Health Care

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  • 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.

  • Media Debunk Pence’s Smear Of Clinton’s Reproductive Rights Positions

    In The Vice Presidential Debate, Pence Revived An Anti-Choice Myth To Attack Clinton’s Support For Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the October 4 vice presidential debate, Republican nominee Mike Pence smeared Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s positions on reproductive rights. While Pence falsely alleged that Clinton’s position on abortion was extreme, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine pointed out that Clinton “support[s] the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy.”

  • Here Are The Abortion Questions That Should Be Retired From Presidential Debates

    In 56 Years Of Presidential Debates, Moderators Have Frequently Asked Abortion Questions That Reduce The Topic To Religion Or Judicial Appointments Or Perpetuate Stigma


    A coalition of reproductive rights groups is campaigning for the inclusion of more timely and substantive questions about abortion in the presidential and vice presidential debates of 2016, arguing that the abortion questions that have been asked in the past are insufficient for today. Indeed, a Media Matters review of presidential and vice presidential debates from 1960 to 2012 shows that 68 percent of all abortion questions repeated the same three themes, which are overly abstract, stigmatize the issue or ignore the escalating assault on reproductive health care access.

  • What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.

  • Wash. Free Beacon Shocked That Hillary Clinton Says The Same Thing Privately About Obamacare That She Says Publicly

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The Washington Free Beacon attempted to scandalize remarks made by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a recently published hacked audio recording of a closed door fundraiser in September 2015, falsely claiming that she “took a shot” at the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and made new calls for “fixes” to the law. In reality, Clinton has openly advocated for improvements to the Affordable Care Act throughout her campaign (as has President Obama).

    In a October 3 post, The Washington Free Beacon falsely claimed that “Hillary Clinton took a shot at President Obama’s landmark health care program in private remarks to donors even as she pledged to defend the law.” According to the conservative news site, "The remarks were captured in an audio recording sent by campaign volunteer Ian Mellul to Nick Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary. The email containing the recording was one of thousands released by hackers believed to have ties to the Russian government."

    The article framed Clinton’s remarks as “provid[ing] additional insight into her private conversations with top supporters and how those conversations compare to her public remarks on the campaign trail,” claiming that while “Clinton’s campaign website reiterates her commitment to defending the law,” it “makes no mention of its supposed defects or proposals to fix them.”

    Despite Free Beacon’s assertion that Clinton’s website offers no “proposals to fix” the Affordable Care Act, Clinton’s health care fact sheet explicitly states that despite the progress made by President Obama, “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.” Her comments in the leaked audio recording reflect a broader theme in her campaign that focuses on improving the Affordable Care Act to help “address the challenges it faces.”

    While the Free Beacon article frames her private comments as a contrast “to her public remarks,” in reality, the audio recording reconfirms Clinton’s stated commitment to improving and building on the health care law.

    Advocating for improvements to the Affordable Care Act is hardly a controversial position, as even President Obama supports making reforms to the landmark law. In an article published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 11, President 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 he has continued to push for “a series of fixes” aimed at improving the law, recognizing that while the law has made incredible progress, there is work yet to be done.

  • Johns Hopkins Professors Condemn Anti-LGBT Junk Science In Baltimore Sun Op-Ed

    Professors: “Findings Could Further Stigmatize And Harm The Health Of The LGBTQ Community”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Faculty members at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health disassociated themselves from a recent report on LGBT health published by fellow Hopkins colleagues in a non-peer review journal, condemning the “troubling” report in a op-ed in The Baltimore Sun for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence in a way that will “further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.” 

    Three faculty members from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published an op-ed on September 28 in The Baltimore Sun criticizing a new report on LGBT health that they say is cause for “concern” because it “mischaracterizes the current state of the science on sexuality and gender.” The recent report is written by current Hopkins “scholar in residence” Lawrence Mayer and faculty member Paul McHugh. McHugh has long peddled anti-LGBT pseudoscience and refused to accept medical consensus on LGBT health, having previously written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal in which he lamented the increasing visibility of transgender rights and warned that transgender identities should be treated as "confusions" and illnesses.

    The authors of the op-ed cited concerns with the report’s analysis and conclusion, noting that previous research was inexplicably excluded from the study. Additionally, the report was published in a journal -- The New Atlantis -- that that is not “subject to rigorous peer review” normal of scientific research. The New Atlantis is published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is dedicated to “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” The Hopkins faculty also expressed their fear that “the report's findings could further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.”

    From the September 28 Baltimore Sun op-ed:

    That is why the recent report, released by one current and one former member of our faculty on the topic of LGBTQ health, is so troubling. The report, "Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological and Psychological and Social Sciences," was not published in the scientific literature, where it would have been subject to rigorous peer review prior to publication. It purports to detail the science of this area, but it falls short of being a comprehensive review.


    As now stated, the report's findings could further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities, and the report is already being widely touted by organizations opposed to LGBTQ rights.

    Because of the report, the Human Rights Campaign has warned Johns Hopkins that it is reviewing, and may remove from the institution, its high ranking in the HRC Healthcare Equality Index. The national benchmarking tool evaluates health care facilities' policies and practices related to equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees.

    We wish to make clear that there are many people at Hopkins who hold a profound and long-standing commitment to the health, wellness, well-being, and fair and non-stigmatizing treatment of LGBTQ people and communities. We do not believe that the "Sexuality and Gender" report cited above is a comprehensive portrayal of the current science, and we respectfully disassociate ourselves from its findings.

  • A Media Guide To The Hyde Amendment And Its Anti-Choice Legacy

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    September 25 marked the start of a week of action by reproductive rights advocates to raise awareness about the Hyde amendment, its anti-choice legacy, and recent efforts to catalyze support for its repeal.

    The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, led by All* Above All’s coalition of reproductive rights activists, not only demarcates the 40th anniversary of the oppressive anti-choice measure’s adoption, but also comes at a significant time politically. Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt -- which struck down medically unnecessary anti-choice restrictions on abortion access in Texas -- right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have continued to push misinformation about abortion and have doubled down on their support for the Hyde amendment.

    During this week of action -- and beyond -- here’s what the media needs to know about the Hyde amendment, its legacy, and the efforts of reproductive rights activists to eliminate the anti-choice funding restriction once and for all.

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    The Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal funding for abortion services. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this restriction -- commonly called the Hyde amendment after its first sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) -- was first passed as a budgetary rider “to the fiscal 1977 Medicaid appropriation.” Every year since, “the Hyde Amendment has been reenacted” to prevent the use of federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion services, except in case of rape or 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. Considering the number of financial and logistical barriers women already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication.

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    In January, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton decided to “publicly do battle against Hyde,” by making the repeal of the anti-choice restriction a top priority, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine. Beyond being the first presidential nominee to publicly speak against the Hyde amendment, Clinton “dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion” by drawing attention to “the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality,” Traister argued. 

    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.

    Although Clinton and the Democratic Party are drawing much-needed attention to the problematic Hyde amendment, the renewed focus on its impact did not originate with them. Instead, as All* Above All co-chair Jessica González-Rojas explained to The Guardian, the credit belongs with “Women of color leaders” who “have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades when most mainstream reproductive rights groups did not prioritize this issue.”

    Similarly, ThinkProgress reported in early September, although Hillary Clinton’s commitment to repealing the Hyde amendment “ quickly shot the controversial idea into mainstream political conversations,” it has been the “end goal of dozens of resilient reproductive justice organizations that have been pushing to repeal the Hyde Amendment for decades.”

    Now, during this week of action, All* Above All has mobilized a grass-roots coalition involving “68 organizations in 38 states" working "to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” Reproductive rights advocates are not the only ones drawing attention to the Hyde amendment during the election, however.

    More recently, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing that he has a new “pro-life coalition,” led by known anti-choice extremist Marjorie Dannenfelser. As part of the announcement, Trump committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.” Trump also promised to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortion after 20 weeks on the faulty premise that a fetus can feel pain by that point in gestation.

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Right-wing media have a history of not only attacking Planned Parenthood, but also spreading misinformation about the Hyde amendment and federal funding for other reproductive health care services.

    For example, during the December 22 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Eric Bolling reacted to co-host Dana Perino’s statement that “defunding Planned Parenthood” is problematic politically by arguing that funding for abortion services should be “separate” from funding for “women’s services.” Although Bolling did not explicitly name the Hyde amendment, he pushed for Republicans to "defund the abortion part of Planned Parenthood” and set up a “Chinese wall” between abortions and Planned Parenthood’s other services.

    Right-wing media have also misled the public about how much of Planned Parenthood’s resources are strictly devoted to abortion, dismissing the many other types of health care the organization provides to both women and men. In July 2015, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood because, as O’Reilly argued, he did not want “tax dollars going” to abortion providers. Tantaros supported this statement and repeated the myth that because Americans have ample alternatives to Planned Parenthood, “taxpayer dollars should not have to go” to abortion providers.

    Beyond the Hyde amendment, right-wing media have also spread misinformation about the nature of Title X family planning funds that are used by providers like Planned Parenthood to supply necessary reproductive health care such as contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. Right-wing media have argued that Planned Parenthood is an inappropriate recipient of Title X funds, because the organization is incapable of providing wider reproductive health care. In reality, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are an essential resource for reproductive health care in many communities.

    As a result, in September 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule that would stop anti-choice lawmakers from diverting federal family planning money -- distributed to states through Title X of the Public Health Service Act -- away from Planned Parenthood. As The New York Times explained, “The rule would make clear that state governments must apportion Title X funds based on a provider’s ability to perform family planning services effectively -- not on other factors like whether a provider also offers abortions.” In April, the Obama administration had “warned officials in all 50 states” that blocking Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding is likely “out of compliance with federal law,” according to The Washington Post.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media alleged that the proposed rule would ensure that there are “millions more in taxpayer dollars for the nation’s abortion market leader at the expense of women’s health.”

    Even when not discussing the Hyde amendment or abortion funding, right-wing media have frequently misrepresented the severity of anti-choice restrictions and downplayed the ways these requirements have made abortion and other reproductive health services less accessible.

    This is an issue that has spread beyond just right-wing media. In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed 14 months of evening cable news discussion about reproductive rights and found that media frequently ignore or underestimate the impact of economic barriers when talking about abortion access. In this study we found that only eight news segments even briefly mentioned the economic barriers women face to accessing abortion.

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    1. Low-Income Patients

    Low-income patients and their families are one of the primary groups affected by the Hyde amendment’s restriction on funding for abortion services.

    The Guttmacher Institute found in a July 2016 study 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. According to Guttmacher’s director of public policy, Heather Boonstra, for women between 15 and 33 who depend on Medicaid, 60 percent live in places (35 states and D.C.) “that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.” As a result, approximately 7 million women are potentially impacted by Hyde’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

    In January, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci highlighted Clinton’s focus on repealing the Hyde amendment because of its disproportionate impact on low-income patients. According to Clinton, abortion is not accessible enough “'as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.'” Cauterucci concluded that if Clinton succeeded in making the repeal of Hyde a central issue in the campaign, it would be “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.”

    The National Women’s Law Center explained in 2015 that “because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion,” which increases the out-of-pocket costs. Thus the Hyde amendment exacerbates the substantial financial disadvantage low-income persons already face in obtaining abortion care.

    2. Women Of Color

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and Native Americans -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde amendment’s ban on federal abortion coverage.

    According to a September 2016 research brief from Ibis Reproductive Health and All* Above All on the impact of out-of-pocket costs on abortion access, “Because low-income women and women of color are disproportionately covered by public health insurance programs, restrictions in coverage increase their socioeconomic disadvantage.”

    This assessment matched the findings of the National Women’s Law Center’s study, which noted that women of color were not only “more likely than White women to face financial barriers when seeking abortions” but also “more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities.”

    Black Women

    In 2015 the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given that “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, black women do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”


    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.

    According to a joint op-ed from the executive directors of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Voto Latino, “The first woman known to die of an unsafe illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was a Latina” named Rosie Jimenez, who “died from septic shock in October 1977” months after the Hyde amendment first went into effect. Since then, the op-ed explained, the Hyde amendment has continued to have “an especially devastating effect” on Latina communities, due to their high national rates of Medicaid enrollment.

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, NLIRH explained the material consequences of barriers created by state anti-choice restrictions, like Texas’ HB 2. NLIRH argued that due to the "significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges" Latinas already face when seeking medical care, clinic closures caused by Texas’ anti-choice law would create "severe burdens in accessing reproductive healthcare."

    Native Americans

    Native Americans are disparately impacted not only by restrictions on federal funding for abortion, but also by a lack of public awareness about the unique barriers to reproductive health care faced by their communities.

    As Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center executive director Charon Asetoyer explained to Salon, despite the disparate impact anti-choice restrictions have on Native American communities, Native people are often a “silent population” in national conversations about reproductive rights. For example, she noted that although Native Americans are entitled to receive care through the federally funded Indian Health Service (IHS), “We are still struggling to aspire to the Hyde Amendment while others work to get rid of it.”

    Indeed, as a 2002 survey of Native American women’s reproductive health care access found, 85 percent of IHS offices “often refuse to provide Native American women even the limited access to abortion services to which they are legally entitled under the Hyde Amendment.”

    As a result, Asetoyer continued, many Native Americans who wish to access abortion services are forced to incur higher out-of-pocket costs in order to travel to the nearest abortion provider when “A lot of the time women in these situations don’t even have an automobile to drive to the nearest Planned Parenthood, let alone the money to pay for the procedure.”

    3. LGBT Persons

    In an op-ed for Advocate, National LGBTQ Task Force representative Candace Bond-Theriault affirmed that the LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are “inseparable” because “many of the same people who propose policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people also [are] actively working to deny access to reproductive health care.”

    While the Hyde amendment makes abortion care inaccessible for many, Bond-Theriault highlighted how anti-choice restrictions additionally perpetuate structural inequalities wherein individuals are “stigmatized because of the personal bodily choices that [they] make.”

    Lambda Legal’s Camilla Taylor, Caroline Sacerdote, and Kara Ingelhart previously explained the pervasive and negative forms of stigma that both movements address, noting that, “People who have an abortion -- whether members of the LGBT community or not -- experience something familiar to all LGBT people: stigma.” They emphasized the importance of combating abortion stigma because, “As the LGBT community knows all too well, it is hard to fight against efforts to roll back your civil rights when you have to remain in the closet.”

    In an op-ed titled “Abortion Access and Trans Health Care Are Bound Together in Texas,” Texas Equal Access Fund president Nan Little Kirkpatrick wrote that “the Hyde amendment is discrimination in health care” faced by those attempting to “exercise their reproductive rights as granted by the Supreme Court.” She argued that the effort to take down structurally oppressive measures like the Hyde amendment “expressly highlights the ways that the movements for trans and reproductive justice intersect” because both involve “bodily autonomy.”

    4. Service Members And Veterans

    Because the Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal abortion funding, its impact is felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans.

    After the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte named the repeal of the Hyde amendment one of the next major goals for pro-choice advocates. According to Marcotte, “The effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating” for both low-income families and service members because it means “no federal employees, service women, veterans or women on Medicaid have access to coverage for abortion.”

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    As Steph Herold, managing director of the Sea Change Program, wrote in an op-ed for Rewire, All* Above All “is playing a pivotal role by introducing pro-active abortion access legislation and encouraging elected officials to come out against the Hyde Amendment.”

    The organization represents a coalition of reproductive justice advocates and women of color whose goals are to catalyze action to “restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”

    From September 25 to October 1, All* Above All is leading a week of action, which includes “130 activities hosted by 68 organizations in 38 states to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action also includes “a multi-city ad campaign amplifying the voices of Catholics [for choice] across the county” as well as a “celebration of local victories” to earn recognition for the need to repeal oppressive anti-choice restrictions like the Hyde amendment.

    In addition, All* Above All has mobilized support for the EACH Woman Act, proposed legislation that would repeal the Hyde amendment and guarantee “coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.” According to All* Above All, the bill now has over 120 co-sponsors who have committed themselves to affirming that people have the right to make the best reproductive health care decision for themselves and their families.

    To mark 40 years of the Hyde amendment’s dangerous anti-choice legacy, NARAL Pro-Choice America shared the stories of several individuals “from diverse backgrounds and experiences [who] came together to support repeal of Hyde.” Although their stories represent a variety of experiences in trying to gain access to necessary abortion care, the common refrain and message to the media was clear. As one of the individuals, Mary Tobin, wrote: “If equality is truly a pillar that our country represents and embraces, then the repeal of the Hyde Amendment is crucial to upholding our country’s identity.”

  • Pro-Choice Groups Call On NBC’s Lester Holt To Ask Candidates About Abortion During First Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On September 22, a coalition of reproductive rights groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, and CREDO, issued a joint letter encouraging NBC News’ Lester Holt, moderator of the first presidential debate on Monday, September 26, to “press the candidates on their plans to address the crisis in abortion access in our country.”

    The letter proposes three potential questions asking the presidential nominees, if elected president, how would they “ensure that the constitutional right to abortion is guaranteed to all Americans,” would they allow or restrict a pregnant woman infected with Zika to access abortion, and “what steps would [the candidates] take to reverse maternal mortality in this country?”

    During the Democratic primary, critics called out debate moderators for failing to ask either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders questions about abortion, including starting a Twitter hashtag #AskAboutAbortion. Eventually, Clinton and Sanders were asked abortion-related questions during Fox News’ March 7 Town Hall. Pro-choice group have revived the hashtag campaign prior to Monday’s presidential debate.

    From the September 22 joint letter:

    While many topics deserve the candidates’ consideration—from job creation to immigration to national security—safe and reliable access to abortion is fundamental to all Americans’ ability to determine our own destinies. One in three women in this country has had an abortion, and the majority (over 60%) are mothers who are trying to take care of the families they already have. Despite the fact that seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, many in government are actively trying and succeeding in blocking access to what is, at its core, a constitutionally protected right. Consider the following facts, which paint a picture of dwindling access to abortion across the country:

    • 261 anti-choice laws have passed through state legislatures since 2010
    • 27 states have anti-choice legislatures where both chambers are anti-choice
    • 87% of counties in this country have no abortion provider at all

    Throughout this presidential campaign, we’ve heard Hillary Clinton outline her plan to expand abortion access by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, and we’ve heard Donald Trump say that a woman should be punished for her decision to have an abortion. These starkly different approaches to such important issues deserve to be contested on the national debate stage. Voters deserve a fulsome debate on how to expand access to abortion so they can decide for themselves which candidate will do right by their family.

    In presidential debates since at least 1984, moderators have typically posed questions on abortion that border on entirely theoretical because they focus on extreme outlier cases. We hope that your questions capture the true needs of women and the lived experiences surrounding abortion access.

    UPDATE: Ahead of the October 9 presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, eight reproductive rights organizations renewed their call for debate moderators to ask the candidates about abortion, after the topic was not discussed in the first debate.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Smears Planned Parenthood Over Birth Control Access


    During a recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said birth control “should not be done by prescription.” A subsequent editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal used Trump’s remarks to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is “the biggest obstacle” to “the availability of and access to birth control for women,” ignoring both media and medical groups’ concern that selling birth control over the counter could make it less affordable and accessible if health insurance does not continue to cover the cost.

  • Trump’s Extreme New Anti-Choice Agenda Is Full Of Right-Wing Media’s Favorite Misinformation

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 16, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing a new “pro-life coalition,” led by a known anti-choice extremist. As part of the announcement, Trump also pledged a commitment to four anti-choice policy priorities that have been long promoted by right-wing media, involving defunding Planned Parenthood, banning abortion, and entrenching the Hyde amendment as federal law.