A Colorado reporter called out Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner's efforts to conceal the fact that the federal personhood bill he co-sponsored would end abortion, a refreshing contrast to other media figures' refusal to hold Gardner accountable for his stance.
In the October 15 debate between Gardner and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, Kyle Clark, a reporter for NBC-affiliate KUSA, pressed Gardner on his continued denial that the Life At Conception Act is a federal personhood bill that would effectively end abortion procedures, by granting human eggs at fertilization the rights of a living person. Clark emphasized the fact that Gardner is a co-sponsor of the bill, which independent fact checkers widely agree would end abortion, and asked what the candidate's denial says about his judgment and willingness to hide the truth:
CLARK: You continue to deny that the federal Life At Conception Act, which you sponsor, is a personhood bill to end abortion -- and we are not going to debate that here tonight because that's a fact. Your co-sponsors say so; your opponents say so; and independent fact-checkers say so. So let's instead talk about what this entire episode may say about your judgment more broadly. It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you're wrong, and a less charitable interpretation is that you're not telling us the truth. Which is it?
Gardner's support for personhood legislation has previously been glossed over by many in the media. The Denver Post's editorial board endorsed the candidate by claiming he posed "no threat to abortion rights," a declaration that completely ignores Gardner's support of the federal personhood legislation that would severely handicap women's access to health care and legal abortion.
Syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will echoed the Denver Post's endorsement, claiming that the issue of reproductive rights had already been settled and would not be affected by Gardner's election.
Thankfully, as Clark made clear in his questioning of Gardner, not all media figures are willing to give Gardner a pass on his incomprehensible personhood stance.
National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' refusal to disclose which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 with former Republican Rep. Todd Akin's (MO) stunning claim that it is "really rare" for a woman to become pregnant as a result of "a legitimate rape." Lowry suggested the two positions were politically equivalent "gaffes," whitewashing the fact that Akin's statement was not only absurdly disconnected from scientific reality -- it also happened to reflect actual policy priorities of the Republican Party.
During an October 10 interview with the editorial board of The Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes said she "respect[ed] the sanctity of the ballot box" when asked if she voted for President Obama in past elections. During an October 13 candidate debate, Grimes reiterated her stance on voter privacy:
GRIMES: This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right to privacy at the ballot box, for a secret ballot. You have that right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right.
GRIMES: I am not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or for members of the media.
In an October 15 column published by Politico Magazine, Lowry exclaimed that "Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014," and argued that Grimes' stated position defending the secret ballot was "a defining political gaffe" for this election. He likened her comments to then-Rep. Todd Akin's infamous statements about rape and pregnancy, in which Akin stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Lowry argued that the two candidates represented similar levels of political ineptitude, writing that each was "telegenic, mockable and universally condemned."
Grimes' decision to stand on principle with regard to voter privacy has been labeled a "gaffe" by some, but, as MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, it is "an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one."
By comparison, Akin's alarming comments on rape and pregnancy were reflected to varying degrees in actual policy decisions favored by Republican elected officials and candidates. Akin would later attempt to clarify his remarks amid a "firestorm" of controversy, but maintained his opposition to legal abortion access for women -- a constitutional right codified by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In 2012, many prominent Republican candidates and conservative media figures supported banning safe and legal abortion, making the issue a central part of campaign rhetoric.
In October 2012, Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock voiced his opposition to abortion "even when life begins in that terrible situation of rape," stating that "it is something that God intended to happen." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois supported a ban on all abortion, including cases that would threaten the life of the mother. Walsh falsley claimed that "modern technology and science" had solved the problem of potentially life-threatening pregnancies. During a 2007 Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney said "we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period." He went on to state that it would be "terrific" if Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion, which he would be "delighted" to sign. Romney dodged abortion questions throughout his 2012 campaign, but promised to eliminate federal funding for women's health organizations like Planned Parenthood and vowed to be "a pro-life president."
Outlawing access to abortion remains a lightning rod for conservative media, with some right-wing outlets going so far as to tie debates about legal abortion to the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Right-wing media figures like Karl Rove have pushed the myth that some forms of contraception are actually forms of abortion, while others such as Bill O'Reilly advanced extremist views on fetal "personhood" that would criminalize most abortions.
There is no appropriate comparison between Akin's extreme rhetoric and false scientific claims, and Grimes' personal defense of privacy at the ballot box.
Washington Post columnist George Will ignored Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's controversial policy positions on women's rights to smear Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) as a one issue candidate. But Gardner has supported measures that would severely limit women's reproductive choice.
On October 10, the Denver Post editorial board endorsed Republican Cory Gardner citing Udall's prioritization of what the Post called "his obnoxious one-issue campaign" on women's issues like abortion.
George Will parroted the Post's criticism of Udall on the October 14 edition Special Report with Bret Baier. Will claimed that "the whole war on women thing has been really worn out by this point," adding that the issue has been settled because contraception and abortion rights have been firmly ingrained in America for more than 40 years:
The Denver Post's endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (CO) claimed that he posed "no threat to abortion rights," a declaration that ignores Gardner's support of federal personhood legislation that would greatly infringe on women's access to health care and legal abortion.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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National Review Online's foremost legal analyst is continuing his colleagues' attacks on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by criticizing her for "speaking publicly on abortion policy," despite previously defending Justice Antonin Scalia's penchant for similar public comments and interviews.
In the past week, National Review "roving correspondent" Kevin Williamson echoed his outlet's debunked insinuations from 2009 that Ginsburg supported eugenics. Williamson accused her of harboring a "desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible," an argument that NRO editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg offered "three cheers for" and that Williamson later compounded when he argued that women who have abortions should be hanged. NRO legal analyst Ed Whelan continued the attacks on Ginsburg, joining other anti-choice voices in condemning Ginsburg's statements in a recent interview in which she criticized a Texas law that closed down a number of the state's reproductive health clinics, arguing that commenting on legislation that could soon be before the Supreme Court was grounds for her recusal.
But Whelan went on to broaden his critique of Ginsburg, suggesting in a later post that she not speak publicly about abortion policy at all, regardless of whether it is in reference to a reproductive justice case before the court or not. In a September 30 blog post, Whelan complained about Ginsburg speaking "on all sorts of other matters related to abortion policy" and suggested that it was improper for the justice to "speak her mind openly on this matter."
Whelan's condemnation of Ginsburg and her discussion of general "abortion policy" appears inconsistent with his defense of his former boss, Justice Antonin Scalia, who also frequently speaks on contentious public policy. For example, in 2011, when Scalia spoke at a "closed-door session with a group of conservative lawmakers," Whelan balked at the suggestion that Scalia's attendance at a Tea Party function was inappropriate. According to The New York Times:
M. Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk to Justice Scalia, disputed [George Washington University law professor Jonathan] Turley's criticism.
"Does he think it's improper for any justice ever to speak to any group of members of Congress who might be perceived as sharing the same general political disposition?" Mr. Whelan told The Los Angeles Times. "My guess is that, schedule permitting, Scalia would be happy to speak on the same topic to any similarly sized group of members of Congress who invited him."
National Review Online launched an ad hominem attack on actress Lena Dunham for writing a piece for Planned Parenthood Action Fund that encourages people to vote, continuing NRO's pattern of denigrating women who advocate for reproductive rights.
In a September 28 post headlined "Five Reasons Why You're Too Dumb To Vote," NRO's Kevin D. Williamson responded to Dunham's piece, published on the Women Are Watching blog, a project of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In her post, clearly targeted to young women, Dunham asserted that every vote counts and urged young women to vote to protect their reproductive rights.
Williamson started his response by levying a personal attack at Dunham, calling the actress "distinctly unappealing" and describing her piece as "a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers," directed toward Dunham's "presumably illiterate following." He claimed that "cultural debasement" is the "only possible explanation" for Dunham's career.
The NRO columnist echoed a previous infantilizing attack on feminism, casting Dunham's view of voting as "nothing other than a reiteration of the original infantile demand: "I WANT!" Williamson also took issue with Dunham's encouraging young women to vote on issues that directly affect them, framing an interest in reproductive rights as an "'all about me!' attitude":
Miss Dunham's "all about me!" attitude toward the process of voting inevitably extends to the content of what she votes for, which is, in her telling, mostly about her sex life. Hammering down hard on the Caps Lock key, she writes: "The crazy and depressing truth is that there are people running for office right now who could actually affect your life. PARTICULARLY your sex life. PARTICULARLY if you're a woman. Yup."
A new interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that will appear in Elle magazine has given National Review Online an opportunity to once again twist the justice's views on the importance of equal reproductive rights for everyone, regardless of their financial means. As it did in 2009, NRO claimed that Ginsburg's frequent observations that poor women are disproportionately affected by anti-choice legislation may be proof of her support for eugenics -- even though that misinterpretation of her comments has been debunked.
National Review Online (NRO) attacked State Senator Wendy Davis (D-TX) for speaking out about her own experiences with abortion, calling her description of the abortions -- one of which saved her life -- "convenient," and downplaying the serious health problems that can lead women to choose the procedure.
In her upcoming memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid, Davis disclosed her personal experiences undergoing abortion procedures. Writing about the circumstances that led to her decisions, Davis described a medical abnormality that doctors said "likely was incompatible with life" that led her to terminate a desired pregnancy, and a second procedure following an ectopic pregnancy that threatened her life if it wasn't ended.
In a September 9 post, National Review Online responded to Davis' account by questioning the legitimacy of her story. Calling it "convenient," the post went on to "question the accuracy of her claims related to the abortion." The post challenged Davis to provide proof that her abortions were necessitated for medical reasons and went on to dismiss the medical rationale for these types of abortions (emphasis added):
But not all commentary has been focused on the harm Davis suffered post-abortion. Horne said that "only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions. We simply do not know the circumstances of Wendy Davis's apparent abortions." Horne noted that "it is extremely rare -- if not non-existent -- for a woman to have an abortion because the pregnancy posed a risk to her life. As for fetal anomalies, it simply isn't necessary to abort a child because he or she is sick or has a medical condition."
"It would be disturbing to think that she may be using her abortions as a way to gain political favor with Democratic voters," Horne added.
Horne's analysis matches that of a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey of women who had abortions. The survey found that only 4 percent said that "their most important reason" for having an abortion was "physical problems with my health," and 3 percent named "possible problems affecting the health of the [baby]."
Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn't. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely.
Although few women have late-term procedures, NRO dismisses the very real medical necessity for them to be available. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the majority of serious health conditions that impact both mother and fetus are not discovered until the 20th week of pregnancy or later -- an occurrence that explains why a woman would wait until this point in their pregnancy to undergo the procedure.
Fox News host Shannon Bream misled about new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allow both non-profit and for-profit entities to opt-out of health insurance coverage for contraception, while pretending this new accommodation was contrary to the Supreme Court's recent orders on the "contraception mandate" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On August 22, HHS announced a new set of rules aimed at accommodating non-profits and business owners who object on religious grounds to providing comprehensive health insurance to their employees. The new regulations are designed to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which held that certain "closely-held" for-profit corporations can be exempted from the requirement that contraception be covered in their employer-sponsored plans. This exemption now aligns the treatment of these businesses with that of religiously-affiliated non-profits, an accommodation the conservative Justices of the Court explicitly directed HHS to consider.
But on the August 25 edition of Fox News' Real Story, host Shannon Bream ignored the fact that the new rules were based on instructions from the Supreme Court.
Bream claimed that "a lot of people are saying" that HHS's rule change "was just a sleight of hand" that "doesn't really change anything." The Fox host went on to argue that these new regulations were contrary to the ruling in Hobby Lobby because "the Supreme Court said simply they don't have to comply with the mandate, now they'd have to fill out paperwork to comply with the mandate":
Bream's pretense that the HHS regulations do not track the Supreme Court's recent rulings is wrong. In his majority opinion for the conservative justices in Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that there was "no reason" why HHS couldn't offer an accommodation of this sort to both non-profit and for-profit entities alike, and that such a process for this exemption to the contraceptive mandate "constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty."
Moreover, the new regulations also address the additional issue raised by the conservative justices in an interim order issued after Hobby Lobby in Wheaton College v. Burwell, a case where a Christian university successfully claimed that even signing the form that notified its insurance issuer of its objection to birth control coverage was also an impermissible burden on religious freedom. To deal with that objection, HHS' new rules -- in an attempt to meet the instructions of the Court in both Hobby Lobby and Wheaton -- now create an accommodation to its accommodation and will allow "institutions ... to tell the federal government which company administers their health-insurance plan, and the government would then contact that administrator to ask it to arrange contraception coverage for the institution's employees."
HHS has now done what the conservative justices twice told it to do, a fact Fox News forgets as it complains that in accommodating objections to female employees' access to contraception, HHS still hasn't done enough.
Nightly network newscasts and Sunday morning talk shows have largely failed to connect two recent Supreme Court decisions to Citizens United v. FEC, the case that radically expanded the legal concept of "corporate personhood" -- the idea that corporations have constitutional rights. This has left viewers with an incomplete understanding of how the Court applied this dangerous precedent to campaign finance and reproductive rights law.
From the July 31 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The Wall Street Journal took a stand against fair treatment for pregnant workers, complaining that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) new guidelines designed to fight pregnancy discrimination despite conservative Supreme Court opinions holding discrimination against pregnant women is not sex discrimination was a "radical" reading of federal law.
Last week, the EEOC issued new guidelines to employers in an effort to curb increasing incidents of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace -- the first time in 30 years the agency had updated its guidelines regarding fair treatment of pregnant employees. One of these new guidelines interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include reasonable accommodations for "pregnancy-related impairments," which can include serious ailments like anemia, gestational diabetes, and abnormal heart rhythms, among others.
But in a July 27 editorial, the Journal argued that protections provided by the ADA should be reserved only for the "truly disabled," not women who are disabled due to medical conditions caused by their pregnancies. The editorial also ignored the reality of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and claimed that the EEOC's comprehensive new guidance was a "radical legal interpretation" of the ADA that served no purpose other than to provide a "launching pad for trial lawyers." It went on to argue that the guidance was unnecessary given the fact that "pregnancy is not unprotected under federal law," without mentioning that these protections were a direct response to conservative case law that refused to treat pregnancy as a sex-based classification under federal law:
Even after the 2008 amendments, the ADA at no point defines pregnancy as a "disability." To end-run this fact, the agency discovers pregnancy's "impairments." The EEOC's guidelines argue, "Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, impairments related to pregnancy can be disabilities if they substantially limit one or more major life activities." Morning sickness, for example, would become a qualifying impairment under the ADA.
Thus the EEOC is piling one radical legal interpretation (discarding the ADA's clear intent to help the truly disabled) upon another (granting protections to pregnant women, who aren't covered under the ADA).
Pregnancy is not unprotected under federal law. The 1964 Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." And the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended that law to protect, yes, pregnant women.
Anyone who reads the text of the EEOC guidance can see the rationale behind yet another display of Obama executive-branch muscle. The rules' imprecision is a launching pad for trial lawyers, a primary source of grateful Democratic campaign money. And Valerie Jarrett's CNN piece makes clear the initiative is another politicized front in the "war on women."
Ms. Jarrett says the guidelines will help employers "understand their obligations." With the most important being to hire more lawyers and fewer employees, of any sex.
Fox News has devoted a significant amount of time to finding new ways to baselessly attack the Women's Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would counteract laws that single out and punish abortion providers. The network parroted extreme anti-choice talking points and largely ignored the opinion of leading health organizations that these laws have dangerous consequences for women.
Conservative media have revived false comparisons of legal abortion to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell in the wake of a Senate hearing regarding a proposed bill to prohibit states from imposing unusually onerous regulations on abortion clinics, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes have nothing to do with legal abortion procedures.
On July 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Women's Health Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) The bill would bar states from enacting laws restricting abortion that are more burdensome than restrictions for similar outpatient procedures.
The hearings sent right-wing media into a frenzy, renewing comparisons between legal abortion and Kermit Gosnell, a former doctor sentenced to life in prison without parole for the three counts of first-degree murder. National Review Online invoked Gosnell in an editorial titled "Gosnell Nation" on July 16. NRO suggested the title of the bill should be renamed to the "Kermit Gosnell Enabling Act of 2014" and provided a detailed description of Gosnell's horrific crimes, claiming the bill would lead to more cases like Gosnell's
A July 15 Fox News report on the bill also cited Gosnell, attributing many new state abortion restrictions to a reaction to his crimes.
But Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions performed at clinics these state regulations target. The grand jury in Gosnell's case found that "Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge." And University of California reproductive health professor Tracy Weitz has explained that Gosnell's actions have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States," and that his practices are "nowhere in the medical literature."
The Blumenthal bill is intended to prevent the harmful effects on women's health that the rapid expansion of state abortion regulations, known as Targeted Regulations of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws, has had. TRAP laws target abortion clinics for restrictions not imposed on other clinics that provide procedures with similar risk, like colonoscopies. In fact, such onerous and constitutionally questionable regulations have already driven many abortion clinics in the states to close -- which, according to Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, puts "more women at risk for later term abortions or for illicit abortions outside the medical community."
Since the news of Gosnell's horrific crimes emerged, right-wing media have continuously attempted to tie the case to legal abortions -- the vast majority of which are safe and occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.