Reproductive Rights

Issues ››› Reproductive Rights
  • Des Moines Register Demands Specifics About So-Called “Alternatives” To Planned Parenthood

    Register’s Editorial Board Showed Local Papers What Questions To Ask When Anti-Choice Lawmakers Threaten Access To Essential Care

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As conservatives on Capitol Hill threaten to defund Planned Parenthood under dubious pretenses, Iowa’s Des Moines Register is modeling how state papers should handle efforts by local anti-choice lawmakers to do the same.

    The Register’s editorial board called on Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) to “sit down and write the names of the entities that can provide comprehensive family planning services in Iowa” before following through on his budget plan to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood. The paper quoted Branstad saying that his plan “redirects family planning money to organizations that focus on providing health care for women and eliminates taxpayer funding for organizations that perform abortions.”

    Branstad’s plan comes from a familiar anti-choice playbook. To justify defunding Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians in a number of states have wrongly claimed that the organization uses taxpayer money to subsidize abortion services. Although in reality, the government reimburses Planned Parenthood only for non-abortion services, and that money is provided via Medicaid, lawmakers use this incorrect allegation to demand that funds be shifted to so-called “community health clinics” (CHC). Lawmakers believe these CHCs could absorb patient demand should access to Planned Parenthood be eliminated -- a claim experts call “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.”

    By demanding specifics from conservatives who claim that there are numerous “alternatives” to Planned Parenthood, the Register modeled the kind of reporting local outlets should be doing about threats to defund essential health care in their communities.

    1. Demand To Know What So-Called “Alternatives” To Planned Parenthood Are Available

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through Medicaid. In Iowa, this process is facilitated through the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver program, which gives patients the option to receive “a form of limited insurance coverage” through Medicaid that covers “basic family planning services.”

    As the Register noted, Branstad “must know that many of the more than 30,000 Iowans obtaining services made possible by the waiver receive them from Planned Parenthood,” which means that if he “rejects this particular organization, he should specify exactly who has the statewide ability to take its place.”

    There’s ample reason to believe that this task will prove impossible for the long-serving anti-choice governor. As the Register reported, providers have already warned state officials that there “are not enough providers in Iowa to absorb the patients Planned Parenthood of the Heartland currently serves.”

    Rather than taking Branstad or other anti-choice lawmakers at their word about the viability of so-called alternatives, the Register performed a critical journalistic function and demanded to know what these facilities were, and whether they have the capacity to meet the medical needs of low-income patients across the state.

    2. Ask About The Types Of Services “Alternatives” Can Actually Provide

    Beyond asking Branstad to name specific alternatives to Planned Parenthood, the Register also asked that the list exclude clinics that are “no longer in business” and include only facilities that “actually provide family planning services.”

    This may seem like an odd stipulation, but the Register’s specific question about alternative providers’ actual services is exactly the kind of scrutiny local outlets should apply when lawmakers threaten to radically alter the infrastructure of essential health care systems.

    Across the country, anti-choice lawmakers have conflated the total number of CHCs with the much smaller number of those facilities that are actually equipped to provide primary care and family planning services. As the Register explained:

    Florida lawmakers learned that lesson the hard way. After passing an anti-Planned Parenthood bill last year, they sought to demonstrate there were numerous, alternative providers. Their list became a national joke because it included the names of elementary and middle schools, dental practices and at least one eye clinic.

    While Planned Parenthood clinics all offer preventive and basic care services, CHCs can qualify for that classification while providing more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    By demanding specific answers about threats to defund Planned Parenthood, The Des Moines Register’s editorial board provided a model for local outlets to critically interrogate claims by lawmakers about so-called alternatives -- questions that are essential when access to health care is on the line.

  • VIDEO: The “Alternative” To Roe Will Put Lives On The Line

    Trump And Right-Wing Media Are Demanding Greater State Control Over Abortion -- Even If It Causes Harm

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN, DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    Forty-four years ago, Roe v. Wade determined that the constitutionally protected right to privacy ensures an individual’s ability to make personal, medical decisions without interference from politicians -- including the decision to have an abortion.

    But now, President-elect Donald Trump and anti-choice politicians who have made careers from promoting scientifically dubious and medically harmful anti-abortion laws want to eliminate Roe’s protections.

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to appoint “pro-life justices” who would “automatically” overturn Roe. After the election, Trump told CBS’ Lesley Stahl that he would prefer control over abortion “go back to the states” even it it meant that women would “perhaps have to go … to another state” to obtain necessary reproductive health care.

    This may sound like hyperbolic campaign rhetoric, but the threat is very real -- and it’s impossible to overstate how dangerous losing federally protected abortion rights would be.

    Right-wing media have consistently argued that greater state control over abortion clinics and providers is necessary to “protect women’s health.” The Supreme Court rejected this allegation in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which rebuked states for attempting to baselessly regulate abortion clinics under the guise of improving public health and safety.

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

    In contrast, life before Roe v. Wade -- without federally protected abortion rights -- was dangerous and difficult. Women traveled to neighboring states or even other countries to receive an abortion, often alone, in secrecy, with just enough money pooled together from friends or roommates. Some even saw their friends die from what can and should be a safe and simple procedure.

    Trump and anti-choice lawmakers seem to think a return to this grim reality would constitute “protecting women.”

    Even without attacks on Roe, accessing reproductive health care is already difficult -- especially for marginalized communities. Between rules like the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, and the targeted restriction of clinics meant to increase logistical barriers to abortion access, essential reproductive care is already tenuously out of reach for many.

    Conservatives are already putting people’s lives at risk with medically unnecessary laws that restrict abortion access. If they succeed in eliminating the federal and constitutional protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, people will get hurt.

    Anyone trying to spin that as “protecting women’s health” is lying to you.

  • Watch AM Joy Show How To Report The Impact Of Defunding Planned Parenthood

    Joy Reid Models Four Must-Do’s When Reporting On Reproductive Rights Topics During The Trump Administration

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the January 8 edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy, host Joy Reid put on a master class in how to cover anti-choice lawmakers’ latest attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

    The Sunday after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans would prioritize defunding the essential health care provider, Reid demonstrated four best practices for reporting on reproductive rights topics: hosting diverse guests, discussing the material consequences of policy decisions, including personal testimony in reports, and emphasizing the disparate impact of anti-choice laws on marginalized communities.

    Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider for millions of Americans -- many of them low-income patients reliant on Medicaid to access primary care. To justify defunding Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have falsely claimed that the organization’s primary goal is to coerce women into having abortions using taxpayer money.

    In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Due to the Hyde Amendment, the federal government is already barred from funding abortion services. Instead, the government reimburses Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services provided to low-income patients via Medicaid -- just like any other health care provider. Although right-wing media argue that so-called “community health clinics” (CHCs) could absorb this patient demand should Planned Parenthood clinics close, experts agree that CHCs lack the capacity, experience, and resources to replace Planned Parenthood.

    In its coverage of the defunding effort, AM Joy set the standard for reporting the consequences of congressional Republicans’ politically motivated attack on health care access -- and other outlets should take note.

    1. Host Diverse Guests

    During the January 8 segment, Reid hosted two women to discuss the impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood: the organization's president, Cecile Richards, and the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), Jessica González-Rojas.

    In a previous study of prime-time cable news coverage of reproductive rights topics, Media Matters found that networks relied heavily on male panelists to discuss the consequences of policy decisions about abortion and reproductive rights issues. This problem of representation is also more generally borne out across the Sunday political talk shows, which have overwhelmingly relied on guests who are white, conservative, and male.

    Hosting diverse guests is essential to providing in-depth, quality coverage of many topics. Non-white and non-male perspectives in newsrooms are often rare, a trend that should incite concern not only about equality but also about coverage accuracy.

    2. Discuss The Material Consequences Of Policy Decisions

    AM Joy also focused on the material impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood -- not just the political spectacle of the legislative fight.

    At the start of the segment, Reid immediately debunked the pervasive conservative arguments about the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood:

    JOY REID: Let’s be clear about this so-called defunding legislation -- what it would really do. It would prohibit Medicaid recipients from obtaining any kind of services from Planned Parenthood. We're not talking about abortion services because federal law already prohibits those being paid for with federal dollars. We're talking no cancer screenings, no contraception, no STD testing, no medical services as all. The defunding will be packaged with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which is currently providing health insurance to 22 million people and counting.

    Richards and González-Rojas each provided examples of the consequences that defunding Planned Parenthood would have for a number of patients across the country. As Richards explained, “Any senator who votes [to defund] is hurting women in their own home state” because they are “essentially saying to low-income women, 'You can't go to Planned Parenthood for your cancer screenings and birth control.’”

    González-Rojas agreed, adding that when Indiana denied Planned Parenthood state Medicaid reimbursements, “we saw an STI outbreak,” and when Texas blocked the reimbursements, “we saw the rates of unintended pregnancy and birth increasing. We heard stories of women splitting birth control pills to make it last longer.”

    3. Include Personal Testimony About Reproductive Health

    Throughout the January 8 segment, Reid emphasized personal testimony from herself, Richards, and González-Rojas about relying on Planned Parenthood for essential health care.

    Reid noted that Planned Parenthood was “the place where, when I graduated from college and had no money and was broke and had a low-paying job, [I] got all my health care.” Richards echoed the sentiment, explaining that “one in five women in this country go to Planned Parenthood for health care in their lifetime, including me, including you.”

    The practice of including personal testimony should be a staple when reporting on the consequences of anti-choice laws, including -- while not directly relevant here -- abortion access.

    4. Highlight The Disparate Impact Of Anti-Choice Laws On Marginalized Communities

    AM Joy also provided a platform to discuss the disparate impact of anti-choice laws, which have a greater impact on marginalized communities than on other groups.

    As González-Rojas explained:

    JESSICA GONZÁLEZ-ROJAS: I think a good example comes from Texas when we saw the defunding of a lot of the family planning services in Texas. We saw a health crisis happen. We saw health disparities happen. Things like cervical cancer, which is largely preventable, Latinas had huge rates of cervical cancer and that's something that they shouldn't have happen in their life. If they have access to regular screenings, paps, mammograms -- all the services that Planned Parenthood provides -- those types of things would be prevented. So this is a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on immigrant communities, on low-income women and families, young people, so a fight against Planned Parenthood is a fight against our communities.

    Because the economics of accessing necessary health care are already so precarious for many communities, networks and outlets should emphasize the disproportionate impact anti-choice laws have on these groups whenever possible.

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

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Graphic created by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • How Two Major Cable News Networks Enabled Some Of The Worst Sexual Assault Apologism Of 2016

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As sexual assault allegations against President-elect Donald Trump piled up in the months before the election, CNN and Fox News each relied on paid Trump surrogates and media allies to peddle some of the worst sexual assault apologism of the past year.

    After uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about sexual assault, a number of women came forward with specific allegations against the then-candidate. In CNN and Fox’s coverage of Trump’s despicable comments, his media allies downplayed the severity of sexual assault and attacked the credibility of those who spoke out, while both networks initially characterized the comments as merely “vulgar” or “lewd.” When women came forward with specific accounts of being sexually assaulted or harassed by Trump, CNN and Fox gave ample airtime to paid surrogates and media allies who minimized and made excuses for Trump’s actions.

    Sexual violence has no place in our society, let alone on cable news networks. So why did CNN and Fox spend the end of 2016 subsidizing media personalities to deny allegations and engage in pure sexual assault apologism?

    As Media Matters previously noted, CNN’s decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates made the network a consistent platform for the campaign to trivialize the severity of sexual assault. CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- systematically dismissed Trump’s comments,calling them a “distraction” and framing them as normal “locker room” talk.

    For example, Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, flippantly claimed that “nobody cares” that the nominee of a major political party was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Scottie Nell Hughes similarly argued that Trump’s deplorable comments were unimportant because “no woman woke up affected by these words” -- ignoring the sheer number of social and political risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment.

    Once women began to make their allegations public, CNN’s Trump surrogates focused their attention on normalizing sexual assault and attacking the credibility of the alleged survivors. Lewandowski questioned the timing and veracity of the reports, before deflecting questions by invoking discredited attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the connections between the 2005 recording and specific allegations against Trump, paid apologist Kayleigh McEnany called the claims baseless and blamed Trump’s accusers because they “let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”

    Fox fared no better in its coverage of Trump’s unacceptable comments. In addition to similarly dismissing Trump’s statements as “locker room talk,” “frat house language,” and “guy talk,” Fox employees also joined the effort to undermine the credibility of Trump’s accusers.

    On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump surrogate Ben Carson (now nominated to be a member of his cabinet) accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public by creating incentives for people to “come out and say something” in order to garner “fame.” Carson added, “What a bunch of crap.”

    Fox’s Brian Kilmeade argued that “none of them are vetted” -- referring to the accusers -- and it was entirely possible that “they all could be lying.” Others questioned the timing of the myriad allegations against the Republican nominee, calling them “a little coordinated… a little too convenient,” and claiming that the proximity to the election meant “it’s fair to question why is this coming out now.” In reality, multiple media sources have corroborated most of the claims brought forth by Trump’s accusers.

    In some cases, Fox personnel openly attacked individual women for speaking out, as seen in senior political analyst Brit Hume’s tirade against Jessica Drake -- a Trump accuser who directs and performs in adult films. Hume responded to Drake’s allegations that Trump had “grabbed” and hugged and “kissed” her “without asking permission” with a series of tweets suggesting she could not be offended because of her profession.

    Sexual assault is a serious issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half”of its survey respondents (47 percent) “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”

    Despite widespread fearmongering from right-wing media that false rape reports are common, these incidents are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 67 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement.

    Reporting on rape and sexual assault has long been a challenge for journalists, regardless of who is involved. When the accused occupies a position of prominence, journalists and networks must refuse to let threats of lost access or demands for false balance sanitize their reporting. In May 2016 -- before the Trump allegations -- Woody Allen’s son Ronan Farrow published an article blasting the media for cultivating a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. As Farrow explained, although it’s not the media’s job “to carry water” for those making accusations against powerful men, the media do have an “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    On each of these charges, CNN and Fox clearly failed -- enabling some of the worst sexual assault apologism of 2016.

    *Image provided by Sarah Wasko

  • Nightly News Fails, Samantha Bee Shines On Abortion Coverage In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & CAT DUFFY


    TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee drastically outshined nightly broadcast news shows in its coverage of abortion and reproductive rights during the first 11 months of 2016. The weekly comedy program, in just 31 episodes, spent more than twice as much time as any single nightly news show discussing abortion throughout the whole year, and host Samantha Bee’s coverage both delved into policy and debunked abortion myths, unlike the bulk of broadcast coverage. Broadcast news’ lacking coverage of reproductive rights, particularly in a year marked by several newsworthy events around abortion and abortion access, reflected the media’s larger failure to discuss substantive policy issues and left a gap that allowed conservative misinformation to dominate the national dialogue that did take place.

    A Media Matters study found that ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News spent a combined total of 46 minutes and 11 seconds discussing abortion and reproductive rights from January 1 to November 30. NBC led the broadcast networks in the time spent covering abortion, with 16 minutes and 23 seconds, while ABC and CBS spent 15 minutes and 52 seconds, and 13 minutes and 56 seconds, respectively, covering issues related to reproductive rights. By contrast, TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee spent a total of 39 minutes and 43 seconds discussing abortion from when the program premiered in February through November, meaning the weekly comedy program offered more than double the amount of time any one network dedicated to the issue.

    Throwing the disparity into even sharper relief, Full Frontal’s almost 40 minutes of abortion coverage took place over the course of 15 segments in just 31 episodes, while the nightly newscasts’ 46 minutes total took place over 37 segments in roughly 1,000 editions combined.

    Undercoverage Came Despite The Year’s Many Newsworthy Abortion Stories, And Despite Polling Showing Abortion Was One Of The Policy Topics Voters Cared About Most

    The lack of coverage about abortion on nightly broadcast news shows was totally at odds with the number and scope of major abortion stories in 2016. And a Pew Research Center report on important issues in the 2016 election found that 45 percent of respondents ranked abortion as “very important” in deciding their vote, placing abortion in the top 15 issues of the election cycle. There was no shortage of topics related to abortion and reproductive rights for the newscasts to focus on this year:

    • States Continued To Gut Abortion Access In New And Inventive Ways. States around the country passed a series of laws aimed at limiting access to abortion. In the first half of 2016, “17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions,” according to the Guttmacher Institute. These regulations included a requirement to hold a burial or cremation for any fetal remains (including those from miscarriages), misguided anesthesia requirements for abortions at 20 weeks or later, and even attempts to completely ban abortion.

    • Whole Woman’s Health Struck Down Unconstitutional Barriers For Abortion Access. The Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt dramatically reshaped the legal landscape of abortion rights by clarifying the “undue burden” standard, which limited the ability of states to regulate (and restrict) a woman’s access to abortion. The decision struck down the Texas anti-choice law HB-2, rejecting the “barely plausible” claims that it increased patient safety, thus issuing a strong rebuke to the “woman-protective anti-abortion” rhetoric that permeated the discussion of HB-2 and other Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, of which numerous other states also have versions. 

    • Trump’s Anti-Abortion Campaign Rhetoric And His Election Energized Anti-Choice Lawmakers And Anti-Abortion Activists. President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on reproductive rights throughout the campaign included pledging to overturn Roe v. Wade, calling for women who have abortions to be punished, and pushing anti-choice myths like that of “partial-birth abortion.” Anti-choice lawmakers and activists, energized by Trump’s election, have continued plotting their assault on women’s health. As Politico reported, “Congressional Republicans are aiming to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood early next year,” in what would be “the single biggest victory for anti-abortion groups in years.”

    • The Supreme Court Punted In Zubik v. Burwell, Leaving Contraception Access In Limbo For Many Women. The Supreme Court in June sent Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case brought by religious nonprofits challenging the opt-out process of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, back to the lower courts in a deadlocked 4-4 decision, urging an appeals court to forge a compromise between the two parties and leaving millions of women without contraception access. As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston explained, the nondecision created issues around “how soon the government can work out technical arrangements to provide actual access to the contraceptive benefits.”

    • Congressional Republicans Attempted, But Failed, To Defund Planned Parenthood. Congressional Republicans voted in January to strip $450 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, marking “the first time a bill defunding Planned Parenthood has made it to the president's desk in more than 40 years,” according to Mother Jones. President Obama ultimately vetoed the legislation.

    • Republican Congressional “Witch Hunt” Targeted Women’s Health Care Providers. The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives continued its “witch hunt” against women’s health care providers in 2016, which has been based almost solely on misinformation and has put abortion providers, researchers, and patients at risk of violence. In their report, Republicans on the panel referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas attorney general’s office, claiming that the group illegally profited from fetal tissue donations. Congressional Democrats on the panel accused the Republicans of using “McCarthy-era tactics” and abusing their power.

    • A New Report Discovered A Sharp Uptick In Anti-Choice Violence. A report released in April from the National Abortion Federation found “a dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” related to abortion. The report called the trend “alarming.”

    The lack of reproductive rights coverage on broadcast news reflected the broader pattern of policy discussions being omitted from election coverage. An October study by Tyndall Report found that evening newscasts dedicated a mere 32 minutes to substantive policy coverage throughout the whole year. Another study from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center found that only 10 percent of news coverage during the election focused on the candidates’ policy stances. By contrast, 42 percent of news reports focused on polling and horserace coverage.

    Samantha Bee Artfully Debunked Conservative Misinformation, Which News Media Allowed To Flourish With Its Lack Of Coverage

    The lack of nightly broadcast news coverage on abortion and reproductive rights allowed misinformation about abortion to gain traction in the media and in politics. For example, in the third general election presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace framed a question about abortion around the myth of partial-birth abortion. Trump echoed the partial-birth abortion myth in his answer, outrageously stating that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy].” Vice President-elect Mike Pence also invoked the concept of “partial-birth abortion” to attack Clinton during the only vice presidential debate. These mentions marked the only two times abortion was discussed in the general election debates.

    While nightly news programs were failing to adequately cover abortion -- and allowing the partial-birth abortion myth to fester -- on Full Frontal, Bee explicitly called out the concept as a myth, exclaiming into a bullhorn, “Partial-birth abortions aren’t a thing.”

    Bee emphasized the “nonmedical” term’s origin as a "right-wing construct” made up by the National Right to Life Committee in the 1990s, and she explicitly called out Chris Wallace for “conflat[ing] partial-birth abortion -- which doesn't exist -- with late term abortion, which does, rarely.” Bee also mocked Trump for his comment about babies being ripped from the womb at nine months, pointing out that “removing a baby from a woman's womb in the ninth month isn't an abortion -- it's a birth.” Bee’s coverage of the third presidential debate set a model for media to call out other media figures and politicians who adopt right-wing media fictions, like “partial-birth abortion,” to attack and demonize reproductive rights and the people who support them.

    Bee also directly refused false claims that politicians and conservative media pushed in defense of HB-2, which the Supreme Court overturned in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In oral arguments in the case, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller falsely claimed that the regulations the law put in place, which included requirements that facilities where women get abortions meet the same standards of ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) and that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, were medically necessary. Keller also asserted that the law wouldn’t reduce access to abortion services because “the six most populous areas of Texas” would be able to perform “over 9,000 abortions annually.” A report for the University of Texas in January found that the law had already “delayed and in some cases prevented” abortions altogether.

    Bee interviewed Texas Republican state Rep. Dan Flynn -- one of the authors of HB-2 -- and exposed the flawed logic behind the arguments that HB-2 supports women’s health care. Bee pointedly asked, “How does removing access to health care increase health care?” and she corrected Flynn when he asserted that abortion involves “cutting on people’s bodies,” noting that “you don’t cut a woman in an abortion, though.” And Bee debunked Flynn’s claims of increased safety and clinic access, asking, “Have you thought about regulating the safety of back alleys? Because that’s where a lot of women will be having their abortions now.”

    Crucially, Bee also spotlighted Americans United for Life (AUL), “an anti-choice group that creates boilerplate bills for lawmakers around the U.S.” that restrict abortion rights. Bee called out Flynn’s lack of knowledge about reproductive health, saying, “you don’t seem to know anything specifically about abortion, really at all,” and explaining -- in a way most news media fail to do -- the process through which AUL’s restrictive anti-choice model legislation is passed in state legislatures.

    Full Frontal offered a clinic in how to properly debunk conservative misinformation on abortion. From her deep dive investigations into long-standing myths to her monologues responding to contemporary events, Samantha Bee set the bar for news coverage of abortion issues.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ media for mentions of “abortion,” “Planned Parenthood,” “women’s health,” “reproductive rights,” “Center for Medical Progress,” “Roe v. Wade,” and “Whole Woman’s Health” in editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, NBC’s Nightly News, and TBS’ Full Frontal that aired between January 1 and November 30. For this study, Media Matters included only those segments where the stated topic of discussion was abortion or where the discussion contained "substantial discussion" about abortion (defined as a discussion in which two or more speakers had at least one direct exchange on abortion). We identified four types of segments: a host monologue, a news package or news report, a panel discussion, or an interview. We did not include teasers for upcoming segments. Segments identified were timed using iQ media.

    Sarah Wasko contributed graphics to this piece

  • Planned Parenthood Is Under Attack In Texas, And Media There Are Failing The Challenge 

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Texas media are omitting crucial information in reports on the state’s move to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, including that Texas’ decision was largely based on debunked videos by an anti-abortion activist group, the Center for Medical Progress, and that the move will negatively impact women’s health. In contrast, reporting by online outlets geared toward women put Texas media to shame, explaining that the evidence behind the policy decision is misleading and that the defunding will have dire consequences for women’s health in Texas.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To The Select Panel’s Reliance On Anti-Choice Media

    How A Discredited Anti-Choice Group Became A Primary Source Of Misinformation For A Congressional Witch Hunt Against Abortion Patients, Providers, And Clinics

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Since its inception in October 2015, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has used numerous documents taken from the discredited organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and other anti-choice groups to allege wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Scores of media outlets have confirmed that the footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood, while 14 investigations to date have cleared the organization of all wrongdoing. 

  • Media Fail To Explain The Impact of HHS Nominee Tom Price’s Health Care Agenda

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Major newspapers gave little attention to the harmful impact Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) policies would have on the American health care system when discussing his expected nomination to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a future Trump administration. However, experts agree that Price’s preferred positions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and Medicaid, and reproductive health care access would harm millions of Americans.

  • Colorado Springs One Year Later: Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Deny The Severity Of Anti-Choice Violence

    Colorado Abortion Provider To Anti-Choice Lawmakers: “The Blood Of Any Of Us Who Are Assassinated Is On Your Hands.”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    November 27 marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center that killed three and wounded nine more.

    Despite the gunman’s statement that he was “a warrior for the babies,” right-wing media -- in a long-standing pattern -- responded to the fatal attack by denying the severity of anti-choice violence.

    In July 2015, the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos falsely alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. Multiple investigations have not only cleared Planned Parenthood, but also consistently debunked the fraudulent claims the organization has advanced. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice lawmakers have continued to attack providers and spread misinformation about the essential services they provide. This campaign of misinformation makes reproductive health care less accessible, but also incites violence against clinics, patients, and providers.

    From the inception of CMP’s smear campaign, right-wing media were among the most enthusiastic champions of the anti-choice group’s misinformation. For example, following the release of CMP’s second video on July 21, 2015, Fox News dedicated 10 segments across seven separate programs to hyping the deceptively edited footage in a single day. In addition, Media Matters found that during a 14-month period (from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016), Fox News’ evening news programs frequently relied on extreme anti-choice figures and misinformation to promote CMP’s fraudulent claims about Planned Parenthood and abortion.

    The Washington Post reported the day after the attack that the Colorado Springs shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, explained his actions using the phrase “no more baby parts” -- mirroring the language used by CMP to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Media Matters found that Fox News and Fox Business were responsible for 83 of 119 mentions of the phrase “baby parts” or “parts of babies” on major cable news networks’ reports about the release of CMP’s videos before the subsequent Colorado Springs attack. In comparison, Fox spent just 30 seconds covering reports that Dear stated, “I’m guilty. There’s no trial. … I’m a warrior for the babies,” during his first court appearance on December 9, 2015.

    In fact, right-wing media have continually dismissed anti-choice violence and resisted classifying such attacks as acts of terrorism. Rather than account for the severity of anti-choice violence, right-wing media have instead denied its systemic nature, downplayed incidents, and dismissed individuals like the Colorado Springs gunman as anomalous “kooks.”

    For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” Previously, in December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    In reality, the threat of anti-choice violence is ongoing, severe, and has seen an uptick since the release of CMP’s deceptively edited videos.

    Prior to the Colorado Springs attack, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an increase in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This assessment was later supported by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which found that in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers that coincided with CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta noted that the ninefold increase in harassment and threats of abortion providers in the month after the release of the first CMP videos was “unprecedented.”

    The FBI’s warning was prescient. After Dear allegedly carried out his deadly attack, a clinic in St. Louis was vandalized while a Washington man was arrested for making death threats against employees of StemExpress, the biomedical company targeted in several of the discredited CMP videos. As reported by The News Tribune, Scott Anthony Orton posted more than 18 different threatening messages online before he was arrested. In April 2016, Orton pleaded guilty to threatening StemExpress employees.

    In May, The New York Times reported that MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C. barred abortion provider Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper from publicly speaking about the need for greater abortion access. The hospital’s medical director issued the gag order after the Colorado Springs attack “out of concerns for security,” saying he didn’t want to draw attention to MedStar’s abortion and reproductive health care services in the nation’s capital.

    A Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, was forced to close its doors due to security concerns in August 2016. This move left “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    More recently, an Alaskan man, Robert Joseph Klima, was indicted in November for making threatening phone calls to a Planned Parenthood call center, claiming he would bomb an Anchorage clinic. Alaska Dispatch News reported that Kilma made multiple calls and insisted that “he knew how to carry out the destruction of the building.”

    Despite the clear threat posed when the names and details about abortion providers are made public, a congressional panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood has worked to expose even more such information. And the panel -- the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- has consistently relied on CMP and other anti-choice groups to fuel its politically motivated attacks on abortion access.

    Established in October 2015, the select panel has been criticized by mainstream media outlets for its “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood -- prompting numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Although the panel has found no substantial evidence of wrongdoing during its tenure, Rewire reported that congressional leadership approved a request for additional funding that would “more than doubl[e] the total cost of the investigation," bringing it to $1.59 million. Equally concerning, extreme anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue have asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to extend the sham investigation beyond its originally authorized end date in December 2016.

    The select panel Republicans have already been criticized for showing little concern for the safety of the targets of their investigation. In June, select panel chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and her colleagues failed to redact identifying information about abortion providers and patients from subpoenaed documents. Similarly, the select panel Republicans have also publicly released identifying information about abortion providers whom they believe (but have not proved) were involved in malfeasance.

    Just this month, Warren Hern -- a late-term abortion provider who lives just hours from Colorado Springs in Boulder, CO -- received a letter from Blackburn implying that he has been involved in wrongdoing and demanding information about Hern and his practice.

    In response, Hern lambasted Blackburn, writing that her “clear and unabashed purpose is to obstruct women seeking abortions, to control their lives, and to crush physicians who help them.” He dismissed Blackburn’s allegations as “outrageous,” “patently false,” and based on an “unfounded fantasy” while warning of the danger the panel’s attacks posed to women’s health and scientific advancement. Hern also warned Blackburn that her attempts to demonize abortion providers and ally with anti-choice groups threatened the safety of providers, their patients, and clinic staff:

    I am determined to give my patients the safest possible medical care in a humane and dignified environment that supports their emotional and social needs to the fullest extent possible. I have a superior staff of nurses, counselors, and other health professionals who are dedicated to help these women and their families. Your sordid exploitation of this activity for political purposes places all of us -- patients, physicians, and all members of my staff -- at risk of violent retaliation by anti-abortion fanatics. You know this. This is not some paranoid fantasy. A number of physicians specializing in abortion services have been assassinated, on at least one occasion in the physician’s church, and numerous other people, including an off-duty police office and one physician’s bodyguard, have been murdered in cold blood by anti-abortion fanatics, each assassin a so-called “peaceful” anti-abortion protester up until the moment of the murder.

    When is the last time you ever spoke out and condemned these senseless and spineless murders?

    You and your Republican Party are vigorously allied with a violent terrorist movement that threatens the lives of women, their families, and health care workers. As part of this shame “investigation,” your letter to me and letters to other physicians constitute a program of target identification for anti-abortion assassins. You can deny this, but it is a fact.

    Your “investigation” is legislative harassment that endangers our lives. The blood of any of us who are assassinated is on your hands.

    While anti-choice groups and lawmakers continue targeting abortion providers like Hern, the people of Colorado Springs are still healing from a violent attack on their community fueled by extreme anti-abortion sentiments.

    In October 2016, several survivors of the Planned Parenthood attack spoke to Cosmopolitan about their experience and continuing fears of becoming targets of anti-choice violence. But as the clinic manager explained, “We have come through this and are stronger.” She concluded: “We are going to be there for this community because they need us.”

  • Trump Says He Wants Roe v. Wade Overturned, Mainstream Media Ignore The Draconian Effects That Would Have

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During a November 13 interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, president-elect Donald Trump promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, upending a longstanding constitutional right to abortion access. Rather than calling out this extreme position and explaining its potential consequences for millions of Americans, outlets instead attempted to normalize and downplay Trump’s commitment to roll back legal abortion access in the United States.

  • Why Did The New York Times Call The Daily Caller “Moderate”?

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The New York Times described The Daily Caller, the right-wing website run by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, as “relatively moderate.” If The New York Times believes The Daily Caller to be “relatively moderate,” anti-Semitic, sexist, racist, anti-LGBT commentary must be what passes for moderation in the right-wing media sphere these days.

    In a report on the future of Fox’s prime-time lineup, the Times noted that Carlson will take over the 7 p.m. slot once held by Greta Van Susteren’s On The Record. The article labeled Carlson’s website The Daily Caller “a provocative, if relatively moderate, right-leaning website”:

    As Fox faces competition from scrappier rivals like Breitbart News, Mr. Carlson, 47, is in some ways a throwback to a more genteel era of conservatism. Preppy and jovial, Mr. Carlson founded The Daily Caller, a provocative, if relatively moderate, right-leaning website, and he has often evinced a mischievous streak; in 2006, he agreed to be a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” although he was eliminated in the first round.

    Carlson has, both in print and on air, regularly promoted a conservative brand of commentary laced with misogyny, misinformation, and factually inaccurate attacks, which The Daily Caller has reflected.

    The Daily Caller once published a piece with a headline so offensive (“Kill All The Jews And When That Is Done Kill Those That Refused To Defend Them”) that Carlson had to blame it on the editor being “hungover” before updating the article with a different headline. This anti-Semitic offense was not an unusual move for the Caller, which has repeatedly quoted a Holocaust denier

    One would need to go back only a couple of weeks to find the Caller rewriting a heart-wrenching op-ed about a woman’s decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy after 20 weeks, when she discovered that the developing fetus “was missing half his heart” and “very unlikely [to] survive delivery.” The Caller “edited” it with stigmatizing language to shame the woman for receiving necessary medical care. In one part, it “revised” the woman’s statement about the “well of [her] grief” over the termination to read (emphasis original): “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.”

    The Daily Caller captioned a video of American Indian Movement protesters hit by a car, “White man overruns indigenous peoples with superior technology” (since changed). It referred to Obama as “wife beater” in another headline because his sleeveless undershirt was visible through his white dress shirt. It published an op-ed praising Russia’s extreme anti-LGBT “gay propaganda” laws, which were condemned by human rights experts for violating international human rights law and essentially criminalizing homosexuality. And the outlet promoted a hoax birther story that former Democratic Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said there was “absolutely no proof at all that [Barack Obama] was born in Hawaii.” Abercrombie did not make those comments.

    In 2014, former Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley launched a series of sexist attacks about “pumping” BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray, for which Carlson had to publicly apologize. The Caller also baselessly claimed that former Miss Universe Alicia Machado was a “porn star campaign[ing] for Hillary Clinton,” even though Machado has never appeared in porn.

    The Daily Caller throws climate change denial into its mix of “relatively moderate” coverage (the polar bears are “doing just fine”) and tops it off with an opinion page ripe with conspiracy theories (Is the government planning “to kill 174,000 of the nation’s military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security … forces loyal to the Administration?”). If this is what is considered moderate in right-wing media today, there may be too few lines left to cross.

  • Racists, Corruption, And Tabloids: The Story Of Donald Trump's Newspaper Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has received endorsements from four national newspapers -- all of which either have familial or financial connections to his campaign, have repeated falsehoods and conspiracy theories to advocate for conservative causes, or have espoused outright racist views. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s newspaper endorsements include a number of Republican-leaning publications that find Trump too “dangerous” to support.

  • Megyn Kelly Is Hardly A “Feminist Icon”

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & CAT DUFFY

    Media outlets praised Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after her contentious interview with former Speaker of the House and current Fox contributor Newt Gingrich over allegations of sexual assault against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, declaring her a “feminist icon” and “a consistent voice for women’s issues.” But Kelly has hardly been consistent on “women’s issues.” She has a history of promoting falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, denigrating efforts to expand reproductive rights, disregarding the gender pay gap, and criticizing efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.