Abortion

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  • Trump's appointees are promoting anti-choice “alternative science” ripped from right-wing media

    LA Times describes appointees as “the four horsewomen of disinformation” on abortion and contraception

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion -- policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

    In a June 14 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Law School professor R. Alta Charo, who focuses on the law and bioethics, wrote about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council. Charo lamented that these appointments exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

    In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” Most alarmingly, Charo told Hiltzik that these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

    For example, Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at DHHS and the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United For Life, has a long history of misinforming on contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an assertion that Charo explained “will only encourage the alarming pattern of state legislation requiring physicians to provide this misinformation in the name of ‘informed consent.’”

    Similarly, Teresa Manning, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at DHHS, is a former legislative analyst for the hate group Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee. Although Manning doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. As Charo noted, there is ample evidence that “hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.”

    Trump’s recent appointment of Valerie Huber to serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health is problematic given the department’s oversight of adolescent health programs. As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. Indeed, as multiple studies have found, abstinence-only sex education failed to prevent a long-term delay in sex or teen pregnancy, and, in some cases, actually led to a decrease in the use of condoms or contraception, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, which is not supported by the majority of scientific studies. To demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence behind Talento’s claims, Charo pointed to an article Talento had written in which she incorrectly cited a study to claim birth control is “breaking your uterus.”

    According to Charo, misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. Such rewriting of science, Charo claimed, is not done by “reasonable people” for they “may disagree about how to interpret data, but they do not ignore scientific method by giving credence to flawed, fraudulent, or misrepresented studies.”

    Although the appointment of these anti-choice stalwarts may be recent, the misinformation they advance is nothing new in the world of right-wing media. Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. During the 2016 election, Fox News also alleged multiple times that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported “partial-birth” abortion, a term that has no medical basis and was, in fact, invented by anti-abortion groups to demonize people seeking medically necessary late-term abortions. Similarly, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives relied heavily on claims from anti-abortion groups that were promoted as credible evidence by right-wing media.

    Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country.

  • HBO’s Vice News Tonight shows the reality of living in a state with just one remaining abortion clinic

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On June 12, HBO’s Vice News Tonight highlighted the struggles abortion providers and patients face in the seven states with only one abortion clinic remaining. In particular, by allowing providers to speak in their own words about what it’s like to operate in a one-clinic state, HBO shined a light on the consequences of dwindling abortion access across the country.

    During the June 12 edition of Vice News Tonight, abortion providers in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Mississippi discussed the challenges of operating the single remaining abortion clinic in their states. Although Vice News had previously profiled these clinics, the June 12 segment gave providers an even larger platform.

    For example, several providers underscored the pivotal role their clinics play for patients seeking abortion services and other forms of essential health care. Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said, “We’re resolute that we must stay open because if we’re not there, there is no one to take care of the women in our state and in our community.” Shannon Brewer, the clinic director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, MS, said that her clinic must stay open because people “have nowhere else to go. They can go to neighboring states, but why should they have to?”

    Research echoes these clinic directors’ comments about impact of abortion restrictions in their one-clinic states. The greatest burden of anti-choice restrictions is faced by already marginalized groups, particularly low-income individuals and people of color. These patients and others seeking an abortion in one-clinic states may have to travel great distances to even reach the clinic in their state. As The Daily Beast explained, in the center of the country, where "roughly 400,000 women of reproductive age" live, they have to travel at least 150 miles to get to the nearest clinic.

    In other cases, patients may be forced to travel to another state for abortion care. Before even getting to the clinic, however, those seeking an abortion will face any number of economic and logistical barriers -- including the cost for transportation and childcare, and the loss of income caused by taking time off work. This is further complicated in states with mandatory waiting periods, which force patients to not only take multiple days off work but also to arrange several trips to the clinic.

    Along with the burdens placed on patients, abortion providers face elevated threats of violence in states with one clinic remaining. Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic director and owner of Red River Women’s Clinic in North Dakota, told Vice News Tonight that the first abortion provider in the state faced threats from protesters coming to her home. As Ms. Magazine explained, the threat of violence against abortion providers means that sometimes when physicians leave a clinic, there is no one to replace them and the clinic must close. Nevertheless, right-wing media continue to push violent rhetoric against abortion providers and spread misinformation about abortion safety.

    With many states continuing to consider and pass abortion restrictions -- as well as the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood at the federal level -- more states may join the seven HBO highlighted, with just one clinic left to serve their entire population.

  • 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.

  • What Iowa media can teach others about covering the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the wake of one-third of the Planned Parenthood clinics closing in the state, Iowa newspapers have rejected right-wing media talking points in favor of fact-based analyses about the limited capacity of so-called alternatives to the shuttered facilities. Iowa’s print media outlets are not only emphasizing the dire consequences of losing Planned Parenthood in many communities, but they are also modeling how other local media should handle politically motivated attacks on essential reproductive health care. 

    On May 12, then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) signed a budget rejecting at least $3 million in federal Medicaid family planning funds in order to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state’s reproductive health program. Days later, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced that as a result of the measure, the organization would close four of its 12 clinics -- upending the primary health care system in the state.

    Anti-choice lawmakers, and the coalition of anti-abortion groups behind them, have celebrated these closures by repeating several anti-abortion myths. They’ve particularly highlighted the supposed existence of plentiful alternatives to Planned Parenthood and the defeat of the right-wing-media-fueled fever dream of “taxpayer-funded abortion.”

    A Media Matters analysis of three of the state’s largest circulation papers (The Des Moines Register, The Gazette, and Quad-City Times) found that Iowa print media are refusing to buy the myths right-wing media have been selling and thus providing a model for other media outlets in states whose essential reproductive health care will come under attack in the coming months. Already, Planned Parenthood has been forced to announce anticipated clinic closures in California, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

    Outside of Iowa, anti-choice lawmakers and right-wing media have argued that Planned Parenthood should be defunded in order to prevent taxpayer money from subsidizing abortion services. In reality, because of the Hyde Amendment, federal funds are expressly forbidden from supporting abortion care -- much to the detriment of low-income patients and those from marginalized communities. Although some anti-abortion advocates argue that the “fungibility” of money means any funds given to Planned Parenthood contribute to abortion, this logic is deeply flawed. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte explained, “Since medical services are billed and funded individually, that's not actually how this works.”

    Instead, Planned Parenthood has long received reimbursements via Medicaid for non-abortion services provided to low-income patients. Nevertheless, anti-choice lawmakers have demanded that funds be shifted to “community health centers” (CHC), which they argue can absorb patient demand.

    Experts argue this is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.” In a May 17 report, Kinsey Hasstedt of the Guttmacher Institute explained that although CHCs and other “federally qualified health centers” (FQHC) play “an important part” in providing contraceptives and other essential care, “they cannot be expected to deliver contraceptive care to the large numbers of women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood” and “to suggest otherwise willfully oversimplifies the considerable challenges FQHCs would face in doing so.”

    As Planned Parenthood comes under attack across the country, here’s what other media outlets can learn from The Des Moines Register, The Gazette, and the Quad-City Times.

    1. Demand specifics about clinics that can supposedly replace Planned Parenthood’s facilities

    Iowa papers have dismantled claims by anti-choice lawmakers about the availability of care without Planned Parenthood’s clinics and lambasted them for failing to provide a list of even potentially feasible alternatives in a transparent way.

    On May 26, the Quad-City Times editorial board mocked the lack of a publicly available list of alternatives, writing that while “Iowa’s GOP-run Legislature achieved its ultimate goal,” it “didn’t even try to fake it by rolling out some half-baked list of alleged alternatives.” The Times continued:

    The timing was especially astounding, as the lawmakers spent this year's session hacking and slashing to plug budgetary holes. Defunding Planned Parenthood will cost Iowa $3 million in federal funds this year. Another $3.3 million will be spent creating a state-run program to, feasibly, make up for the self-inflicted shortfall of women's health care providers.

    It's that yet-to-be drafted list that's at the heart of the matter. Four clinics across the state are closing. Many states that have tried similar attacks on a woman's access to health care at least attempted to compile other options. Not in Iowa. Lawmakers just did it blind and directed the state Health Department to force reality into their partisan narrative somewhere down the line.

    In January, the editorial board of Iowa’s Des Moines Register responded to the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood with a warning that lawmakers should answer specific questions about alternative providers and the particular services they were equipped to deliver before eliminating support for the organization. 

    This is sound advice, and in fact, exemplifies the kind of reporting local outlets should be doing in response to threats to defund essential health care in their communities. Unsurprisingly, given this earlier push for accountability, the Register followed up with an investigation of so-called replacement clinics. In a May 27 piece, the Register’s editorial board modeled how local news outlets can easily debunk the myth that other clinics can fill in for the loss of Planned Parenthood’s clinics:

    Republicans said more than 200 clinics statewide could fill any void left if Planned Parenthood clinics closed. This number was apparently derived from information provided by the Iowa Department of Human Services.

    The Register editorial board obtained the list of 219 clinics from the agency on Monday.

    One "behavioral health center" in Leon filled 11 spots on the spreadsheet. We took the liberty of assuming that entity would not be offering cervical cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and other medical services provided by Planned Parenthood. So we eliminated that one.

    Then we decided to call three of the remaining 208, selecting providers in areas where Planned Parenthood clinics are closing.

    First up was Wayne Mercy Medical Clinic, which the list identified as being located in Sioux City. The woman who answered the phone said the clinic changed its name years ago, was not affiliated with Mercy and was not even located in Iowa; it's in Nebraska and about an hour’s drive from Sioux City.

    Next we called Mediapolis Clinic in West Burlington. It does not provide long-acting, reversible contraception, including birth control implants and IUDs, which are the method of choice for nearly 12 percent of contraceptive users nationally. Sutherland Mercy Medical Clinic in Sioux City said it did not provide those either.

    In fact, none of Mercy Health Network’s 108 family practice clinics across the state, including those on the list provided by DHS, will provide any type of long-acting birth control.

    [...]

    So now that four clinics that served nearly 15,000 patients over the last three years are closing, the Republicans who insisted there would be "more access" to family planning services should compile and distribute a reliable, accurate list of where women can go for those services.

    Building on this momentum, other local media did similar reporting, such as the Des Moines CBS affiliate, KCCI 8, which ran a story in which reporter Todd Magel tried to contact many of the so-called “other clinics” pointed to by state lawmakers. Magel found that few of the clinics referenced in the list of FQHCs provided “reproductive medical care and screenings” like Planned Parenthood does and that the lawmaker’s alternatives included a school “nurse’s office,” “a dentist’s office,” and “a homeless shelter.”

    2. Include statistics about the loss of coverage and highlight the disproportionate impact closures have on low-income communities

    Beyond emphasizing the lack of transparency from lawmakers, Iowa papers also relied on ample statistics to highlight exactly who was hurt by the closure of Planned Parenthood’s clinics in the state.

    For example, Chelsea Keenan of The Gazette began a May 19 article with the information that “more than 14,600 people” would be impacted once Planned Parenthood closed “one-third of its Iowa clinics.” She also wrote about the specific number and types of services people would lose without the essential health care provider:

    The budget discontinues a federal Medicaid waiver that, since its creation in 2006, has helped more than 80,000 Iowa women receive Pap smears, birth control and cancer screenings through the Iowa Family Planning Network, including more than 12,000 last year. The waiver helps extend reproductive health services to men and women who due to income often fall in the gap between private insurance and Medicaid eligibility.

    [...]

    Planned Parenthood — which said loss of funding through the Family Planning Network amounted to about $2 million — administered services to more than 30,000 Iowans last year, with nearly 50 percent of its patients at or below the federal poverty level.

    The Quad-City Times also lamented that “per usual, it is impoverished women who will pay more than their share of the bill.” The editorial board continued:

    Medicaid, mind you, provides health care for the poorest Iowans. It's already foundering in Iowa since last year's privatization. President Donald Trump has targeted Medicaid for deep cuts in his draft budget.

    [...]

    Yet, it's these patients to whom Planned Parenthood brought otherwise out-of-reach gynecological care. They're a population with an abnormally high risk for sexually transmitted diseases. They're less likely to receive regular gynecological exams. They're at substantially greater risk for unwanted pregnancy.

    Women across the socio-economic strata relied on Planned Parenthood. But, suddenly, those in the lower tiers are destined to have fewer options.

    To these women, Iowa just said, "Tough."

    3. Use empirical case studies about the consequences of losing Planned Parenthood

    Finally, several Iowa papers drew on empirical case studies from what happened in other states when anti-choice lawmakers sacrificed their constituents’ health in order to engage in political attacks on Planned Parenthood.

    As the Register’s William Petroski noted, Texas’ exclusion of Planned Parenthood from its reproductive health safety net “resulted in a significant increase in births among low-income women who lost access to birth control, according to a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine." 

    The Gazette’s Keenan also reported on the similarities between Texas’ ill-fated plan to replace Planned Parenthood and the beginning stages of the same situation in Iowa. She wrote:

    Starting in 2011, Texas took steps to bar abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from participating in a program aimed at giving low-income women family planning services. It’s a move that, in the years following, research has shown hurt the state’s family planning safety net.

    The funding changes forced dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics there to close in 2012, according to researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which studies the effects of family planning funding cuts and restrictions.

    Those that have remained open have reduced their hours, patient loads and available services.

    Research by the Guttmacher Institute shows that Texas’ family planning program in 2013 served less than one-quarter of the women it helped in 2011. And that care became more expensive when you take knowledgeable providers out of the network — the cost to the state to provide family planning care jumped from $206 per client to $240.

    The Gazette’s Lynda Waddington explained the negative effects of a similar decision in Indiana when then-Gov. Mike Pence eliminated funding for the provider:

    Former Indiana Gov. and current Vice President Mike Pence declared a 2015 public emergency in his state due to HIV outbreaks. The county at the epicenter of the problem had been without a testing center since 2013, when the local Planned Parenthood clinic closed.

    Just like three out of the four Iowa clinics now caught in the GOP’s defunding snare, the Indiana facility did not offer abortion services — none of the five Indiana clinics forced to close offered abortions, but they all provided HIV testing. Instead of being able to rely on ongoing prevention efforts provided by those local clinics, Indiana taxpayers took on the added cost burden of erecting pop-up clinics. Worst of all, Indiana residents needlessly suffered.

    As attacks on Planned Parenthood continue, media can look to Iowa’s local media as an example of how to interrogate lawmaker’s claims about so-called alternatives and make clear the consequences when communities lose access to essential health care.

  • Tucker Carlson ignores court order, hypes video that stokes harassment of abortion providers

    Carlson: “Some might think” that “if there was ever a time for civil disobedience,” sharing this footage “would be the time”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the May 31 edition of Tonight with Tucker Carlson, host Tucker Carlson and his guest, anti-choice extremist Lila Rose, promoted yet another smear video from the discredited Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- despite a federal judge’s order that the footage be removed from the internet out of concern for abortion providers’ safety.

    On May 25, anti-choice and right-wing media circulated an unlisted YouTube link to a smear video from CMP. Although CMP was ultimately forced to remove the video -- which violated a court order -- right-wing media outlets and personalities quickly re-posted it in full and urged followers to watch.

    In February, federal Judge William Orrick extended a preliminary injunction for the duration of ongoing legal proceedings against CMP, barring the release of any footage depicting National Abortion Federation (NAF) members or meetings. In the decision, Orrick explained that this injunction was necessary, writing, “It is not speculative to expect that harassment, threats, and violent acts will continue to rise if defendants were to release NAF materials.”

    Ignoring the substance of the order and the serious threat of anti-choice violence, Carlson and Rose attacked Orrick and called for the barred footage to be spread.

    Rose noted that by asking for a protective order, NAF had merely demonstrated that it was “very afraid of what is on these tapes” -- rather than afraid for the lives of its members. Rose also argued that actions like Orrick’s’ were having “a chilling effect right now on journalism.” Carlson claimed that Orrick was biased and had “ordered that the video be suppressed, saying, in effect, the First Amendment doesn’t exist.” He asked, “How in the world, and in what country, could a judge unilaterally decide that you’re not allowed to show them?”

    In reality, media experts have agreed that CMP’s work is not journalism -- despite right-wing media claims to the contrary. In fact, in Orrick’s February ruling, he detailed why CMP’s efforts “thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity,” noting that CMP founder David Daleiden did not “-- as Daleiden repeatedly asserts -- use widely accepted investigatory journalism techniques” (emphasis added):

    The context of how defendants came into possession of the NAF materials cannot be ignored and directly supports preliminarily preventing the disclosure of these materials. Defendants engaged in repeated instances of fraud, including the manufacture of fake documents, the creation and registration with the state of California of a fake company, and repeated false statements to ... numerous NAF representatives and NAF members in order to infiltrate NAF and implement their Human Capital Project. The products of that Project – achieved in large part from the infiltration – thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions (at least with respect to the NAF materials) of criminal misconduct. Defendants did not – as Daleiden repeatedly asserts – use widely accepted investigatory journalism techniques. Defendants provide no evidence to support that assertion and no cases on point.

    During Carlson and Rose’s discussion, Carlson failed to mention anti-choice violence -- an omission that is not uncommon among prime-time cable news hosts. A recent Media Matters study found that during 12 months of coverage about abortion and reproductive rights, only four segments out of a total 354 on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN even mentioned the topic.

    Even before this latest example, Fox News has readily given a platform to CMP’s claims and ignored or downplayed the threat of anti-choice violence.

    Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (ousted earlier this year after public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues) spent years spreading misinformation about reproductive rights and openly bullying abortion providers. A frequent target of O’Reilly’s invective was Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009 by anti-choice extremist Scott Roeder. O’Reilly often referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was “a special place in hell for this guy.” May 31 marked the eighth anniversary of Tiller’s murder.

    In April, Fox’s The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld -- who moved to prime time after O’Reilly’s departure -- encouraged anti-choice advocates to engage in violence to protect their views, saying, “If you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” over the issue.

    During the May 31 segment on Tonight with Tucker Carlson, Carlson claimed he was “proud” to elevate the barred footage and said people have the right to “say what you think is true.” Although he hedged on the issue somewhat, saying that he was not “advocating for this,” he strongly implied that the footage should be shared in spite of the court order because “if there was ever a time for civil disobedience, it seems like some might think this would be the time.”

    Meanwhile, incidents of targeted harassment of abortion providers, patients, and clinics continue to rise. According to a recent report from NAF, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats” as well as “an escalation in hate speech and internet harassment, which intensified following the election in November.”

    There is a real risk to circulating this footage. In 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people and injuring nine more. After his arrest, Dear used the statement “no more baby parts” -- a phrase that Fox News and Fox Business had used more than any other network between the release of CMP’s first video and the Colorado attack. Furthermore, as the New Republic noted, “The narratives [Dear] learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites meshed perfectly with his paranoid delusions, misogynist beliefs, and violent fantasies.”

    Although Carlson, Rose, and many anti-choice outlets are protesting the removal of CMP’s latest video as “censorship,” Orrick has already refuted claims about the supposed public value of these videos and demonstrated why such a protective order was necessary in the first place. By not only elevating the barred footage, but also encouraging viewers to actively spread it themselves, Fox News is engaging in dangerous and irresponsible behavior.

  • Fox News uses Planned Parenthood's annual report as an excuse to dredge up every lie they could

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Planned Parenthood recently released its annual report detailing the number of people who use its comprehensive services, as well as how much support it receives from the federal government in the form of reimbursements for non-abortion care. America’s Newsroom host Shannon Bream and guest Mercedes Schlapp, a Fox contributor, used the release of the report to advance debunked myths circulating in right-wing media about Planned Parenthood.

    In the May 31 segment on Planned Parenthood’s annual report, Bream mentioned that federal money could be redirected from Planned Parenthood to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), which “don’t do abortions but handle 20 times the patients that Planned Parenthood does.” Schlapp, a GOP strategist, agreed, stating that taxpayer money should not go to Planned Parenthood when FQHCs “provide more and better comprehensive services for women.” In reality, FQHCs cannot adequately replace the services that Planned Parenthood clinics currently provide.

    As the annual report details, millions of people use Planned Parenthood as their essential care provider, including for contraceptive services which are often not provided by all FQHCs. Previously, the Guttmacher Institute had reported that the contraceptive services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics are more accessible than those offered by FQHCs. In addition, Guttmacher also found that FQHCs will not be able to handle the influx of patients seeking contraceptive services if Planned Parenthood is defunded as “it would mean taking on an additional two million contraceptive clients currently served by Planned Parenthood.”

    Bream and Schlapp’s argument is based on the idea that taxpayers do not want to fund Planned Parenthood because some clinics in this network provide abortions. But under the Hyde Amendment, taxpayer money does not go to abortion, even though Fox news has frequently pushed this myth in the past. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from paying for abortion, except in extremely limited circumstances (creating substantial burdens on low-income women who are forced to pay for abortions out-of-pocket).

    Bream also brought up the discredited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) showing deceptively edited conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and other abortion providers. Since the videos were released, Bream has often given the group’s misinformation a platform. In the May 31 segment, Bream misleadingly referred to the CMP videos as prompting charges of Planned Parenthood affiliates. In reality, Planned Parenthood has been repeatedly cleared of any wrongdoing. Instead, CMP founder David Daleiden has been frequently embroiled in legal disputes for his part in the CMP videos, and he might be charged with contempt for the recent release of videos barred by an injunction.

    Since Planned Parenthood released this year’s report, the claims Bream and Schlapp pushed have been circulating on other right-wing media outlets as well. This conservative echo chamber ignores basic truths about the services Planned Parenthood provides, especially for its low-income clients. During the America’s Newsroom segment, guest Leslie Marshall, a Fox contributor and syndicated radio host, attempted to clarify the importance of Planned Parenthood, but seems to have been somewhat deterred by a disfunctioning ear piece.

    By treating Planned Parenthood's annual report as if it contained evidence of illicit activities, Fox News furthered a specious narrative that has real consequences for people's access to reproductive health care.

  • Meet The Anti-Abortion Group The NY Times Can’t Seem To Quit

    Human Coalition’s Founder Calls It “One Of The Larger” Anti-Abortion Groups That “No One Has Ever Heard Of”

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    Since January, The New York Times has published two op-eds by the anti-choice organization Human Coalition denouncing abortion access and care. Using big data and internet marketing strategies, Human Coalition targets “abortion-determined women” and tries to redirect them to crisis pregnancy centers. Here's what media need to know about Human Coalition, an organization designed to mislead people online. Given the organization's objectives and history, media should think twice before giving the group an uncritical platform. 

  • Wash. Post Relies On Anti-Choice Groups To Frame Coverage About Planned Parenthood

    In Story About “Defunding” Planned Parenthood, Wash. Post Favors Comments, Talking Points From Anti-Abortion Figures And Legislators

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) -- a bill that would eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for essential services provided by Planned Parenthood -- The Washington Post’s new health care reporter, Paige Winfield Cunningham, framed her story around reactions of, and misinformation from, anti-abortion organizations and politicians.

    On May 4, House GOP members voted to strip health care from an estimated 24 million people by 2026, “including 14 million by next year,” CNN reported, as well as eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood. In Winfield Cunningham’s first story about the vote and its effect on Planned Parenthood, she framed the conversation around the “victory” the bill represented “for conservatives who have long sought to undercut the country’s largest abortion provider” and pushed anti-choice misinformation behind such claims.

    The only Planned Parenthood representation came in a line summarizing an organization statement as saying “Congress is unfairly singling it out.” In comparison, Winfield Cunningham included quotes from three anti-abortion advocates: Vice President Mike Pence, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). In particular, Winfield Cunningham used statements from McCarthy and Dannenfelser to advance a lopsided narrative heavily favoring the anti-choice talking points that the bill stops “taxpayer funding for abortions” and that community health centers (CHCs) can easily replace Planned Parenthood.

    Planned Parenthood is not government-funded, but instead receives Medicaid reimbursements for providing care to low-income patients -- funds that are already prohibited by the Hyde Amendment from supporting abortion care. Although Winfield Cunningham acknowledged this reality -- and mentioned that losing the reimbursements “would be a heavy blow to the group” -- she undercut the point by writing that “conservatives say no abortion provider should get Medicaid reimbursements, even for health services such as cancer screenings and birth control,” because “money is all fungible.”

    Right-wing media and anti-choice organizations have long relied on the misleading claim that money is fungible to demand Planned Parenthood be defunded. However, as the Guttmacher Institute explained, this logic is deeply flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” Slate’s Amanda Marcotte also previously debunked the fungibility myth in a 2015 article, noting:

    Republicans who tout the “money is fungible” line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that's not actually how this works.

    Winfield Cunningham included a comment from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) that AHCA would “gut Planned Parenthood, … affecting women across the country” but again undercut his argument by immediately adding (with a supporting quote from Dannenfelser) that “Republicans contend that community health centers have the capacity to care for Medicaid patients” and that these centers allegedly “provide a broader range of services than Planned Parenthood.”

    Although anti-choice lawmakers and right-wing media say that CHCs can and should replace Planned Parenthood clinics, experts have heavily disputed this claim. For example, Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote:

    I have worked with community health centers for nearly 40 years, and no one believes more strongly than I do in their ability to transform the primary health care landscape in medically underserved low-income communities. But a claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do were Planned Parenthood to lose over 40 percent of its operating revenues overnight as the result of a ban on federal funding.

    [...]

    What’s more, federal law requires that community health centers be located in communities where there are few other providers. As a result, the notion that there are plenty of community health centers available in those communities to compensate for the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics simply is untrue.

    Furthermore, while all Planned Parenthood clinics offer preventive and basic care services, other clinics can be classified as “community health clinics” even if they provide more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    Winfield Cunningham appears to be the anchor of the Post’s health care coverage, with the two stories published about Planned Parenthood since the May 4 vote listing her as author or co-author. Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans -- 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. If Winfield Cunningham is going to be leading the Post’s coverage on health care, she owes readers more than lopsided “both sides” reporting that vastly overrepresents anti-choice misinformation that can -- and already has -- resulted in decreased access to essential health care.

    *Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh and research support provided by Julie Tulbert

  • The Worst Anti-Abortion Misinformers That You Might Never Have Heard Of

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    What’s an anti-choice extremist to do when the only person willing to give their blatant misinformation a platform is Sean Hannity?

    This was the challenge that discredited anti-choice activist and Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden faced throughout most of 2016 and early 2017. Daleiden is known for his deceptively edited smear videos attacking Planned Parenthood -- and most recently, his 15 felony charges in California.

    In a study of 14 months of evening prime-time cable news coverage in 2015 through early 2016, Media Matters identified at least seven appearances by Daleiden on a variety of Fox News programs. Notably, when Media Matters repeated this analysis on 12 months of coverage from March 7, 2016, through March 1, 2017, Daleiden appeared only once as a guest -- on Sean Hannity’s eponymous program, Hannity

    Daleiden was not the only anti-choice activist whose number of appearances on the network dropped from 2015 to 2017. In 2015 and early 2016, Lila Rose (president and founder of the anti-choice group Live Action) appeared on Fox News programs 10 times to talk about abortion, while extremist hate group leader Tony Perkins appeared six times. In 2017, with the exception of Daleiden, none of these anti-choice extremists appeared on Fox News. 

    Although anti-abortion spokespeople did make a few one-off appearances during the 12-month period studied by Media Matters, the sustained focus of their media engagement appears to be shifting. They may not frequently appear on Fox News, but here are some of the leading purveyors of anti-choice misinformation:

    Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List

    Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of anti-abortion political organization the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List). Although Dannenfelser helms a sizeable political operation dedicated to promoting anti-choice legislators and legislation, her influence further increased after President Donald Trump appointed her to lead his “Pro-Life Coalition.”

    Dannenfelser has spearheaded the administration's anti-choice agenda, supporting the nomination of anti-choice Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the elimination of a rule preventing states from denying Title X family planning funds to abortion providers for non-abortion services, as well as the reinstatement and unprecedented expansion of the Global Gag Rule. 

    Dannenfelser has increasingly tried to position SBA List as not just a political organization, but also as a self-sustaining media platform for anti-choice misinformation.

    In early 2017, Dannenfelser announced a partnership between SBA List and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) to produce a weekly anti-choice news program, Pro-Life Weekly. Dannenfelser and other representatives from SBA List frequently appear on the program. Most notably, after being charged with 15 felonies, Daleiden gave exclusive comments to EWTN’s Lauren Ashburn before appearing on that week’s episode of Pro-Life Weekly. During the interview, Daleiden told host Catherine Szeltner that the allegations against him were “political prosecutions” and repeated discredited allegations about Planned Parenthood committing “infanticide.”

    Dannenfelser also rejects exceptions to abortion bans for reasons of rape, incest, or medical necessity. In 2015, after the U.S. House passed a 20-week abortion ban, Dannenfelser called the bill’s narrow exemptions for rape and incest survivors “regrettable,” “abominable,” and “completely intellectually dishonest.” Dannenfelser also rejected exemptions for the health of the mother. For example, in 2012, she noted that SBA List would not endorse then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney because he supported health exemptions to abortion bans.

    Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America

    Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America (SFLA), an anti-abortion group targeted at audiences from high school through medical and law school. 

    SFLA and its representatives commonly make the argument that millennials are the “pro-life generation,” an allegation they support with questionable polling. Polling on abortion and related topics is notoriously difficult to conduct and prone to both intentional and unintentional survey bias. Although the full polling methodologies for SFLA’s data are not available, SFLA has most recently relied on organizations with an anti-choice focus to supply its numbers, including The Knights of Columbus, the Susan B. Anthony List, and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway’s polling firm.

    Beyond running a year-round field program that develops and assists anti-choice campus groups, SFLA also bills itself as a “one-stop shop” for anti-abortion activism by providing specific programs, materials, and trainings to students free of charge. As part of this service, SFLA regularly partners with a number of anti-abortion organizations including Heartbeat International, March for Life, Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, The Radiance Foundation, and Family Research Council.

    Hawkins has also propagated a number of inaccurate and harmful claims about abortion, abortion providers, and reproductive health. Beyond openly calling for abortion to be stigmatized, Hawkins has also compared her work with that of “slavery abolitionists,” claiming that “there is no difference between fighting against … chattel slavery and fighting ‘to save the pre-born.’” This particular piece of misinformation is frequently promoted by SFLA, which has dedicated a webpage to the myth that Planned Parenthood disproportionately targets black communities with its abortion services.

    In a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) training session with then-Rep. Mike Pence (R-IA), Hawkins pushed the medically inaccurate claim that “when you get [an] abortion, you are increasing your risk for breast cancer almost by 50 percent.”

    Hawkins has also frequently spread misinformation about the health risks of various contraceptive methods -- calling them “carcinogenic” and “abortion-inducing.” In 2011, she published a blog on the conservative outlet American Thinker’s website titled “Government gone wild” in which she criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for including contraceptive coverage. Hawkins wrote, “Labeling harmful birth control chemicals as ‘health care’ is ridiculous.” In 2013, she complained that advertisements for the ACA were designed to appeal to a love of “sex, beer, and more sex” by suggesting that women can “supposedly have all the free sex they want because birth control pills are complimentary.” During a January 2017 appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Hawkins told host Joy Reid that she would advocate for all contraceptives to be illegal. 

    Hawkins’ extreme beliefs are not limited to abortion and reproductive health. In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center obtained a leaked membership roster for the Council for National Policy (CNP) -- “a shadowy and intensely secretive group [that] has operated behind the scenes, providing a venue three times a year for powerful American politicians and others on the right to meet privately to build the conservative movement.” Hawkins’ entry in the CNP roster also listed “Marriage Issues,” “Radical Islam,” “Abstinence / Sex Education,” and “Religious Freedom” as areas of interest. 

    Ryan Bomberger, The Radiance Foundation

    Ryan Bomberger is the co-founder of The Radiance Foundation (TRF) alongside his wife, Bethany. According to Bomberger, The Radiance Foundation is a “faith-based, life-affirming organization to help people understand and embrace their God-given Purpose” through a variety of “creative ad campaigns, powerful multi-media presentations, fearless journalism, and compassionate community outreaches.”

    In reality, Bomberger and TRF frequently promote a variety of harmful myths about abortion -- including the allegation that abortion providers are agents of “black genocide.” Anti-choice groups and right-wing media have long attempted to argue (inaccurately) that higher abortion rates among black women reflect an attempt by Planned Parenthood to explicitly target black communities.

    Bomberger initially garnered media attention in 2010 after TRF purchased billboards across the country “that label black children as endangered species and declare black women’s wombs ‘the most dangerous place’ for their children.” The billboards directed viewers to the (still operational) website TooManyAborted.com, which is run by TRF in order to “[raise] the public’s awareness of the eugenic racism of Planned Parenthood and the hugely disproportionate impact on black communities.” According to TRF, “Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States,” and organizations like the NAACP, the Urban League, and the Congressional Black Caucus “have done nothing to address this epidemic.”

    In addition to operating TooManyAborted.com, TRF promotes materials that cast skepticism on the severity of police “brutality” in comparison to “abortion brutality” and deny the existence of a pay gap between men and women in the workplace. 

    TRF has also alleged that abortion disenfranchises men and leads to them abandoning pregnant women -- creating a “crisis of fatherlessness.” TRF claims that “abortion has taken the place of fathers” because “men have been empowered by Roe v. Wade to abandon their primary responsibility–protecting.”

    Most recently, Bomberger participated in a debate on NPR affiliate WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show against Democratic Maryland Del. Kathleen Dumais. According to Bomberger’s blog post about the exchange, Dumais “had her piles of papers and prepared talking points,” but he “had facts.”

    *Graphics by Sarah Wasko

    Correction: This piece has been corrected to reflect that Daleiden has been charged with felonies, not convicted of them. For more information read previous Media Matters content here and here

  • Fox's The Five Moves To Prime Time, Calls For Anti-Abortion Violence

    Greg Gutfeld: "If You Are Pro-Life And You Believe It Is Murder, You Should Be Willing To Fight For It"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the ouster of Bill O’Reilly following public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues (and a subsequent advertiser boycott), Fox News was forced to shuffle its evening lineup -- a move that elevated the show The Five to the coveted 9 p.m. time slot. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for co-host Greg Gutfeld to take a page out of the O’Reilly playbook and call for anti-abortion violence.

    O’Reilly spent years at Fox not only spreading misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights, but also openly bullying abortion providers. Dr. George Tiller -- who was assassinated in 2009 by anti-choice zealot Scott Roeder -- was a frequent target of O’Reilly’s. Prior to Tiller’s death, O’Reilly referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming his reporting on the doctor was accurate.

    Although Gutfeld did not target an individual abortion provider like O’Reilly did, his call for violence in the service of the anti-choice movement is an inauspicious start to The Five’s new time slot.

    Alongside co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Jesse Watters, Bob Beckel, and Dana Perino, Gutfeld engaged in an incendiary segment about abortion advocacy in the Democratic Party. After Guilfoyle falsely suggested that so-called “partial-birth” abortions or “abortion on demand” were issues Democrats must contend with (in reality, neither describes a medically accurate or extant procedure in the United States), Gutfeld compared abortion to slavery, saying that it would have been cowardly in the 1850s to have expressed opposition to slavery but said there's "nothing I can do about it" and that the same was true of what he called "pro-life cowards." He said he had “a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side” because “if you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” over this.

    Conservatives have frequently made inappropriate allegations that abortion providers are targeting black communities. Anti-choice groups have even gone so far as to openly co-opt the language of Black Lives Matter to attack abortion access -- this in spite of the disproportionately negative impact anti-abortion laws have on women and communities of color.

    Gutfeld’s disturbing call to arms also comes after a recent report from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) warned of a disturbing trend of escalating threats and harassment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics. According to NAF, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats” as well as “an escalation in hate speech and internet harassment, which intensified following the election in November.”

    The severity of this targeted harassment is exacerbated by the fact that evening cable news shows rarely discusses the topic. As a recent Media Matters study found, during 12 months of coverage about abortion and reproductive rights there was almost no discussion of anti-choice violence or its consequences for abortion access. Out of 354 total segments about abortion or reproductive rights on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, only four discussed anti-choice violence.

    There has been a great deal of speculation about what O’Reilly’s departure means for Fox News’ toxic culture, and in particular, its new evening lineup. If this debut performance by the The Five is indicative, we should expect more of the same attacks on abortion access and on those who obtain this legal and essential medical service.

    A transcript of the April 24 edition of The Five is below:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Since when is it OK to just be abortion on demand? Why do you have to put that -- but why can't you say yes we respect life and we respect the lives of women and we respect the lives of children and babies? And I understand the idea to say you want to have individual choice, and the state not telling everyone what they have to do. But there is a healthy interest in protecting life in terms of not going for this, with partial-birth abortions. There has to be some regulations. Just like we have regulations with the FDA or with health care, et cetera, to make sure that people are protected. That the innocent are. And so I don't think [Democrats are] currying any favor by being that strident and just really that caustic in terms of their rhetoric.

    [...]

    JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): Greg, quickly, how much damage do you think is done by these comments?

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): I don’t know. First, I would like to state the obvious: The strongest pro-choice voices have the amazing luck of being born. It’s an incredibly obvious point, but we -- a lot of people forget about that. We can’t be hypocrites here. Would a pro-choice Republican win the presidency ever? Trump is pro-life, but that’s after a lot of pro-choice-ing. So, this prison of two ideas both parties are involved in -- there’s another, I have a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side. Because that’s a PLC -- I’m a PLC, I’m a pro-life coward, which means I believe, and it’s untethered to religion, that it is killing a baby. But I’m not going to do anything about it because I realize there’s nothing I can do about it.

    GUILFOYLE: Well, you talk about it.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, you talk about it --

    GUILFOYLE: You educate.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, but think about it. If in the 1850s there was a talk show called the Ye Olde Five Shoppe and we're sitting there and we’re going like --

    [CROSSTALK]

    GUTFELD: And you're going, "I'm against slavery, but you know, I think it's immoral, it's wrong, but there's nothing I can do about it.” If you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight for it. That’s the hypocrisy behind this whole idea is that you should be able to start a war if you believe in this that strongly, but we aren't. We aren't because we are “PLCs.” I'm a “PLC.” I'm a pro-life coward. It's what I am.

  • New Study Finds Misinformation About Abortion Pervades Across Television

    Study By ANSIRH Found That Depictions Of Abortion in Popular Culture Likely Plays A Role in Promoting Inaccurate Information

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Media Matters has consistently found that evening cable news can’t stop misinforming about abortion, and a new study from the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) demonstrates that the stigma this misinformation supports isn’t just pervasive in the news; it dominates popular culture as well.

    Abortion stigma assumes that having an abortion is inherently wrong, and it contributes to negative assumptions about those who have them. Although this definition may seem broad, these assumptions are reinforced through some media coverage and popular culture -- and by many people’s lack of accurate information about the procedure itself. The resulting stigma can cause individuals, including politicians, to push dangerous myths, policies, and laws restricting abortion access.

    A study by Media Matters that examined segments about abortion or reproductive rights on evening cable news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, found that 64 percent of cable news segments about abortion contained inaccurate information. More specifically, cable news reported inaccurate information about late-term abortion a staggering 88 percent of the time. While abortion is a safe procedure undergone for a host of different personal reasons, cable news often depicts it as dangerous and morally bankrupt based on misinformation from discredited and biased anti-abortion groups.

    Beyond cable news, television plotlines overwhelmingly depict abortion in inaccurate and stigmatizing ways. In a new study, ANSIRH researched plotlines on American television from 2005 and 2016 where a character underwent an abortion or referred to having obtained an abortion. ANSIRH identified 80 abortion plotlines during this time period and found that 37.5 percent of them depicted abortion procedures with complications, medical interventions, or other negative health consequences. In real life, only 2.1 percent of abortion procedures involve these issues.

    The most egregious abortion plotlines involved the supposed long-term consequences characters faced after having an abortion. Of the 80 stories, 23.8 percent depicted negative long-term consequences for characters who had an abortion. For example, 4 percent of characters who had an abortion were shown to have committed suicide, 11 percent were rendered infertile, and even 5 percent of characters were shown dying. As ANSIRH and Media Matters have pointed out, other studies have definitively shown that mental health is not substantially impacted following an abortion. In addition, having an abortion -- even multiple abortions -- is not likely to have a negative impact on fertility.

    Finally, abortion is a common and overwhelmingly safe medical procedure. Although some of the plotlines examined by ANSIRH were set in time periods or places where abortion was illegal (procedures that have higher rates of complications and death), ANSIRH explained that television exaggerates these dangers, which can negatively impact audience’s views on contemporary, legal abortion. Even in instances where the storylines depicted legal abortion, ANSIRH still found that a “markedly high” percentage misrepresented the long-term health consequences. Depictions like these, ANSIRH explained, “could be a contributing factor in the political erosion of abortion rights.”

    Right-wing media and anti-choice organizations have worked relentlessly to stigmatize abortion and vilify abortion providers -- resulting in medically unnecessary laws and decreased abortion access. While depicting medical complications from abortion may make for dramatic television, these representations are inaccurate and ultimately harmful. Right-wing media and cable news don’t need any help misinforming about or stigmatizing abortion. Television shows ought to stop helping them spread lies and discourage public dialogue about a safe, legal, and common medical procedure.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • How Fox News’ Male Hosts Are Endangering Women All Across America 

    Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, And Sean Hannity Are Almost Always Wrong About Abortion, And They’re Giving Other Men A Platform To Push Further Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    If you’re searching for the most misinformation-filled block of television during evening cable, look no further than the Fox News lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. In a finding that will shock almost nobody with even cursory knowledge about abortion and reproductive rights, this all-male lineup has spent the past 12 months promoting rampant misinformation on these topics.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The 354 total segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements they contained about three topics: the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

    Out of 116 total statements made during The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity (out of 120 total statements on the network), 103 were inaccurate. If the sheer amount of misinformation isn't enough, the vast majority of them were made by men. Of the 110 total appearances by hosts, guests, or network correspondents on these programs in 12 months, 81 were made by men (74 percent).

    When seeking information about abortion -- particularly accurate information -- most women presumably wouldn’t turn first to a man. Fox News, however, has ensured its prime-time block is dominated by male voices.

    With the exception of The Kelly File, which ceased airing after then-Fox news host Megyn Kelly left the channel, and The First 100 Days, which didn’t begin airing until after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Fox’s prime-time evening lineup is dominated by male-hosted programs. And these programs also promote mainly male voices when it comes to the topics of abortion and reproductive rights.

    From March 7, 2016, through March 1, 2017, The O’Reilly Factor featured 47 appearances from men (71 percent) and only 19 from women (29 percent) during segments about abortion. During the same 12-month period, there were 26 appearances by men (76 percent) and only eight by women (24 percent) to discuss reproductive rights on Hannity. Tucker Carlson Tonight did not begin airing until after the 2016 election, making the sample size smaller than either The O’Reilly Factor or Hannity. However, of the five months of Tucker Carlson Tonight considered in Media Matters’ analysis, the program featured 80 percent male appearances in discussions about the reproductive rights of women.

    Overall, during the 12-month study period, 74 percent of appearances among all three programs featured men talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Excluding guests who were employed by Fox News (as professional commentators, analysts, or contributors), all three programs also largely hosted male guests, many of whom have a history of anti-choice policy making.

    For example, The O’Reilly Factor served as a platform for guests including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence -- all of whom have openly supported anti-choice policies. The male guests on Hannity unsurprisingly included Reince Priebus, who would become Trump’s chief of staff, and then-Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci.

    Hannity was also the only person on evening cable news to host discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, founder of CMP. Every other program -- even, surprisingly, other Fox News programs -- deemed the anti-abortion activist who deceptively edited smear videos and has since been charged with 15 felonies in California an unpalatable guest.

    Luckily for Daleiden, there’s always Sean Hannity. With their powers combined, Daleiden and Hannity managed to conduct a full segment featuring 100 percent inaccurate information in terms of CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion. During his April 2016 appearance on Hannity, Daleiden made five inaccurate statements about the veracity of CMP’s work -- even though multiple state and federal investigations found that the organization's claims about abortion providers were baseless. Hannity himself contributed three inaccurate statements about CMP during the segment and zero accurate ones. This pattern was not limited to just his segment with Daleiden, however. Hannity managed to make only inaccurate statements on these topics throughout the entire study period.

    Although Tucker Carlson appears to share Daleiden’s affinity for employing deceptive editing and even using actors to represent highly curated versions of opposing viewpoints, he managed -- without Daleiden's help -- to be wrong 100 percent of the time about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion.

    O’Reilly, Hannity, and Carlson also featured primarily guests who openly represent anti-abortion organizations, including Marjorie Dannenfelser (president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List), conservative commentator Crystal Wright, Alveda King (anti-abortion activist for Priests for Life and Civil Rights for the Unborn), and Abby Johnson (founder of CEO of And Then There Were None).

    Overall, Media Matters’ analysis found that 80 percent of statements about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential servies, and late-term abortion made during Fox News’ evening prime-time programming were inaccurate. It should come as no surprise that The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were responsible for 67 percent of the network’s inaccurate statements.

    Then again, if your ace prime-time lineup is composed of a man accused of being a serial sexual predator who can’t stop advertisers from fleeing his program (and is likely about to lose it), a hero of white nationalists who is known for bullying his guests, and Sean Hannity, you’re probably not that worried about ensuring accuracy or giving women’s voices an equal platform.

    *Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • How NY Times Fueled A Right-Wing Lie About So-Called "Sex-Selective" Abortions

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The New York Times omitted critical context in reporting on a recently enacted Arkansas law that requires doctors to determine whether a person is choosing an abortion based on sex preference -- an approach based on the false premise that the practice is widespread.

    On March 30, Arkansas enacted a law requiring medical providers to ask a patient seeking an abortion whether she knows the sex of the fetus. If she does, she must be informed that sex-selective abortions are prohibited, and the doctor must also have access to her complete pregnancy history. In describing this legislation, the Times failed to include critical context about so-called “sex-selective” abortions -- a term used by anti-choice legislators as justification to restrict abortion even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the necessity of a ban on the practice. The Times also failed to mention that “sex-selective” abortion bans could have discriminatory effects on Asian Americans because of assumptions about their preferences based on stereotypes, which could effectively deny them access to abortion.

    Instead, the Times wrote only that Arkansas is the eighth state to enact a “sex-selective” abortion ban, explaining that such abortions "occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons." The lack of clarification helps perpetuate a harmful anti-abortion myth that has been frequently parroted in right-wing media.

    In the United States, anti-choice legislators often rely on the myth that "sex-selective" abortions are a common practice to justify further restricting access to abortion. In reality, “sex-selective” abortions are rare in the United States. Despite right-wing and anti-choice allegations that protections are needed against so-called “sex-selective” abortions, these bans have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.”

    Nevertheless, anti-choice lawmakers -- and in particular, those behind the Arkansas bill -- allege that such bans are necessary to protect against sex discrimination and prevent an imbalance of the gender ratio. Setting aside the fact that Arkansas’ population in 2015 was 50.9 percent female, as Vice News explained, “sex-selection abortions aren’t necessarily responsible for distorted gender ratios. Because there are multiple ways to ensure a fetus is a certain gender — for instance, parents are legally able to choose a fetus’s sex during in-vitro fertilization — it’s impossible to pinpoint why there might be more male babies born than female.”

    The Arkansas law itself is titled “An Act to Create the Sex Discrimination By Abortion Prohibition Act” -- suggesting that lawmakers are banning a form of sex discrimination. As Slate explained, however, anti-abortion groups have long employed this “kinda-sorta feminist” framing to justify their support for banning “sex-selective” abortions when in reality, “sex-selective abortion in the United States appears to be — you guessed it! — extremely, extremely rare.” Romper called the law “a deceptive masterpiece of legislative word-smithing” in its co-option of gender discrimination as a justification for its anti-choice purpose. For example, the Arkansas law states that “victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelming female,” yet it offers no data or statistics on “sex-selective” abortions supposedly occurring in the United States.

    Beyond failing to clarify the fraudulent basis of “sex-selective” abortion bans, the Times also gave a platform to the Arkansas bill’s sponsor -- Republican Rep. Charlie Collins -- to promote racist stereotypes about non-white childbearers. Collins told the Times that the one-child policy in China prompted him to sponsor the bill, even though he had no evidence of sex-selective abortions occurring in Arkansas, or even in the United States. In fact, as a 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute explained “in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from [East and South Asia] -- or anywhere else -- are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country.”

    As Rewire noted, the Arkansas bill and others like it effectively turn Asian Americans seeking abortions into “suspects” -- particularly because the law imposes harsh penalties on any medical provider who is found in violation. Rewire further explained that Arkansas’ bill is an example of state legislators using “false stereotypes and misleading language to deny Asian American women the same access to safe, confidential, and comprehensive reproductive care as anyone else.”

    By omitting critical context about the lack of evidence behind “sex-selective” abortion bans, as well as their racist underpinnings, The New York Times perpetuated and normalized harmful anti-choice misinformation that has little basis in reality.

  • How Highlighting Personal Narratives Combats Abortion Stigma

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On March 21, the 1 in 3 Campaign held an event titled “Stories from the Resistance,” where speakers shared their abortion stories in an effort to counteract abortion stigma -- the idea that abortion is inherently wrong or socially unacceptable. In reporting on the event, media outlets highlighted the speakers’ personal narratives, thereby helping to combat abortion stigma.

  • CNN’s Dana Bash Debunks All Of Tom Price’s Inaccurate Claims About Planned Parenthood -- Except One

    During CNN’s Health Care Town Hall, Only Price’s Misleading Claim About The Fungibility Of Planned Parenthood’s Funds Goes Unchecked 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During CNN's March 15 town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, CNN's Dana Bash soundly debunked Price's inaccurate arguments about Planned Parenthood in all instances but one: Price's claim that money given to Planned Parenthood was "fungible."

    Price -- who has a long history of pushing disastrous health care policies -- used the town hall as an opportunity to mislead viewers about the accessibility of essential care without Planned Parenthood, arguing that community health centers (CHCs) can handle the demands of providing essential care services. He also claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood is necessary because some Americans are concerned that “their federal tax dollars [are] used for abortion services.” Bash rebuked several of Price’s assertions, noting that the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion and that CHCs could not possibly fill the gap left behind by defunding Planned Parenthood. Bash explained that “105 counties across the country have Planned Parenthood and that is the only clinic offering a full range of contraceptive methods to women.”

    Unfortunately, Bash and co-moderator Wolf Blitzer did allow Price to get away with one inaccuracy by letting him claim -- uncorrected -- that eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood is necessary because “that money is fungible," implying that federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood support abortion, even if indirectly. Despite providing robust pushback and asking important follow-up questions during the rest of the forum, Bash and Blitzer moved on from this comment without addressing Price’s dangerous claim.

    Voices on the right have long used the argument that money is fungible to discredit Planned Parenthood and call for the defunding of its clinics across the country, suggesting that federal support for the organization’s services indirectly enables or contributes to its ability to provide abortions. But as the Guttmacher Institute points out, this logic is flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” The organization also notes that it is “hypocritical” to claim the “fungibility” problem only in relation to abortion providers, but not with regard to other federally subsidized organizations including religious groups and charities. 

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. When this many people risk losing access to care, it is imperative for media to use extreme care in addressing the topic, including correcting those like Price when they spread misinformation about the consequences of Republicans’ efforts to upend the American health care system.