CPCs do not perform or refer for abortions.

    Efforts to remove deceptive ads placed by CPCs have seen mixed results. A December 2017 investigation by Rewire found that in a Google search “for ‘abortion’ in 40 randomly selected mid-sized and major U.S. cities” there was “at least one anti-choice fake clinic ad nearly 40 percent of the time.” After Rewire reached out to Google with this information, “a Google spokesperson said it had taken down ads that violated its policy, but couldn’t say how many CPC ads it had removed.”

    Even if patients do find their way to an actual abortion clinic, some CPCs are still able to reach them with targeted advertising and misinformation. In 2016, it was reported that advertising firm Copley Advertising was using geofencing to target those on their phones at abortion clinics and send them ads for CPCs. (Geofences are technological "fenced-in" area that advertisers use to ping smartphones with ads when people enter those areas.) As Rewire explained, a national association of CPCs, RealOptions, hired Copley Advertising “to send propaganda directly to a woman’s phone while she is in a clinic waiting room,” a tactic that “presents a serious threat to the privacy and safety of women exercising their right to choose, as well as to abortion providers and their staff.” In April 2017, Massachusetts reached a settlement with Copley Advertising that prohibited the company from geofencing around clinics, although, according to Rewire, Copley operates in other states as well, and it is unclear whether it is still using geo-fencing in those states.

    In-clinic misinformation and tactics

    Once patients seeking or thinking about abortion come to a CPC, staff then try to coerce, scare, or deceive them into carrying their pregnancies to term. Amanda Schwartz, who works at a reproductive justice non-profit in West Virginia, wrote in HuffPost that CPCs “offer ‘counseling,’ which essentially consists of an untrained volunteer asking probing questions and pressuring the person to carry their pregnancy to term.” Schwartz said that CPCs have “also been known to separate people from their clothes or personal belongings to make it more difficult for them to leave, tell people abortion causes breast cancer (it doesn’t), encourage people not to abort because the likelihood of miscarrying is so high (generally speaking, it isn’t), ‘schedule’ someone for an abortion to keep them from seeking real care and so much more.” Caitlin Bancroft, an intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, experienced this situation first-hand when she went undercover at a CPC. As Bancroft wrote for HuffPost, the “counseling” given to her at a CPC consisted largely consisted of probing questions designed to determine how to best dissuade her from seeking an abortion:

    As I sat there having my life probed, the purpose of the questions dawned on me. In case the test was positive, my “counselor” wanted to know which tactic to use to persuade me to continue the pregnancy — exactly where my resolve was the weakest. Was there a loving Christian boyfriend who would make a great dad? Did I have kind supportive parents who would be excited by the idea of a grandchild? I knew I wasn’t pregnant — knew exactly what she was doing — knew she wasn’t a doctor. But my body reacted instinctively to her questions with guilt and shame. It felt like a kick in the gut when she asked if I had told my brother about the baby, and I felt a creeping sense of selfishness as I imagined the door slamming on my shared apartment, my twenties, my life. Would my parents want me to have this child? Would it matter?

    Other CPCs may attempt to position themselves as legitimate, licensed medical centers. As journalist Meaghan Winter wrote for Cosmopolitan, when “confronted with criticism that they are running deceptive fake clinics, pregnancy center directors have begun acquiring medical equipment and affiliating with doctors and nurses who share their ideological message,” a trend Winter says pregnancy center counselors describe as “going medical.” This approach “allows centers to market themselves as a trusted source for health advice” about the alleged “health risks of abortion.” These types of CPCs, Winter explained, “often operate under the direction of unlicensed staff … and the license of a physician who doesn’t actually see clients at the center.” The centers also “generally … only offer ‘limited ultrasounds,’ meaning they can only confirm a pregnancy, not diagnose.”

    Beyond “going medical,” CPCs have increasingly attempted to rely on so-called “scientific” research in order to deter individuals from having an abortion. Human Coalition uses its CPCs “as laboratories to test everything from marketing techniques and counseling strategies to what color to paint the walls.” These efforts also included an experiment focused on “increasing a client’s perception of her baby as a unique person” by having pregnant patients listen to a muffled Adele song -- imitating how it might be heard in utero -- to help “establish this maternal-fetal bond.” Another anti-abortion organization the Vitae Foundation uses research to “help Vitae better understand the psychological dynamics that motivate women to feel the way they do about abortion” and “learn how to better communicate with those who may support abortion as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy and move them to a more life-affirming position.” Vitae Foundation shares the resulting data with CPCs “across the nation.”

    Media manipulation and outreach

    Beyond manipulating targeted digital advertisements, CPCs also engage in outreach through both traditional and new media platforms to bolster legitimacy for their claims of being “health care” providers.

    In early 2017, Human Coalition succeeded in placing two op-eds in The New York Times that espoused anti-abortion viewpoints. Media Matters found that Human Coalition had significantly increased its staff’s media appearances during 2016 before the op-eds were even published in the Times. In an August 2017 interview with Urban Family Talk’s Stacy on the Right, Human Coalition’s public relations manager Lauren Enriquez explained about how they’ve “kept up our media presence” after the The New York Times op-eds and “are still working with any paper that’s really willing to post our view.”

    CPCs also attempt to use “new media” for outreach by creating either their own platforms, outlets, or applications. In one example, Heartbeat International created its own media outlet, Pregnancy Help News, when its reliance on traditional publications proved insufficient for spreading the group’s misinformation. In another instance, California-based CPC chain Obria Medical Clinic created an app called “Obria Direct.” Obria’s founder Kathleen Eaton Bravo told Eternal World Television Network’s Pro-Life Weekly, a program created and sponsored by anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, that “abortion today is on the smartphone.” Bravo said she saw Obria as a “brand” that serves as “an alternative to Planned Parenthood.” Since Planned Parenthood already has an app for its California affiliates called “Planned Parenthood Direct,” Obria’s branding suggests its app is meant to emulate or replace legitimate reproductive care resources.

    CPCs will deceive and the media should remember that

    It should be noted that not every CPC engages in every one of these tactics. But regardless of how a CPC brands itself, one thing remains clear: CPCs do not perform or refer for abortions, and they will try a variety of tactics to deter individuals from obtaining one. Abortion is a personal choice, and should be treated as an essential option of comprehensive health care. As the Supreme Court debates and decides NIFLA v. Becerra in 2018, the media should call out CPCs when they use deceptive tactics, and resist promoting the inevitable right-wing spin that free speech of such organizations is being unduly impeded.

  • "Late-term" abortion is made up and so is Doug Jones' so-called abortion "extremism"

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    After reports surfaced that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted and harassed several teenagers when he was in his 30s, right-wing media outlets rushed to characterize Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones as supporting “partial-birth” abortions, abortions up to the moment of birth, or so-called “late-term” abortions. Other outlets have adopted the right-wing media spin, claiming Jones is too “extreme” for Alabama voters.

  • Fox News is firing up the right-wing spin machine for the Supreme Court's new abortion case

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson fearmongered about a reproductive rights case that the Supreme Court just decided to hear -- signaling the start of another right-wing misinformation campaign about abortion.

    On November 13, the Supreme Court agreed to hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a case that involves a California statute called the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act. Under California's FACT Act, licensed crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) -- which are anti-abortion organizations that represent themselves as reproductive care clinics -- are required to display a notice at their facility and in advertising materials which states, “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women,” and directs people to call a number to determine if they qualify for such services. CPCs not licensed by the state of California are also required to post a notice stating that they are “not licensed as a medical facility” and that they have “no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) -- which represents both licensed and unlicensed CPCs in California -- challenged the law as a violation of CPCs' free speech rights to not promote abortion or contraceptives. The lower courts ruled in favor of upholding the state law and the case is now before the Supreme Court.

    The Supreme Court’s last major abortion case -- Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt -- involved a Texas law that placed, under the guise of supposedly protecting women’s health, medically unnecessary requirements on facilities that perform abortions. The Supreme Court ultimately found that the law created an undue burden on abortion access. While some outlets reported on the law’s substantial harmful effects after it caused many abortion facilities in Texas to close, right-wing outlets ignored its impact to push a myth that the measure was necessary to protect the health of those accessing abortion in the state.

    During a November 15 segment on the NIFLA v. Becerra case, Carlson defined California’s FACT Act as an attack on CPCs' freedom of speech -- rather than as a necessary restriction because many centers utilize deceptive tactics or medical misinformation to dissuade patients from having an abortion. During the segment, Carlson mischaracterized the law as “forcing” CPCs “to provide information on how to get a state-subsidized abortion” and said that it “would force pro-life centers to literally advertise and tell people who come in, ‘Hey, there is a free abortion waiting for you if you want one.’” Carlson also incorrectly implied that CPCs should not be regulated because they are “not hurting anybody.” Classifying facilities that offer abortion as part of “an industry,” Carlson said that the law “is really about an industry trying to shut down its opponents,” ultimately concluding that pro-choice advocates “worship” abortion “like a God.”

    Despite much grandstanding, Carlson failed to accurately describe either the factual basis of the California law or the nature of the lawsuit. (Carlson has a history of failing to accurately address abortion issues throughout his tenure as a prime-time Fox News host.) While Carlson described CPCs as “not hurting anybody,” they actually use multiple deceptive tactics to convince individuals to utilize their services, ultimately dissuading many considering abortion. A yearlong investigation by Cosmopolitan found CPCs “increasingly look just like doctor’s offices with ultrasound rooms and staff in scrubs. Yet they do not provide or refer for contraception or abortion. Many pregnancy-center counselors, even those who provide medical information, are not licensed.”

    As Teen Vogue reported, some CPCs also lie about state restrictions that prohibit abortion past a certain week of pregnancy and about the risks of abortions -- including making inaccurate claims that abortion makes a person infertile or causes breast cancer. Some CPCs also lie before people even get in the door -- posing as comprehensive reproductive care clinics or suggesting in their advertising that they offer abortion services or contraceptives, when in reality many CPCs provide neither. Some CPCs also receive direct funding from states. For example, Texas awarded a $1.6 million contract in 2016 to The Heidi Group, an organization led by anti-abortion extremist Carol Everett, for the purpose of providing low-income reproductive health services. Earlier this year, the Heidi Group was found to have failed to deliver on any of its proposals. On the federal level, Rewire found that the Trump administration has awarded “at least $3.1 million … to religiously affiliated organizations and crisis pregnancy centers.”

    Similarly, while Carlson decried the FACT Act as an attack on free speech, anti-abortion proponents have long pushed the so-called “informed” consent laws that often require medical providers to lie to patients about the risks of abortion, or provide them information with no basis in science, such as the viability of “abortion reversal” methods. Many have noted that if the Supreme Court's decision falls in favor of CPCs on free speech grounds, it could have unintended consequences for such efforts by the anti-choice movement. As Slate’s Dahila Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern wrote, “If the FACT Act falls ... it would not necessarily be an unmitigated victory for abortion opponents” given the number of deceptive “informed consent” laws that various states have already passed.

    Although the Supreme Court just agreed to hear NIFLA v. Becerra, Carlson’s segment demonstrates that right-wing media are already gearing up to push misinformation about the case and support CPCs' efforts to block abortion access.

  • Broadly highlights how crisis pregnancy centers promote misinformation instead of medical care

    “It’s reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith -- as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true.”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a May 30 article, Broadly’s Callie Beusman highlighted the “public health crisis” posed by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) -- anti-abortion organizations that represent themselves as reproductive care clinics, but that employ deceptive tactics and medical misinformation to mislead patients into continuing their pregnancies.

    According to Beusman, the recent opening of the Hartford Women’s Center, a CPC located “a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage,” is an entirely intentional decision by the anti-abortion organizers behind it. As Beusman explained, CPCs often “employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices” so that they can “bombard them with spurious information” until they either reject abortion or delay the decision long enough “to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination.”

    Beusman said NARAL described the consequences of allowing CPCs to supplant legitimate reproductive health and abortion care in many communities as a “public health crisis.” For example, despite appearing as a “legitimate family planning clinic on its surface,” Hartford Women’s Center in reality provided “none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control.”

    This is not uncommon. A year-long investigation by Cosmopolitan found that CPCs often “do not provide or refer [patients] for contraception or abortion” and that many employees, “even those who provide medical information, are not licensed.” According to Salon, in some cases, states directly fund CPCs to provide misleading information anti-choice in lieu of actual medical services. In one example, in 2016, Texas awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health program to anti-abortion extremist Carol Everett and her network of CPCs, The Heidi Group. In mid-March, The Dallas Morning News reported that despite being “armed with $1.6 million taxpayer dollars, the Heidi Group has delivered nothing.”

    As Beusman explained, “It's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.”

    From Broadly:

    Hartford Women's Center, which opened its doors for the first time this month, is the newest St. Gerard's location. It's a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage. This is very confusing, and intentionally so. Hartford Women's Center is what's known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), a term used to describe anti-abortion organizations whose sole purpose is to convince women to carry pregnancies to term, oftentimes by posing as legitimate reproductive health care providers.

    CPCs typically employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices. Once women are in their clutches, they bombard them with spurious information: that abortions are extremely painful and perilous, that ending an unwanted pregnancy may result in permanent psychological damage, that an abortion might not even be necessary because miscarriage is so common. In some cases, staff will even lie about the fetus' gestational age in order to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination. There are currently over 3500 CPCs operating in America, compared with around 800 abortion clinics.

    [...]

    Although Hartford Women's Center resembles a legitimate family planning clinic on its surface, it offers basically none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control. Women who end up in the center are told that abortion is murder, that several forms of contraception are also murder, and that choosing to terminate a pregnancy could have ruinous repercussions, including PTSD, breast cancer, and infertility. They're urged to carry their pregnancies to term and promised financial and emotional support if they choose to do so. (In addition to the services advertised on its card, St. Gerard's currently offers free baby clothing and diapers for women who enroll in its education program, social service referrals, and baptism preparation for infants and mothers alike.)

    [...]

    I do not doubt that numerous volunteers and "prayer warriors" who had flocked to the new St. Gerard's location genuinely felt they were doing the right thing: saving the mother from sin, saving the fetus from abortion. I think they believe all their own stories, the Biblical parables and anti-abortion propaganda materials alike. But it's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.

  • Media Should Be Reporting About The Consequences Of A Permanent Hyde Amendment

    Senate Approval Would Do More Than Extend This Anti-Choice Funding Rule -- It Would Make It Stricter, And More Harmful Than Ever

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Anti-choice lawmakers in Congress just voted to make abortion care even more inaccessible in the United States -- and the media should be reporting on the potential consequences of their efforts.

    The day after President Donald Trump issued an executive order to reinstate prohibitions on U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations from even mentioning abortion services to their international patients, 235 Republicans and three Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to further block domestic abortion access by making the Hyde Amendment permanent.

    The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding budgetary rider that has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have long called for further action to prevent taxpayers from funding abortions.

    If the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017” (HR 7), now passes the Senate, it would do more than extend the current restriction; it would also make the rule stricter and more harmful than ever. Media should be taking note.

    While some outlets such as Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, and Broadly have prominently highlighted HR 7’s negative impacts in their headlines -- emphasizing its disastrous consequences for low-income and already marginalized communities -- outlets like CNN, Fox News, and Buzzfeed have framed their coverage around the argument that the bill would prevent federal abortion funding. Here’s what they’re missing:

    1. The Hyde Amendment Would Now Be Permanent (And More Expansive) Law

    The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1977 and has since been extended as a budgetary rider to Medicaid appropriations bills. In practice, this has meant the House has had to vote to apply the rider to every funding bill. If HR 7 becomes law, anti-choice politicians would eliminate this step in the process and make the Hyde Amendment an automatic funding restriction that can be reversed only via future legislation.

    Plus, as permanent law, the ban would apply to more than just federal Medicaid funds. As Mother Jones explained, HR 7 also prohibits federal funds from contributing to any “health benefit plans that include abortion coverage.” Unlike in previous iterations of the Hyde Amendment, this version creates penalties for even private insurance plans obtained through non-religious companies that cover abortion care.

    As the Huffington Post reported:

    The bill also provides incentives for private health insurers to drop abortion coverage, bans abortion coverage in multi-state health insurance plans except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, and denies women and small businesses tax credits if they choose health plans that cover abortion.

    2. Abortion Providers And Public Facilities Would No Longer Be Able To Support Abortion Services

    In addition to targeting insurance coverage for abortion care, HR 7 also prohibits federally owned or operated facilities and federal employees from providing abortion services:

    “No health care service furnished—

    “(1) by or in a health care facility owned or operated by the Federal Government; or

    “(2) by any physician or other individual employed by the Federal Government to provide health care services within the scope of the physician’s or individual’s employment, may include abortion.

    The impact of the Hyde Amendment has previously been felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans. By expanding the restriction to include prohibitions on federally owned or operated facilities and providers, the bill’s authors have substantially curtailed the number of available care options for these populations. The Guardian explained:

    The bill would also convert a slew of existing, provisional bans on abortion coverage into permanent law. These include bans on abortion coverage for women on federal insurance, such as many Native American women, women in the Peace Corps, in federal prisons, or those enrolled in Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and prohibit the city of Washington DC from using its own local funds to subsidize abortion services.

    3. Low-Income And Marginalized Communities Were Already Disproportionately Impacted

    The Hyde Amendment has already created a significant barrier to accessing abortion care for low-income patients and those from marginalized communities. Given the number of economic and logistical barriers patients already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde Amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication to what is normally a safe procedure.

    In a statement to Refinery29, Destiny Lopez, the president of All* Above All -- a coalition of reproductive rights activists -- explained the dire consequences of HR 7 for low-income patients. She said:

    "Already, too many women are denied abortion coverage because of how much they earn: HR 7 is cruel and callous legislation that would make these discriminatory bans permanent law … This is all part of the Trump-Pence agenda to punish women.”

    Beyond low-income patients, women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    4. Blocking Abortion Access Doesn’t End Abortion -- It Just Makes It Less Safe

    Abortion is one of the safest and most common medical procedures. By making abortion care less accessible, anti-choice lawmakers don’t decrease the number of abortions -- they make abortion care overall less safe.

    According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Where abortion is legal, it is extremely safe. … In contrast, historical and contemporary data show that where abortion is illegal or highly restricted, women resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy.”

    * Image courtesy of Sarah Wasko

  • Of Course People Are Turning To Women's Magazines For Quality Political Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In the small world of politics and media Twitter, one of a few tropes emerged this year: astonishment -- isolated and seemingly brand-new each time -- when woman-centered outlets published high-quality political reporting and opinion pieces.

    When Teen Vogue ran a December 10 op-ed from weekend editor Lauren Duca headlined “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” this small, homogenous media world seemed shocked that a young woman could aptly write about both makeup and the psychological tactics of a dangerously deceptive political figure. It was as though young women and the stories they crave, or the whole of American life for that matter, cannot contain multitudes.

    As many women writers -- and especially women of color -- quickly pointed out, the Teen Vogue piece shouldn’t surprise anyone. Neither should it be shocking that, in September, Cosmopolitan set the standard for Ivanka Trump interviews when reporter Prachi Gupta asked Ivanka, who ostensibly spearheaded Donald Trump’s child care proposal, substantive questions about that policy and in the process revealed its many weaknesses. The “real” media figures who were surprised by the Teen Vogue opinion piece also might not have known that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have given multiple exclusive interviews to Essence, Ebony, Latina, and Teen Vogue over the years.

    What (mostly male) critics fail to recognize is that their reasons for dismissing women’s magazines actually form the foundation of those publications’ success. Magazines created by and for women audiences -- not to mention exclusively online outlets like Broadly, Refinery 29, The Establishment, and Jezebel -- inherently do things differently, and that’s their strength. They’re helmed by people who wouldn’t normally see their experiences depicted on the pages of papers of record. They’re also answering to an audience of women, especially young women and women of color, by finding ways to inject otherwise untold perspectives into the political discourse.

    This emphasis on giving platforms to those commonly excluded by dominant media narratives explains why Teen Vogue -- run by Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth, a millennial black woman, and digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, a 25-year-old gay man -- produces consistently dynamic reporting on the realities of the white supremacist and misogynist movement that calls itself the “alt-right.” It also explains why it reaches millions with personal stories of transgender teens affected by North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law, a young woman who got an abortion in Ohio, girls from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, and young female Muslim activists. (Teen Vogue also owes much to Rookie magazine, founded and edited by the 20-year-old Tavi Gevinson, which regularly publishes political stories focused on personal narrative, and earlier this year ran an exclusive reader Q&A with Hillary Clinton.)

    It explains why Latina magazine’s politics and culture editor, Raquel Reichard, has curated a strikingly personal collection of first-hand, narrative-driven accounts explaining how this year’s threats to abortion rights uniquely harm Latina communities.

    Essence and Ebony have been doing this work for decades, no doubt serving as critical models for the more recently developed political voices of traditionally whiter magazines like Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire. In the weeks since Trump’s election, Essence has consistently called out his cabinet picks for their connections to the racist “alt-right” movement and their histories of racist remarks. An Ebony opinion piece labeled the “alt-right” “white supremacy by any other name” and examined what Trump has said -- or refused to say -- about racial intimidation.

    Essence has also challenged mainstream praise of female conservative media figures who have benefited from white feminism, describing right-wing pundit Tomi Lahren as a “white supremacist fave” and warning of the media’s uncritical embrace of “repugnant and unapologetic racists” like Lahren and Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who the magazine says are “dangerous for black women.” What’s more, women’s magazine writers are not afraid to correctly identify rape culture, white supremacy, or outright lies when they see them. And Elle unequivocally stated that Ivanka Trump, who has been touted as the champion of women in her father’s administration, “will not fix ‘women’s issues’” and called out her “exceptionalist white womanhood.”

    In a year when women have been repeatedly attacked through legislation, on social media, and even by the president-elect of the United States, Cosmopolitan was unafraid to call the Twitter harassment of black actress Leslie Jones -- organized by bigoted, misogynist Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos -- a hate crime. Gupta’s October take-down of Donald Trump’s history of sexual harassment concluded, “Trump doesn’t seem to understand what harassment is or how it works.”

    This is the essential difference between women’s magazines and what are seen as more traditional outlets for political reporting: Women’s magazines are designed to speak -- directly and above all -- to women, particularly young women and women of color.

    As a collective group that frequently feels the impact of new state and federal policies before others and in highly magnified form, these women are craving the truth about how such policies come to be. And by and large, they aren’t finding it in mainstream political press outlets largely helmed by and written for white men, who forcibly construct a “both sides” argument where often one, frankly, does not exist.

    The success of women’s magazines underscores the fact that newsroom diversity -- in its most intersectional meaning -- is, in the words of CNN’s Tanzina Vega, “imperative to make sure your coverage is better, more nuanced and more accurate.” As Washington Post deputy general assignment editor Swati Sharma explained recently for Neiman Journalism Lab:

    A new administration is at foot, and with it nascent movements are growing across the country. How will those sentiments be accurately covered with empathy, nuance, and authenticity? We need people in those communities to capture the messages, the angst, the people who make up the groups.

    As we prepare for a new presidential administration that promises to be infinitely more hostile to both members of the press and the women who make up these magazines’ newsrooms and audience, the media figures who have expressed shock over high-quality political reporting by such publications might consider instead turning to them for a lesson in telling the full story.

    Graphic created by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • Cosmopolitan Set The Standard On Ivanka Trump Interviews

    Unlike ABC and Fox, Cosmopolitan Challenged Ivanka Trump On The Intricacies Of Her Father’s Child Care Plan

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & KATIE SULLIVAN

    After appearing alongside her father, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, while he announced his child care plan on September 13, Ivanka Trump sat for several interviews, including with ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News’ The Kelly File and Fox & Friends, and Cosmopolitan magazine. But only Cosmopolitan successfully asked important follow-up questions and challenged Trump on the apparent inconsistencies and inadequacies of her father’s plan.

    Ivanka Trump has become an important surrogate for her father, often stepping in to sanitize his outrageous remarks, particularly those about women. When critics pointed out the GOP nominee’s misogyny, Ivanka described him as a “fighter” for women and an “equal opportunity offender,” and after her father offered a victim-blaming defense of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, who was ousted from Fox following a sexual harassment lawsuit, she went on Fox to claim that the Trump Organization has “a very strong HR team … who is equipped to deal with these issues if they arise.” As The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum explained, Trump has chosen to “deodorize the stink of her father’s misogyny, to suggest that because he loves her that means he loves women -- to erase the actual policies he supports.”

    This was the role ABC and Fox allowed Ivanka Trump to play.

    Donald Trump’s child care plan lacks details on how it would be funded, and while Fox’s Megyn Kelly and Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt asked Ivanka about the fiscal aspects of the plan, they settled for her answer that everything would be clarified in her father’s September 15 economic speech. Both Fox interviews were fawning, with Kelly marveling at Trump’s (millionaire) working-mother status -- “I don’t know how you do it” -- and Earhardt focusing part of the 10-minute interview on Trump’s relationship with her father: “Tell me some stories. What’s he like? And what do the kids call him?” Kelly also let Trump get away with the lie that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton does not have a child care policy on her website.

    ABC’s Amy Robach did question Trump on why her father’s plan excludes paternity leave, and she clarified that Clinton does have a child care plan on her website. But she also allowed Ivanka to push her talking points unchallenged and say the Trump Organization offers paid maternity leave and adoption leave for all of its employees, a claim that Trump employees are now challenging.

    It was Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta who successfully challenged Trump by questioning specifics of her father’s plan, like the fact that it doesn’t include same-sex parents when both of the partners are men. She also brought up (and readily provided the source for) Donald Trump’s 2004 statement that pregnancy is inconvenient for business. Gupta thoroughly questioned the financial feasibility of Trump’s child care plan by pointing out that the Republican candidate has promised both tax cuts and increases in infrastructure spending, while also saying he wants to build a border wall. Politico and Vox reported on Ivanka’s interview with Cosmopolitan, noting that she accused “the writer of ‘editorializing’ and instilling ‘hostility’” in her questions and pointing out that she got “combative” after being challenged.

    Nussbaum’s article about Ivanka’s speech at the July Republican National Convention highlighted that Ivanka has “stepped forward to blind female voters to who her father is and what he stands for.” Gupta defied this spin, and her Cosmopolitan interview got in Ivanka’s way as she tried to sanitize her father’s record, while exemplifying that women’s magazines and websites have been an undervalued asset in political coverage.

  • Conservative Media Attack Cosmopolitan For Highlighting The Issue Of Women And Gun Violence

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media are attacking Cosmopolitan magazine for working in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety to run a feature highlighting the dating issues surrounding gun ownership and domestic violence. Conservative media attacked the feature, comparing it to anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda and labeling it a "war on men with guns" while saying Cosmo wants its readers to be "slutty and defenseless." Several conservative media critics expressed skepticism that Cosmo was capable of publishing serious reporting.