MSNBC demonstrated the benefits of hosting women's health experts to talk about women's health issues and in the process punctured several abortion myths that have been used in recent months. The network hosted an all-female panel, including an obstetrician, for a segment on proposed state legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. MSNBC's panel marks a departure from other networks' coverage of abortion access, which has excluded women's health experts from the debate and promoted the view that 20-week abortion bans are "reasonable."
The August 14 edition of NOW with Alex Wagner featured a panel of three women to discuss the proposed 20 week abortion ban, which included Dr. Anne Davis of Physicians for Reproductive Health and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider, disputed the premise that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks, arguing that fetal pain is not sufficient justification to ban abortions after this gestational stage.
Unlike past coverage of the proposed ban, the segment cited specific research from medical professionals when discussing the fetal pain theory, including findings from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
The panel also emphasized that abortion after 20 weeks may be necessary to prevent serious health consequences for both the mother and fetus. According to the ACOG, while some dangerous conditions affecting the fetus can be detected earlier than week 20, "[b]y the time a diagnosis is confirmed by a specialist capable of diagnosing these anomalies, the pregnancy has often progressed beyond 20 weeks." Furthermore, the ACOG found that delaying abortions in non-fatal health crises can put the "patient's health in serious jeopardy."
Fox, CNN, and NBC have recently hyped claims that 20-week abortion bans are "reasonable," ignoring the health risks and financial hardships that can necessitate abortion after 20 weeks. Media Matters has noted that media coverage of abortion bans has excluded women's health experts in the past.