Health Care

Issues ››› Health Care
  • Right-Wing Media Use Old Lies To Trash A Public Option For Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Right-wing media are pre-emptively attacking a “public option" health care proposal supported by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama by linking it to supposedly “socialist” single-payer systems that have been routinely demonized through the history of health care reform. Conservative media used this tactic to disparage the public option in 2009 during the legislative debates that created the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to tap into powerful historical tropes that promote misinformation and misperceptions of the American health care system, stymieing much-needed reform and perverting the public opinion.

    The Affordable Care Act has become a major topic of conversation leading up to the election. Right-wing media have manufactured scandals by taking former President Bill Clinton’s comments at an October rally out of context and falsely claiming the newly announced health care marketplace premium increases are evidence of the so-called “death spiral” conservative media have been predicting for years -- despite no evidence the law is in danger of collapsing in on itself. The newest target of right-wing media ire is the public option, a proposal supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, which would introduce a low-cost, government-administered health insurance option into the federally run health insurance marketplaces.

    The strategy right-wing media are using to scandalize the public option revolves around linking it to the single-payer systems used in countries with socialized medical options, either implicitly or explicitly invoking the specter of “Big Government.” Some media argue that the public option is a “Trojan Horse” to destroy the current private insurer-based market or claim that the public option is just “single-payer on the installment plan.” Others argue that Clinton “ultimately wanted a single-payer ultimate government control system for health care” and thus will eventually “go towards the single payer option” when she “replace[s] Obamacare with Hillarycare.”

    If these attacks sound familiar, it’s because they are. The original draft versions of the ACA included a robust public option that Democrats ultimately dropped, partially because it became politically toxic as a result of concerted right-wing media assaults. Prominent right-wing media figures called the proposed public option a “stalking horse” or a “buy in,” arguing that “such a plan will lead to a single-payer system.” Others argued that the key to defeating the public option is “expos[ing] the positive-sounding ‘public option’ for what it truly is: a government grab.” They used the same fearmongering “Trojan Horse” rhetoric that right-wing media use now to play upon distrust of the government. They also actively demonized the public option as a socialist takeover of the health care system -- framing that has significantly impacted public opinion on the ACA and health care policy generally.

    But none of this is true. Numerous fact-checkers have debunked the claim that the public option is just single-payer in sheep's clothing or that Clinton secretly wants a single-payer system. The public option is a government-administered health insurance plan that would compete in the insurance markets against private insurance plans, while in a single-payer system, “everyone in the country would have health coverage provided by the government,” according to Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of social medicine and health policy at UNC Chapel Hill, noted that “‘single payer’ is often used loosely to refer to everything” and argued that “depicting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a ‘slippery slope’ to single payer is bizarre.” Thus, efforts to conflate the two actively spread misinformation and make health care policy even more confusing than it already is for the American public.

    This practice of scandalizing the public option in an effort to torpedo reform efforts is particularly problematic since the ACA does need reforms. Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the necessity of reforming the ACA to address fundamental issues about affordability and competition in the marketplaces. Recognizing that there are issues with the ACA does not mean the law is failing. However, purposefully stigmatizing a substantive proposal for reforming the current health care system is particularly troubling since Republicans have yet to produce a viable alternative to replace Obamacare. Americans remain seriously uninformed about health care policy, and the media shouldn’t allow conservative media myths to demonize a potentially productive reform before the public even has the chance to properly learn about it. 

  • Six Must-Read Accounts From Women Who Have Actually Had Late-Term Abortions

    Media Highlight Experiences That Debunk Trump’s Deceptive Claims About Late-Term Abortion

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the final debate of the 2016 election, Republican nominee Donald Trump relied on right-wing media myths to allege that Hillary Clinton supports so-called “partial-birth” abortion. In reality, “partial birth” is a medically and legally inaccurate term invented by anti-choice groups -- a fact media have highlighted by giving individuals who have had late-term abortions a platform to both describe their experiences and, in some cases, directly refute Trump’s misinformed descriptions of the process.

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

  • Fox Anchor Lets Trump Lie About Obamacare, Proving He Doesn't Understand It Either

    Trump States “I Don’t Use Much Obamacare” Minutes After Claiming, “All Of My Employees Are Having A Tremendous Problem With Obamacare”


    During a phone interview with Fox News, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed that his companies “don’t use much Obamacare” just minutes after publicly stating that “all of [his] employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare.” The contradiction went unnoticed at Fox, which allowed the GOP nominee to peddle misinformation about the law’s supposed impending demise.

    The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was thrust into national headlines on Monday after the Obama administration confirmed double-digit premium increases on average for insurance plans sold on Obamacare’s online marketplace at for 2017. This will raise the average cost for a “Silver” plan, which is the benchmark that Obamacare subsidies are calculated for, to $3,552 annually, before subsidies are applied (the vast majority of enrollees receive substantial subsidies). As MSNBC’s Ali Velshi explained today, this premium level is consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s 2009 analysis of future rates.

    Trump made a series of false claims about the ACA during the interview that went unchecked by Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, including touting the benefits of repealing and replacing Obamacare (there is no replacement plan), calling the average figure for premium increases of 25 percent a “phony number,” praising the benefits of health savings accounts (they’re widely criticized by health experts as an insufficient replacement for insurance), and denouncing Obamacare for killing jobs (it doesn’t).

    Perhaps most perplexing was Trump’s claim that he doesn’t “use much Obamacare” when numerous reporters confirmed that Trump claimed “all of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare” during a rally in Doral, Florida, just before the Fox interview.

    While right-wing media and Trump tend to focus on exaggerating the troubles of the health insurance exchanges, those marketplaces represent one part of the ACA, which includes vital consumer protections and mechanisms to improve care quality while lowering costs. Trump’s flip-flop on whether or not he “uses” Obamacare is particularly baffling, since the Employer Shared Responsibility Provision of the ACA (also known as the employer mandate) “penalizes employers who either do not offer coverage or do not offer coverage which meets minimum value and affordability standards.” So either his employees do have “a tremendous problem with Obamacare,” which means he doesn’t provide health benefits for his employees since his businesses would qualify as “large employers,” or he doesn’t “use much Obamacare,” which still means his businesses do provide insurance and thus are complying with the law. Either way, Trump’s inconsistent claims about Obamacare and Fox’s decision to not push back on his plethora of misinformed claims about the ACA reveals their fundamental misunderstanding of the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

    Watch the full interview from the October 25 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

  • On Pat Robertson’s 700 Club,Trump Doubles Down On Myth-Based “Partial-Birth” Abortion Statements

    Robertson Agrees: “It Is The Most Barbaric Thing. … That’s Infanticide.”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In an exclusive interview with the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump repeated his false allegations about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s support for so-called “partial-birth” abortion -- a right-wing media myth Trump previously invoked during the final presidential debate.

    During the October 19 debate, Trump asserted that Clinton supports abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy]” in response to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about so-called “partial-birth abortions.” His comments reflect a longstanding right-wing media myth about late-term abortions and the phrase “partial-birth abortion,” which was invented by anti-choice groups as a mechanism to vilify and shame individuals who have abortions later in pregnancy.

    Trump repeated these allegations during his October 24 interview with Robertson, claiming that “according to the rules of Hillary, you can take the baby at nine months” or even “a day prior to birth.” Robertson not only endorsed Trump’s false description, but he also went further, describing the late-term abortion procedure as a process where “the baby is about two-thirds already born in the birth canal. The doctor turns it around to get its head, punches the back of its skull, and evacuates the brain”:

    PAT ROBERTSON (HOST): Something else that Hillary did. She took the radical feminist view in relation to abortion and she didn't back off one iota in that debate, not one. And you called her on partial-birth abortion and she said it's not as bad as you said. But the truth is it's worse than what she said --

    DONALD TRUMP: -- Probably worse. It’s probably worse. According to her it wasn't bad at all. I mean, it wasn’t even like a little bit bad.

    ROBERTSON: The actual partial birth is the baby is about two-thirds already born in the birth canal. The doctor turns it around to get its head, punches the back of its skull, and evacuates the brain. It is the most barbaric thing. And to defend that and say that's a woman's right?

    TRUMP: And I said it very strongly. A lot of people, I must say I have been called by a lot of pastors, I’ve been called by priests, thanking me because they have never heard anyone explain it quite the way I explained it. And, you know, I'm very happy about that. I'm happy we can get the word out because it's terrible.

    ROBERTSON: She defended that barbaric practice of partial birth and then she defended Planned Parenthood -- a $500 million-plus federal dollars. It's terrible.

    TRUMP: Well, according to the rules of Hillary, you can take the baby at nine months and you can imagine what you have to do to that baby to get it out. And you can take that baby at nine months and you can abort. And a day prior to birth you can take the baby. And I said it's unacceptable.

    ROBERTSON: That's infanticide.

    Neither Robertson’s nor Trump’s assertions are accurate -- legally, medically, or in terms of Clinton’s position. As numerous media outlets noted, Trump’s debate comments about late-term abortion bore little resemblance to reality. Talking Points Memo called his description “a grossly inaccurate view of abortion in the United States,” while Rolling Stone concluded that “nowhere in [the third debate] was his ignorance on brighter, flashier display than on the subject of late-term abortion.”

    Statements about later-term abortions from both Trump and right-wing media overestimate the frequency of these procedures, include inaccurate information about what is involved, and undervalue the agency and lived realities of those making the often medically necessary decision to abort a wanted pregnancy at this stage.

    Approximately 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 21st week of pregnancy, but the Supreme Court has explicitly protected the right to have an abortion up to the point of fetal viability -- which most states set at 24 weeks. It also determined that any restrictions imposed after viability must include exemptions to protect the life or health of the mother. As Vox’s Emily Crockett explained, women can obtain a post-viability abortion only when "there is something seriously wrong with either the fetus or her own health."

    Not only is “partial-birth” abortion a right-wing media creation, but the allegation that Clinton supports such a practice is also inaccurate. On October 9, PolitiFact Texas rated as false a statement by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that Clinton “supports unlimited abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, including partial-birth abortion.” PolitiFact noted that “abortions in the weeks leading up to birth” are an extreme rarity and that “Clinton has long said that she’d support a late-term limit on abortion--provided it has exceptions” -- a position she reiterated during the October 19 debate.

    As Huffington Post contributor Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OB-GYN, wrote, Trump’s recycled assertions about “partial-birth” abortion “couldn’t be further from the truth.” She continued that despite her insistence as a medical professional that “partial-birth abortions are an inexact term rejected by the American Congress of OB/GYN,” anti-choice groups and politicians have continued using the term to restrict access to necessary reproductive health care. Gunter concluded (emphasis original):

    The myth of “ninth month” abortions and partial birth abortions accomplish two goals: firing up the base for fundraising and getting more people to believe that at least some abortion restrictions are needed. Getting 100 percent of people to align with you on one small part of the procedure makes it easier to gradually push the bar. It is the thin edge of the wedge.

    The anti-choice movement needs the idea of partial birth abortions of a healthy fetus in the “ninth month” just like they need the devil. However, if you pull back the curtain on their sideshow, all you see are women in medically desperate situations in need of high quality medical care.

  • Daily Caller Rewrites Woman’s Personal Story About Late-Term Abortion To Demonize Her

    Using Stigmatizing Right-Wing Media Misinformation, The Daily Caller Lashes Out Over  A Woman’s Personal Narrative About Receiving Necessary Medical Care

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inaccurate attacks on late-term abortion at the final presidential debate, The Daily Caller “edited” a woman’s personal story to vilify and shame her for having a legal and medically necessary late-term abortion.

    On October 20, The New York Times published an op-ed by Meredith Isaksen about her decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy after the 20th week. In the op-ed, titled “Late-Term Abortion Was the Right Choice for Me,” Isaksen described deciding to terminate after discovering that the developing fetus “was missing half his heart” and was “very unlikely [to] survive delivery.” Isaksen wrote that to “Trump and politicians like him, a late-term abortion is the stuff of ’80s slasher films” -- a depiction that is “void of consideration for women, medical professionals or the truth” -- and concluded that she had no doubts that “we made the right decision for our family.”

    In response, The Daily Caller attacked Isaksen -- mocking her personal experience and rewriting her narrative “for accuracy and clarity” by substituting stigmatizing language about late-term abortion that is frequently pushed by right-wing media. In one example, The Daily Caller “revised” Isaksen’s statement that she was “a better wife, daughter and friend” after making “the right decision for our family” to read as: “I am a better wife, daughter and friend [because I chose to kill him].” In another, The Daily Caller wrote:

    As the day of my termination [the death of my baby boy] approached and I felt my baby’s kicks and wiggles, I simultaneously wanted to crawl out of my skin and suspend us together in time. I wanted him to know [before I killed him] how important he was to me, that the well of my grief and love for him would stretch deeper and deeper into the vastness of our family’s small yet limitless life.He may have moved inside me for only five months, but he had touched and shaped me in ways I could never have imagined [and soon he would feel an abortionist rip him apart piece by piece].

    Women do not elect to terminate their pregnancies after the 20th week on a whim because they simply “don’t want to have the kid” anymore.

    Stigmatizing language about late-term abortion is often used by anti-choice groups and media to “vilify women” who are often facing the “loss of a wanted pregnancy.” The language used by The Daily Caller is a prime example of how not to speak about abortion no matter where you stand on choice, or about the countless women across America who have made the decision to have one or will need to in the future.

    As Isaksen wrote (in her original words):

    As the two-year anniversary of my abortion approaches, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision for our family — and that our government has absolutely no place in the anguish which accompanies a late-term abortion, except to ensure that women and their families have the right to make their choice safely and privately.

    Saying goodbye to our boy was the single most difficult and profound experience of my life, and the truth is, it has come to define me. Today I am a better mother because of him. I am a better wife, daughter and friend. He made me more compassionate and more patient. He taught me to love with reckless abandon, despite the knowledge that I could lose it all.

  • Trump’s Attack On Late-Term Abortion Is Unconstitutional, Ignorant, And Fueled By Right-Wing Media

    “Partial-Birth” Abortion Is A Right-Wing Media Myth Used To Completely Eliminate Abortion Access After 20 Weeks

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the final presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump invoked the right-wing media myth of “partial-birth” abortion to falsely allege that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy.]”

    Trump’s “scare rhetoric” about so-called “partial-birth” abortion is both misinformed and problematic, but the issue goes beyond his repetition of this particular stigmatizing, anti-choice talking point. Media take note: Trump isn’t just echoing right-wing media myths about abortions occurring moments before live full-term birth; he’s using them to advocate for an unconstitutional ban on all abortions after 20 weeks.

    If elected, Trump has promised a panacea to right-wing media’s favorite anti-choice complaints: He’s promised a “national ban on [all] abortions after 20 weeks,” committed to “defunding Planned Parenthood,” and even pledged to appoint “pro-life justices” who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade.

    Trump’s anti-choice agenda, much like the right-wing media myths at its foundation, fails to account for the realities of abortion, or those who have them.

    The term “partial-birth” -- and by extension Trump’s misleading description -- is a fiction conjured up by anti-choice groups to vilify and shame individuals who have an abortion later in pregnancy. Although approximately 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 20th week of pregnancy, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected the right to an abortion beyond this point when the life or health of the mother is endangered. As a result, some courts have rejected late-term abortion bans that either exclude these exemptions or attempt to restrict abortion prior to the point of fetal viability.

    For Trump and right-wing media to suggest women impudently or frivolously terminate pregnancies at the 20th week or beyond is not just insulting, but also a blatant misrepresentation of the circumstances many women face. As Vox’s Emily Crockett explained, women can obtain an abortion at this stage only when "there is something seriously wrong with either the fetus or her own health." She continued that "pretending otherwise" not only "misrepresents reality," but also “inspire[s] legislation that does real harm to women who have to make heartbreaking medical decisions very late in pregnancy” by eliminating their access to a necessary medical procedure.

    Unfortunately, these lived realities appear unimportant to Trump, who pushes what Talking Points Memo called “a grossly inaccurate view of abortion in the United States.” Rolling Stone concluded that “nowhere in [the third debate] was his ignorance on brighter, flashier display than on the subject of late-term abortion.”

    Following the debate, Breitbart News published its approximation of a fact-check: an inaccurate article claiming that Trump’s description of “partial-birth” abortions as “ripping babies apart” was “correct.” To reach this conclusion, the article conflated the “dilation and extraction” (D&X) procedure -- which it described as “puncturing the skull [of the fetus] with scissors” -- with the legal, and most common, late-term abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E).

    In Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court decided that although D&X procedures could be prohibited under the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, banning the vastly different -- and in fact, medically necessary -- D&E procedure constituted an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to an abortion. As Justice Kennedy explained, “The Act does not proscribe D&E,” which was found by a district court “to have extremely low rates of medical complications.” Clearly, the procedure being described by the Supreme Court as both legal and safe is a far cry from Breitbart News’ “partial-birth” abortion fever dream.

    In a similar show of ignorance, during the October 20 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly denounced women’s health exemptions for late-term abortion because “the health of the mother could be anything.” O’Reilly previously had the audacity to suggest that women abuse health exemptions by fabricating conditions like sprained hands or headaches because they have glibly decided to terminate pregnancies, even if the “kid is going to be born next week.”

    After a campaign steeped in misogyny, it’s not surprising that these are the right-wing media talking points Trump has adopted about abortion. And they are every bit as insulting, ignorant, and inaccurate as when anti-choice groups first invented them in order to stigmatize both abortion and those who exercise their constitutionally protected right to have one.

  • Chris Wallace Let Trump Push The Right-Wing Media Myth Of "Partial-Birth" Abortion

    Wallace Broke The Debate Silence On Abortion, But Failed To Fact-Check Trump’s Pivot To A Misleading Right-Wing Media Myth

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the final presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a substantive question about her stance on the legality of abortion restrictions, yet he allowed Republican nominee Donald Trump to avoid a similar question and instead repeat the baseless right-wing media myth that Clinton supports so-called “partial-birth” abortion.

    Throughout this election cycle, reproductive rights advocates have been pushing for debate moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. Although Wallace asked Clinton a substantive question about her previous vote against a piece of anti-choice legislation that did not meet the requirements of Roe v .Wade, he failed to fact-check Trump’s misleading pivot to “partial-birth” abortions.

    In response to Clinton’s comments about the importance of ensuring any restriction on abortion includes constitutionally-mandated exceptions for the health and safety of the mother, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton believes “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.” Trump continued that Clinton supports letting abortion providers “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”

    Trump’s comments reflect the misleading right-wing media claim that the Democratic position on abortion access includes support for so-called “partial-birth” abortions -- often invoking the term as a description of an abortion that takes place in the final months or “moments” of a pregnancy. In reality, “partial-birth” abortion is a non-medical and fabricated term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have an abortion.

    Not only is  “partial-birth” abortion a right-wing media creation, the allegation that Clinton supports such a practice is also inaccurate. On October 9, PolitiFact Texas rated as false a statement by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that Clinton “supports unlimited abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, including partial-birth abortion.” PolitiFact noted that “abortions in the weeks leading up to birth” are an extreme rarity and that “Clinton has long said that she’d support a late-term limit on abortion--provided it has exceptions” -- a position she reiterated during the October 19 debate.

    In her remarks, Clinton not only emphasized the importance of abortion access, but also noted that Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider that she would not allow anti-choice lawmakers to defund. For his part, Trump promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

  • Right-Wing Media’s Favorite Myths About Planned Parenthood

    As Planned Parenthood Celebrates 100 Years Of Providing Essential Health Care, A Look Back At Right-Wing Media’s Most Common Smears About The Organization

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated 100 years of providing quality reproductive health care to millions of Americans. Despite the essential role Planned Parenthood has and continues to play in facilitating access to both primary and reproductive health care, right-wing media have frequently provided a platform for numerous smears and misinformation about the organization. Here are right-wing media’s favorite myths about Planned Parenthood.

  • The Questions Chris Wallace Should -- But Probably Wont -- #AskAboutAbortion In The Final Debate

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On October 19, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News will have the last opportunity in a 2016 presidential debate to ask either candidate a direct and meaningful question about abortion -- an opportunity that, if history is any guide, will likely be ignored.

    Throughout this election cycle, reproductive rights advocates have been pushing for debate moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. Unfortunately, given the history of debate questions asked about reproductive rights topics since 1960, if Wallace does ask about abortion it will most likely be framed in the context of the candidates’ faiths or preferences for judicial nominees.

    On October 12, the Commission on Presidential Debates released the topics for the third and final presidential debate -- a list that includes debt, immigration, the economy, and the Supreme Court. Although abortion is not among the given topics, it could play a significant role in any comprehensive conversation about the candidates’ policies for addressing economic insecurity or even immigration.

    Here are the debate questions Chris Wallace should -- but probably won’t -- ask about abortion in the final debate:

    1. Debt And Entitlements

    The intersection between entitlements and federal support for reproductive health care is both substantive and significant in the wider landscape of abortion access advocacy.

    Since 1977, the Hyde amendment has restricted federal funding -- and in particular, Medicaid funds -- from supporting abortion services. The amendment has been re-enacted annually to prevent the use of federal funds for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

    Because of its restrictions, the Hyde amendment has created a significant barrier for low-income patients attempting to access safe and legal abortion care. In a July 2016 study, the Guttmacher Institute found that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services.

    As Medicaid is an entitlement program, asking about abortion in the context of entitlements would be particularly appropriate given that both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, have taken an explicit stance on the Hyde amendment.

    As Rebecca Traister explained in New York magazine, Clinton was the first presidential nominee to speak out against the Hyde amendment when she decided to “publicly do battle” against the restriction in January. The Democratic Party also formally adopted repealing the Hyde amendment as a priority in its platform -- marking the first time a major political party has targeted the anti-choice restriction on this scale.

    In contrast, Trump has committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”

    2. Immigration

    Abortion access is also a fruitful topic for discussion in the context of U.S. immigration policy, particularly the impact of reproductive health care policies that disproportionately affect Latinas and mixed immigration status families living in the border state of Texas.

    Disparate access to health care coverage is an issue impacting many immigrants -- both documented and undocumented -- in the United States. As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in a January 2016 brief, “Immigrants, particularly those who are not citizens, historically have faced disproportionate barriers to accessing health coverage and care.” These findings affirmed a 2014 study done by the Pew Research Center which concluded that “Hispanic immigrants are more than twice as likely to not have health insurance as Hispanics born in the U.S.”

    In particular, Latinas’ access to reproductive care is significantly impacted not just by the Hyde amendment but also by the financial and logistical barriers created by anti-choice restrictions in states, like Texas, that have a high percentage of Latinos.

    An independent analysis of Texas’ 2014 abortion statistics data by the Texas Observer pointed out the disparate loss of access to abortion experienced by Texas Latinas after the anti-choice law HB 2 went into effect. As Alexa Garcia-Ditta reported, “In 2013, over 24,000 of Texans who got abortions were Hispanic; in 2014, that number decreased by 18 percent to under 20,000.” In comparison, she noted, there was “a 7.7 percent decrease among black Texans who got abortions” and a “6.7 percent drop among white Texans, after the law went into effect.”

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) argued that the additional barriers to abortion access created by HB 2 would be particularly devastating to undocumented women, who would face “[b]order patrol agents and internal immigration checkpoints” when forced to travel farther for health care due to clinic closures.

    3. Economy

    Chris Wallace could use the economy category as an opportunity to discuss the myriad financial obstacles individuals confront when trying to obtain abortion care.

    As Salon’s Christina Cauterucci explained, “Studies show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to secure an abortion” partly because of the time necessary to gather the money for the procedure. In a July 2015 report, the National Women’s Law Center noted that low-income persons are also put at a substantial financial disadvantage because they “may have to postpone paying for other basic needs like food, rent, heating, and utilities in order to save the money needed for an abortion.”

    This financial challenge of covering the cost of an abortion adds to the usual barrage of anti-choice restrictions already complicating access to abortion care. Between mandatory waiting periods, long wait times to get an appointment, and the great distances many patients must travel to reach a clinic, abortion care is already out of reach for many -- circumstances media frequently ignore or underestimate when talking about abortion.

    Given the numerous financial considerations that can make both abortion and wider reproductive health care inaccessible, Wallace should use the economy category during the debate to ask the candidates a substantive question about abortion care.

    4. Supreme Court

    In a recent report, Media Matters analyzed all abortion questions asked in presidential or vice presidential debates from 1960 to 2012 and found that 56 percent of questions were framed around religion or used abortion as a litmus test for judicial appointments. Media Matters found that since 1960, a total of 34 moderator or panelist questions cited abortion, and 23 of those were framed in terms of religion or judicial appointments or presented abortion in a stigmatized and negative way.

    This framing for questions is ineffective, unilluminating, and ultimately fails to provide the American public with any understanding of how presidential candidates would support or inhibit access to essential reproductive health care.

    The second presidential debate was a good example of the limited and ineffective nature of this framing. During the October 9 debate, the only mention of reproductive rights came during a question about the nomination of Supreme Court justices -- when Clinton mentioned that her ideal nominee would support upholding Roe v. Wade.

    Questions like this -- although useful in a limited sense -- clearly do not go far enough in pressing candidates to explain and defend their positions on an essential reproductive health issue and the ramificiations of upending abortion law. As a possible solution, the reproductive rights advocacy group Ultraviolet has been conducting a campaign encouraging individuals to submit questions about the issues that “have taken a backseat in the news coverage this election” but that “they think are the most important questions facing women.”

    In a petition, NARAL Pro-Choice America further explained why it is essential that Chris Wallace take advantage of the final opportunity to ask about abortion in a 2016 presidential debate:

    Donald Trump has said women should be punished for accessing their right to abortion, and suggested doctors who provide abortion care be thrown in jail.

    A candidate's position on abortion speaks to their position on gender equality, to whether or not they think all people, regardless of gender, should be able to plan their families and determine their futures for themselves. Such a crucial issue cannot be left unaddressed on the national stage this election year.

    UPDATE: On October 18, after allegations emerged that Trump has sexually assaulted and harassed numerous women, NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a letter urging Wallace to take advantage of a "critical opportunity to hold candidates accountable" and "demand answers about whether our candidates believe women are equal to men in the eyes of the law." The letter -- cosigned by EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, CREDO, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, the National Organization for Women, and Feminist Majority -- continued, "For that reason, we request that you ask the candidates about how they plan to address the crisis of abortion access in our country."

  • Right-Wing Media Keep Pushing Myth Of "Partial-Birth" Abortion

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In the 2016 election cycle, right-wing media have spread misinformation about the Democratic position on abortion access by alleging that the party supports so-called “partial-birth” abortions, often invoking the term as a description of an abortion that takes place in the final months or “moments” of pregnancy. In reality, “partial-birth” abortion is a term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have an abortion. Here is what the media should know about this common anti-choice myth and why media figures should not deploy it.

  • Sound Bite Coverage Of Bill Clinton's Obamacare Comments Highlights Media's Policy Problem

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The predominant media narrative surrounding Bill Clinton’s recent remarks about the Affordable Care Act illustrates a problematic trend in which coverage of public policy simplifies complex issues into sensationalized sound bites. This trend toward reductionist headlines is particularly problematic in the realm of health care policy, which is one of the most misunderstood policy arenas in American politics.

    At an October 3 rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech on a variety of policy issues including Hillary Clinton’s proposals for expanding and improving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to address the challenges of the existing insurance market system. The former president specifically outlined how the Clinton campaign’s plan to “let people buy in to Medicare and Medicaid” would address the customers who were left out of the private insurance market even after President Obama’s landmark health care reform law went into effect:

    BILL CLINTON: Now the next thing is, we got to figure out now what to do on health care. Her opponent said, ‘Oh, just repeal it all. The market will take care of it.’ That didn’t work out very well for us, did it? We wound up with the most expensive system in the world and we insured the smallest percentage of people. On the other hand, the current system works fine if you’re eligible for Medicaid, if you’re a lower income working person, if you’re already on Medicare, or if you get enough subsidies on a modest income that you can afford your health care.

    But the people that are getting killed in this deal are small businesspeople and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies. Why? Because they’re not organized, they don’t have any bargaining power with insurance companies, and they’re getting whacked. So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it ― sometimes 60 hours a week ― wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world so here’s the simplest thing ― you raise your hands, you think about it ― here’s the simplest thing: figure out an affordable rate and let people use that ― something that won’t undermine your quality of life, won’t interfere with your ability to make expenses, won’t interfere with your ability to save money for your kid’s college education. And let people buy in to Medicare or Medicaid.

    Here’s why: you can let people buy in for just a little bit because unlike where you are now, if you were on the other side of this, if you were an insurer, you’d say, ‘Gosh, I only got 2,000 people in this little pool. Eighty percent of insurance costs every year come from 20 percent of the people. If I get unlucky in the pool, I’ll lose money.’ So they overcharge you just to make sure, and on good years, they just make a whopping profit from the people who are least able to pay it.

    It doesn’t make any sense. The insurance model doesn’t work here; it’s not like life insurance, it’s not like casualties, it’s not like predicting flooding. It doesn’t work. So Hillary believes we should simply let people who are above the line for getting these subsidies have access to affordable entry into the Medicare and Medicaid programs. They’ll all be covered, it will not hurt the program, we will not lose a lot of money. And we ought to do it. [The Huffington Post, 10/4/16]

    Media jumped on just a fragment of Bill Clinton’s speech, framing his comments as an attack on Obamacare, a political gaffe, and a potential rift with President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s vision for health care policy -- framing that originated with the Republican Party’s so-called “war room,” which serves as a clearinghouse for opposition research. Much of the immediate coverage focused on the most inflammatory aspects of Clinton’s remarks, claiming Bill Clinton called Obamacare “the craziest thing in the world,” depicting his comments as trashing Obamacare, or declaring, “Bill goes rogue again.” Others emphasized that Bill Clinton later tried to clarify his purportedly “scathing” comments by changing his tune on the health care law.

    This focus on sensationalizing Bill Clinton’s comments on the ACA fails to situate them in the broader context of the current health care policy debate. While the media has depicted his comments as an attack on Obamacare, in reality, Clinton was making the case for enacting the improvements to the Affordable Care Act that are an integral part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. A July 9 health care fact sheet from the Clinton campaign explicitly states that despite the progress made by the ACA, “Hillary believes that we have more work to do ... to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America. This starts by strengthening, improving and building on the Affordable Care Act.” The New York Times noted Clinton’s stance on the ACA in September 2015, writing, “Mrs. Clinton has also consistently said that the health care act … is flawed and that if elected she would work out the kinks.”

    Additionally, Clinton’s comments are in line with President Obama’s view of the challenges facing his landmark law. In an article published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 11, Obama noted that there is still work to be done on health care reform, including the need for a “Medicare-like public plan” that could compete with private insurance. Obama has previously reached out to insurance companies, asking them to help him fix the ACA, and has pursued “fixes” to address issues like cost, market competition, and the need to entice young, healthy enrollees -- which is exactly what Bill Clinton was discussing.

    In comparison, the Republicans have yet to produce a viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act, despite years of pledging to “repeal and replace” the 2010 law. This past summer, House Republicans unveiled an outline for an Obamacare replacement plan (not legislation), but as The Huffington Post noted, their plan would result in “fewer people with health insurance, fewer people getting financial assistance for their premiums or out-of-pocket costs, and fewer consumer protections than the ACA provides.”

    While much of the coverage hyped Bill Clinton’s remarks by framing his word choice as a political gaffe, some media outlets actually addressed the substance of Clinton’s comments, noting that his criticisms of the existing health care system are accurate and in line with the proposals advocated by Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

    This trend toward reductionist headlines and promoting coverage that revolves around catchy sound bites is reflective of a bigger problem in media coverage of policy issues in general. Media coverage tends to either ignore discussions of substantive policy issues in favor of flashier partisan fights or reduce complex policy debates down to digestible but often misleading sound bites. For example, a Media Matters study examining early news coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign found that broadcast evening news shows devoted twice as much time to Clinton’s use of a personal email server than to her more-than-a-dozen announced policy proposals. Similarly, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson conducted a content analysis of four weeks of media coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions and found that the news media chose “damaging headlines” over policy and context in coverage of Hillary Clinton. As Patterson wrote, Clinton’s policy proposals have “been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.”

    The media emphasis on catchy soundbites is particularly problematic in the realm of health care policy because Americans are fundamentally uninformed about -- and polarized over -- the Affordable Care Act, and this type of coverage only further stigmatizes the ACA. The words we use to discuss complex policy like the ACA shape public opinion, which plays a fundamental role in determining future progress. Given the complexity of health care policy and the misinformation surrounding the Affordable Care Act, media outlets must approach discussions of the health care law (and all public policy) by devoting more attention to the actual substance of the policies instead of focusing on flashy talking points.

  • Media Outlets Correct Trump’s Characterization Of Bill Clinton’s Obamacare Comments


    Republican presidential running mates Donald Trump and Mike Pence took former President Bill Clinton’s comments about Obamacare out of context to claim he “absolutely trashed” Obamacare in recent remarks. Numerous media outlets noted that Clinton’s statements on improvements necessary to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are actually “referring to the same central challenge” that President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton want to address.