Sharon Kann

Author ››› Sharon Kann
  • VIDEO: How News Outlets Fail Rape Survivors

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

    April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but based on the way most news outlets cover sexual assault and harassment cases year-round, it seems they didn’t get the memo.

    Since the month of awareness was officially instituted in 2001, the goal has been to educate the public about sexual violence and teach people how to prevent it. Yet media tend to make the same three mistakes when covering cases: They blame victims, they treat offenders like the “true” victims, and they almost exclusively cover cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about “believable” survivors and culpable offenders.

    Although high-profile cases that dominate media coverage may make sexual assault seem like an isolated problem, 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.” Similarly, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Given the sheer number of challenges survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment, these numbers are likely much higher. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 63 percent of rapes and sexual assaults already go unreported.

    Beyond cases of rape and assault, sexual harassment is also rampant in the United States. Although Fox News has finally parted ways with Bill O’Reilly after multiple women reported that he sexually harassed them, the problem goes beyond him or even the network.

    After 2005 footage that showed President Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault was leaked to the media last year, networks downplayed the severity of his comments -- calling them merely “vulgar” or “lewd” -- and attacked the credibility of the women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Sexual assault isn’t just “vulgar” -- it’s unacceptable. And what’s really “vulgar” is media’s refusal to call it what it is. This is rape culture: the willingness to treat sexual assault or harassment as natural, inevitable, or acceptable. Rape culture not only silences survivors, it’s also at the root of why stalking, domestic violence, and workplace and online harassment are so pervasive: People treat these behaviors as if they’re normal or somehow the recipients invite them.

    Media have an obligation to cover the issue in a fact-based and stigma-free way.

    First, media need to ditch the victim-blaming rhetoric and quit treating survivors as if they are even partly responsible for what happened. Survivors are not, and will never be, responsible for inciting acts of sexual violence. Period.

    When writing about sexual assault and harassment, choosing the right words is crucial to clearly, accurately, and compassionately communicate with broad audiences. A report from the Columbia Journalism Review found that when reporting on sexual assault, media rely on “leading language, scant statistics, and a whole lot of victim blaming” -- all of which contribute to downplaying and at times dismissing sexual violence allegations. Similarly, the Dart Center for Journalism instructs media to “avoid any language that might imply that the [survivor] is responsible in any way.”

    Media coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed that media outlets also tend to treat offenders as the real victims -- sympathetically highlighting past accomplishments, or bemoaning the costs to their careers.

    Particularly when offenders are high-profile figures, media treat the issue as merely a “scandal.” Writing about allegations against his father Woody Allen, The Hollywood Reporter’s Ronan Farrow explained how these reactions cultivate a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. By getting caught up in a cult of celebrity -- even when focusing on a deserved fall from grace -- media can either trade fact-based reporting for access or lose sight of their “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    Finally, media scrutinize every move made by a survivor -- how they dressedwhen they reported, and even their possible “ulterior” motives. While doing so, they tend to focus on cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about the identities of survivors and offenders.

    Sexual violence happens in a wide variety of contexts and communities. And more often than not, survivors know their assailants prior to the assault. Nevertheless, media fixate on the myth of the “perfect victim”: an unrealistic expectation that believable victims of sexual assault are attractive, innocent white women who unwittingly provoke attack from an unknown (usually non-white) predator. As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported, accounts of sexual assault shouldn’t have to “be black and white, starring a perfect victim and a perfect set of villains, in order for us to get outraged.”

    Rather than fixating on only these “perfect” examples, media should cover cases from across the spectrum of experience, and they should provide audiences with critical context about the widespread nature of sexual violence.

    Sexual assault isn’t just a problem at Fox News or in “other communities”; it’s all around us. People look to the media to tell stories about their lives and the world at large, so reporters and outlets have an obligation to educate audiences about this reality and correct harmful misconceptions.

    If the Trump-era media have shown us anything so far, it’s this: Survivors deserve far better.

  • Fox's The Five Moves To Prime Time, Calls For Anti-Abortion Violence

    Greg Gutfeld: "If You Are Pro-Life And You Believe It Is Murder, You Should Be Willing To Fight For It"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the ouster of Bill O’Reilly following public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues (and a subsequent advertiser boycott), Fox News was forced to shuffle its evening lineup -- a move that elevated the show The Five to the coveted 9 p.m. time slot. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for co-host Greg Gutfeld to take a page out of the O’Reilly playbook and call for anti-abortion violence.

    O’Reilly spent years at Fox not only spreading misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights, but also openly bullying abortion providers. Dr. George Tiller -- who was assassinated in 2009 by anti-choice zealot Scott Roeder -- was a frequent target of O’Reilly’s. Prior to Tiller’s death, O’Reilly referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming his reporting on the doctor was accurate.

    Although Gutfeld did not target an individual abortion provider like O’Reilly did, his call for violence in the service of the anti-choice movement is an inauspicious start to The Five’s new time slot.

    Alongside co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Jesse Watters, Bob Beckel, and Dana Perino, Gutfeld engaged in an incendiary segment about abortion advocacy in the Democratic Party. After Guilfoyle falsely suggested that so-called “partial-birth” abortions or “abortion on demand” were issues Democrats must contend with (in reality, neither describes a medically accurate or extant procedure in the United States), Gutfeld compared abortion to slavery, saying that it would have been cowardly in the 1850s to have expressed opposition to slavery but said there's "nothing I can do about it" and that the same was true of what he called "pro-life cowards." He said he had “a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side” because “if you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” over this.

    Conservatives have frequently made inappropriate allegations that abortion providers are targeting black communities. Anti-choice groups have even gone so far as to openly co-opt the language of Black Lives Matter to attack abortion access -- this in spite of the disproportionately negative impact anti-abortion laws have on women and communities of color.

    Gutfeld’s disturbing call to arms also comes after a recent report from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) warned of a disturbing trend of escalating threats and harassment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics. According to NAF, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats” as well as “an escalation in hate speech and internet harassment, which intensified following the election in November.”

    The severity of this targeted harassment is exacerbated by the fact that evening cable news shows rarely discusses the topic. As a recent Media Matters study found, during 12 months of coverage about abortion and reproductive rights there was almost no discussion of anti-choice violence or its consequences for abortion access. Out of 354 total segments about abortion or reproductive rights on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, only four discussed anti-choice violence.

    There has been a great deal of speculation about what O’Reilly’s departure means for Fox News’ toxic culture, and in particular, its new evening lineup. If this debut performance by the The Five is indicative, we should expect more of the same attacks on abortion access and on those who obtain this legal and essential medical service.

    A transcript of the April 24 edition of The Five is below:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Since when is it OK to just be abortion on demand? Why do you have to put that -- but why can't you say yes we respect life and we respect the lives of women and we respect the lives of children and babies? And I understand the idea to say you want to have individual choice, and the state not telling everyone what they have to do. But there is a healthy interest in protecting life in terms of not going for this, with partial-birth abortions. There has to be some regulations. Just like we have regulations with the FDA or with health care, et cetera, to make sure that people are protected. That the innocent are. And so I don't think [Democrats are] currying any favor by being that strident and just really that caustic in terms of their rhetoric.

    [...]

    JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): Greg, quickly, how much damage do you think is done by these comments?

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): I don’t know. First, I would like to state the obvious: The strongest pro-choice voices have the amazing luck of being born. It’s an incredibly obvious point, but we -- a lot of people forget about that. We can’t be hypocrites here. Would a pro-choice Republican win the presidency ever? Trump is pro-life, but that’s after a lot of pro-choice-ing. So, this prison of two ideas both parties are involved in -- there’s another, I have a problem with saying you’re pro-life but you respect the other side. Because that’s a PLC -- I’m a PLC, I’m a pro-life coward, which means I believe, and it’s untethered to religion, that it is killing a baby. But I’m not going to do anything about it because I realize there’s nothing I can do about it.

    GUILFOYLE: Well, you talk about it.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, you talk about it --

    GUILFOYLE: You educate.

    GUTFELD: Yeah, but think about it. If in the 1850s there was a talk show called the Ye Olde Five Shoppe and we're sitting there and we’re going like --

    [CROSSTALK]

    GUTFELD: And you're going, "I'm against slavery, but you know, I think it's immoral, it's wrong, but there's nothing I can do about it.” If you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight for it. That’s the hypocrisy behind this whole idea is that you should be able to start a war if you believe in this that strongly, but we aren't. We aren't because we are “PLCs.” I'm a “PLC.” I'm a pro-life coward. It's what I am.

  • How Fox News’ Male Hosts Are Endangering Women All Across America 

    Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, And Sean Hannity Are Almost Always Wrong About Abortion, And They’re Giving Other Men A Platform To Push Further Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    If you’re searching for the most misinformation-filled block of television during evening cable, look no further than the Fox News lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. In a finding that will shock almost nobody with even cursory knowledge about abortion and reproductive rights, this all-male lineup has spent the past 12 months promoting rampant misinformation on these topics.

    Media Matters analyzed evening prime-time news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from March 7, 2016 through March 1, 2017, for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion and reproductive rights. The 354 total segments were then coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements they contained about three topics: the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

    Out of 116 total statements made during The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity (out of 120 total statements on the network), 103 were inaccurate. If the sheer amount of misinformation isn't enough, the vast majority of them were made by men. Of the 110 total appearances by hosts, guests, or network correspondents on these programs in 12 months, 81 were made by men (74 percent).

    When seeking information about abortion -- particularly accurate information -- most women presumably wouldn’t turn first to a man. Fox News, however, has ensured its prime-time block is dominated by male voices.

    With the exception of The Kelly File, which ceased airing after then-Fox news host Megyn Kelly left the channel, and The First 100 Days, which didn’t begin airing until after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Fox’s prime-time evening lineup is dominated by male-hosted programs. And these programs also promote mainly male voices when it comes to the topics of abortion and reproductive rights.

    From March 7, 2016, through March 1, 2017, The O’Reilly Factor featured 47 appearances from men (71 percent) and only 19 from women (29 percent) during segments about abortion. During the same 12-month period, there were 26 appearances by men (76 percent) and only eight by women (24 percent) to discuss reproductive rights on Hannity. Tucker Carlson Tonight did not begin airing until after the 2016 election, making the sample size smaller than either The O’Reilly Factor or Hannity. However, of the five months of Tucker Carlson Tonight considered in Media Matters’ analysis, the program featured 80 percent male appearances in discussions about the reproductive rights of women.

    Overall, during the 12-month study period, 74 percent of appearances among all three programs featured men talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Excluding guests who were employed by Fox News (as professional commentators, analysts, or contributors), all three programs also largely hosted male guests, many of whom have a history of anti-choice policy making.

    For example, The O’Reilly Factor served as a platform for guests including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence -- all of whom have openly supported anti-choice policies. The male guests on Hannity unsurprisingly included Reince Priebus, who would become Trump’s chief of staff, and then-Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci.

    Hannity was also the only person on evening cable news to host discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, founder of CMP. Every other program -- even, surprisingly, other Fox News programs -- deemed the anti-abortion activist who deceptively edited smear videos and has since been charged with 15 felonies in California an unpalatable guest.

    Luckily for Daleiden, there’s always Sean Hannity. With their powers combined, Daleiden and Hannity managed to conduct a full segment featuring 100 percent inaccurate information in terms of CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion. During his April 2016 appearance on Hannity, Daleiden made five inaccurate statements about the veracity of CMP’s work -- even though multiple state and federal investigations found that the organization's claims about abortion providers were baseless. Hannity himself contributed three inaccurate statements about CMP during the segment and zero accurate ones. This pattern was not limited to just his segment with Daleiden, however. Hannity managed to make only inaccurate statements on these topics throughout the entire study period.

    Although Tucker Carlson appears to share Daleiden’s affinity for employing deceptive editing and even using actors to represent highly curated versions of opposing viewpoints, he managed -- without Daleiden's help -- to be wrong 100 percent of the time about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential services, and late-term abortion.

    O’Reilly, Hannity, and Carlson also featured primarily guests who openly represent anti-abortion organizations, including Marjorie Dannenfelser (president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List), conservative commentator Crystal Wright, Alveda King (anti-abortion activist for Priests for Life and Civil Rights for the Unborn), and Abby Johnson (founder of CEO of And Then There Were None).

    Overall, Media Matters’ analysis found that 80 percent of statements about CMP, Planned Parenthood's essential servies, and late-term abortion made during Fox News’ evening prime-time programming were inaccurate. It should come as no surprise that The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were responsible for 67 percent of the network’s inaccurate statements.

    Then again, if your ace prime-time lineup is composed of a man accused of being a serial sexual predator who can’t stop advertisers from fleeing his program (and is likely about to lose it), a hero of white nationalists who is known for bullying his guests, and Sean Hannity, you’re probably not that worried about ensuring accuracy or giving women’s voices an equal platform.

    *Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • STUDY: How Cable News Keeps Getting It Wrong About Abortion And Reproductive Rights

    Evening Cable News Can’t Seem To Talk About Abortion Without Relying On Men And Anti-Choice Myths

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that discussions of abortion, reproductive rights, and reproductive health were heavily dependent on male speakers and anti-choice misinformation. In particular, Media Matters found that men were participants in 60 percent of conversations about abortion and reproductive rights, and that 64 percent of statements about abortion that aired during this time period were inaccurate.

  • Fox News Hosts Have No Clue What Planned Parenthood Does

    Hosts Of The Five Get Everything Wrong About Planned Parenthood In Order To Prop Up Republicans' Disastrous Health Care Bill

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the release of Republicans’ long-awaited plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox News’ The Five put on a masterclass in how to get everything wrong about Planned Parenthood’s services and the implications of the attempt to defund the essential health care provider.

    Earlier this week, Republicans unveiled their alternative to the ACA, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The proposed bill includes two provisions targeting abortion providers: one that would prohibit federal funds for nonabortion care from going to any organization that privately funds or facilitates abortions, and one that would disincentivize private insurers from offering abortion coverage in their plans. The Daily Beast noted that these provisions “could easily be a one-two punch for low-income women seeking reproductive health care, effectively choking out funding for their local Planned Parenthood clinic while dictating that … they’ll have to pay out-of-pocket or have the foresight to purchase a special abortion insurance rider.”

    During Fox News’ The Five, hosts Eric Bolling, Dana Perino, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Greg Gutfeld modeled exactly what media outlets should not do when reporting how the proposed bill would impact access to vital reproductive health care. Although no federal funds can or do support abortion services under current law, the hosts wrongly alleged that Planned Parenthood uses federal money to cover abortions in addition to spreading the debunked myth that community health centers (CHCs) can compensate for the loss of the organization’s essential services:

    1. The Five Repeated The Right-Wing Media Myth That Planned Parenthood Gets Federal Funds Earmarked For Abortion Services

    MYTH: Planned Parenthood gets federal funding to pay for abortion services.

    FACT: The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal abortion funding -- with negative consequences for abortion access. 

    Right-wing media and administration officials like Kellyanne Conway have long insisted that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer money to fund abortion services -- despite a longstanding prohibition on the use of federal funds for this purpose.

    Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. In January, the House of Representatives voted to codify and dangerously expand the Hyde Amendment -- making The Five co-host Eric Bolling’s March 7 allegation that federal funds being used for abortion was a “gray area of Planned Parenthood” even more baseless than when he made the same claim in December 2015.

    Although the Hyde Amendment prohibits even the allocation of federal funds for abortion, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that “some of the federal funding from the United States government is allotted for abortion services” and that “federal funds should not be marked [for abortion].”

    To his credit, Fox’s Bob Beckel -- guest co-hosting during the March 7 segment -- attempted to refute his colleagues’ claims by explaining the Hyde Amendment and its implications for abortion funding. Unfortunately, Bolling interrupted Beckel, and admonished him that the hosts were "all familiar with the Hyde Amendment.” 

    Missing from the conversation was the devastating impact that provisions like the Hyde Amendment have on abortion access for the most vulnerable. A 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute detailed the act’s effects on low-income and marginalized communities, finding 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.

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- also suffer a major impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    2. Community Health Centers Can’t Replace Planned Parenthood -- Especially As A Provider Of Affordable Contraceptives

    MYTH: Community health centers can easily and seamlessly replace Planned Parenthood clinics.

    FACT: Planned Parenthood is an essential and irreplaceable primary and reproductive health care provider.

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice lawmakers frequently -- and erroneously -- argue that the organization’s funds should be shifted to “community health clinics” (CHCs).

    During the March 7 edition of The Five, co-host Dana Perino echoed these claims about the alleged capacity of CHCs to replace Planned Parenthood. Perino stated that funding would transition from Planned Parenthood to CHCs, and that there wasn’t “going to be enough acceptance of that” among objectors to the AHCA. 

    Ignoring the fact that many CHCs don’t facilitate or support access to contraceptives, Perino also puzzlingly argued that Republicans would compromise on defunding Planned Parenthood by making contraceptives more accessible over the counter and at other clinics. In response to a question from Bolling, Perino further clarified that she thought Republicans would “try to get [Planned Parenthood’s] funding pulled but be able to provide access” to contraceptives through CHCs that would “handle this better than Planned Parenthood.”

    Although anti-choice lawmakers believe CHCs could absorb patient demand should access to Planned Parenthood be eliminated, experts call this claim “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.”

    While Planned Parenthood clinics all offer preventive and basic care services, clinics can qualify to be classified as “community health clinics” while providing more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    Beyond questions of CHC’s capacity, Perino also missed the memo that transitioning contraceptives from a prescription-based product to an over-the-counter one would make this essential form of care prohibitively expensive and put it out of reach for many. As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci reported in 2016, “taking birth control out of the realm of insurances” only sounds “like a win to people who don’t want the government” providing contraception.

    3. Attacking Planned Parenthood’s Abortion Services Perpetuates Stigma

    MYTH: Abortion is wrong, “vile,” “sick,” or socially unacceptable.

    FACT: Abortion is a common and overwhelmingly safe medical procedure.

    Abortion stigma is the “shared understanding” that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable. This belief is reinforced through media coverage, popular culture, and by a lack of accurate information among many about the procedure itself.

    Despite the fact that abortion is both common and overwhelmingly safe, right-wing media and anti-choice groups have consistently attempted to “exploit the stigma of abortion” to restrict access to the procedure and shame providers and patients alike.

    During the March 7 edition of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed that funding Planned Parenthood forces people to “pay for someone else’s abortion,” which he called “a moral intrusion.” Ignoring the reality that taxpayer money doesn’t support abortion services, Gutfeld continued that pro-choice advocates’ goal is to “dehumanize the unborn child to a mass of cells” -- a common right-wing media allegation that perpetuates abortion stigma by casting those who have abortions as “selfish” or “sickening.”

    Abortion is a vital and essential part of comprehensive reproductive health care. As Steph Herold wrote for Rewire, separating “abortion from the rest of reproductive health care ignores the reality that millions of people across the country need access to abortion services, and that abortion services are a crucial part of family planning services.”

    A transcript of the March 7 edition of The Five is below:

    ERIC BOLLING: President Trump is offering the abortion provider a deal. The funding will stay if abortion goes away. Planned Parenthood has rejected that offer, saying they will always stand for women's ability to make decisions about their health and lives without interference from politicians. OK, bring it around, K.G. I think the offer -- look, as it stands, federal funding can't be used for abortions, but that’s that gray area of Planned Parenthood.

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: Right, certainly. So what he's doing is he's trying to make compromise -- he has acknowledged in the past that in fact Planned Parenthood does provide valuable medical services and screening for women. It does. The problem they have is that it is morally objectionable to millions of Americans that some of the federal funding from the United States government is allotted for abortion services. So the president is saying, you also take in a tremendous amount of money from private resources and donations. Perhaps you should earmark those funds that are private, do with it what you will, that's their business for their organization. But federal funds should not be marked for that.

    BOLLING: Well let me get Dana in.

    BOB BECKEL: Of course. Get the women in first.

    [...]

    BOLLING: Your thoughts on both the Trump administration and the Planned Parenthood response.

    DANA PERINO: I think this was a chance for President Trump to fulfill a campaign promise, and social conservatives really want this, Republicans want this. And remember when they were going to shut down the government last year when Republicans were all mad and they said the one thing that they really were mad about was that the Republicans weren't able to pull funding for Planned Parenthood. Even though Planned Parenthood itself actually has a pretty good approval rating, so it was harder back home. There were some senators, like Susan Collins of Maine , I think, who said that this shouldn't be in the Obamacare bill at all. Or I guess what we are calling it the American Health Care Act.

    The money, instead they are saying, will go to community health care centers. I don't know if there's going to be enough acceptance of that. Cecile Richard of Planned Parenthood, they’re going to fight tooth and nail. And I think what will actually end up happening is Republicans will put on the table that they believe that access to contraception should be available easily over the counter. And that that would be a way to maybe try to get this funding pulled but be able to provide access to the kind of products that they provide there.

    BOLLING: So, get it straight, Greg, I think, are you saying provide funds but earmark it for contraception --

    PERINO: Well, the money would go to community health centers, and arguably the community health centers would say, ‘Oh, well we can handle this better than Planned Parenthood.’

    GREG GUTFELD: Well, I mean. It comes to down to, if you believe that abortion is the taking of a life, then forcing you to pay for somebody else's abortion is a moral intrusion. That's the argument. I am amazed how the media salutes conscientious objectors over war but not abortion. And so instead what -- the goal here is to dehumanize the unborn child to a mass of cells. So it's like medical procedure, like getting a mole review -- a mole removed. So therefore somebody else could pay for it. So someone has to speak up for those who cannot speak up for those who cannot speak themselves which is why this dialogue, wherever it goes, is important. Because you are actually talking about this question.

    BOLLING: Why can't Planned Parenthood just decide to have one service for abortion and separated with a Chinese wall and all the other services?

    BOB BECKEL: They do. I hate to correct my learned colleagues. They actually have degrees. But there are not a single dime of federal dollars going to abortion. Something called the Hyde amendment. Henry Hyde made it --

    BOLLING: We're all familiar with the Hyde Amendment --

    BECKEL: Well --

    BOLLING: But if 80 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion --

    BECKEL: No, it's not even close to that!

    BOLLING: And we're giving them $300 million a year, then --

    BECKEL: You're not asking the taxpayers a single thing for an abortion. Planned Parenthood does among other things, a lot of screening, a lot of mammograms, they save a lot of lives. And the idea that he would take on all of this -- first of all he was pro-choice when he was thinking about running for mayor 15 years ago. And the other thing, he has no idea. He doesn't know what Planned Parenthood does.

  • Right-Wing Media Attack Teen Vogue For Taking On Abortion Stigma

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After Teen Vogue published an article about gifts to buy for a friend who has had an abortion, right-wing and anti-choice outlets lashed out at the young women’s magazine for “normalizing” the procedure. Although right-wing media have frequently claimed that women pathologically regret their abortions -- and these media have attacked providers and clinics accordingly -- in reality, it is a safe and common medical practice. This wasn’t Teen Vogue’s first attempt at challenging abortion stigma and the myth of abortion regret, and the magazine’s collective efforts provide a useful model for other outlets.

  • STUDY: Networks Fail To Report Consequences Of Trump’s Unprecedented Expansion Of The Global Gag Rule

    Trump’s Executive Order Reinstated The Gag Rule And Quietly Expanded Its Scope -- CNN And Fox News Didn’t Report The Consequences

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On January 23, President Donald Trump issued an executive order reinstating and secretly expanding the scope of the global gag rule, an anti-choice restriction banning the U.S. from providing foreign aid to nongovernmental organizations that privately fund or promote abortion care. A Media Matters study found that in a week of evening coverage on the three major cable news networks, only MSNBC reported on the disastrous consequences of Trump’s reinstatement and unprecedented expansion of the global gag rule.

  • Watch Kellyanne Conway Push Three Anti-Abortion Myths In Under Two Minutes

    Fox Hosts Senior Trump Aide To Spread Junk Science, Myths About Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In less than two minutes during a Fox News interview, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, peddled three of right-wing media’s favorite anti-abortion myths.

    Appearing on the January 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Conway responded to a question about the reason she participates in the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion protest, by arguing that "partial-birth" and "sex-selective" abortions are common in the United States -- despite significant scientific and medical evidence to the contrary. She also wrongly claimed that taxpayers foot the bill for abortion care and that fetuses can feel pain when aborted at 20 weeks:

    1. So-Called “Partial-Birth” And “Sex-Selective” Abortions Are Anti-Choice Myths, Based On Junk Science

    Conway cited “partial-birth abortions" and "sex-selection abortions" as reasons she's participating in the March for Life, claiming she could "basically go get a pregnancy test and then go get a sex test and schedule my abortion.” 

    Fact: So-called “partial-birth” and “sex-selection” abortions are anti-choice myths, based entirely on junk science.

    Right-wing media, anti-choice politicians, and Conway herself have often repeated the allegation that both “partial-birth” and “sex-selection” (usually termed “sex-selective”) abortions are a common occurrence. In reality, neither term is medically accurate nor do they describe actual abortion procedures performed in the United States.

    “Partial-birth” abortion is a nonmedical and fabricated term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have a later-term abortion. Despite right-wing media’s insistence that “partial-birth” abortions are common, 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 20th week of pregnancy. The Supreme Court explicitly protected the right to an abortion beyond this point when the life or health of the mother is endangered -- meaning late-term procedures are often performed only in instances of medical need. As Rolling Stone reported, late-term procedures occur “when something has gone terribly wrong” and they often represent the “loss of a wanted pregnancy.”

    Conway’s allegations about so-called “sex-selective” abortions are similarly unfounded. Since 2012, anti-choice lawmakers have attempted to legislate against the practice of “sex-selective” abortion. In an October 2016 release, the Guttmacher Institute noted that “sex-selective” abortion restrictions are specifically designed to “make abortion less accessible.” Furthermore, a 2014 report by the University of Chicago Law School, the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) found that “sex-selective” abortion bans have no evidentiary basis. They wrote:

    The key empirical support for sex-selective abortion bans in the United States comes from a study of census data that is now almost 15 years old. The study by Almond and Edlund found male-biased sex ratios at birth for the second and third children of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans when they had already given birth to one or two girls. Our study of more recent data from the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011 reveals that the sex ratios at birth of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans, as well as all Asian Americans, in the United States are lower than the sex ratios of white Americans, when all births are taken into account. This means that Asian Americans have more girls than white Americans. The National Asian American Survey, a poll conducted among Asian Americans, further reveals that Asian Americans do not have a preference for sons over daughters.

    2. “Taxpayer-Funded” Abortion Is A Right-Wing Media Myth

    Conway listed “taxpayer-funded abortion” as one of the reasons she’s participating in the March for Life.

    Fact: The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal abortion funding -- with negative consequences for abortion access.

    Conway and right-wing media have insisted that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers use taxpayer money to fund abortion services -- despite a longstanding prohibition on the use of federal funds for this purpose.

    The Hyde Amendment is a budgetary rider that has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. Significantly, days before the March for Life, the House of Representatives voted to codify and dangerously expand the Hyde Amendment.

    A 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute detailed the devastating impact of the Hyde Amendment on low-income and marginalized communities. The report 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.

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- also suffer a disparate impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    3. Fetal Pain Is A Scientifically Flawed Premise And Does Not Justify Bans On Abortion After 20 Weeks

    Conway listed “fetal pain abortion, where nonpartisan and nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks, basically the halfway point,” as a reason she’s participating in the March for Life.

    Fact: Fetal pain is a scientifically flawed premise and does not justify bans on abortion after 20 weeks.

    Conway’s allegations about fetal pain are based on the flawed premise that a fetus is able to feel pain starting around 20 weeks post-fertilization. Assertions about fetal pain have animated right-wing media discussions of abortion and supplied talking points for anti-choice politicians to push for increasingly restrictive and medically unnecessary laws targeting abortion access after 20 weeks.

    Despite Conway’s claim that “nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said that an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks,” there is a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary. The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen wrote that there is little science supporting 20-week bans, and the few examples that anti-choice lawmakers point to are highly contested in the medical community. As Allen explained, two of the three researchers whose work is commonly cited to support fetal pain bills “have already publicly disagreed with the way in which their findings have been used by anti-abortion advocates”:

    In 2013, Dr. Merker told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research “did not deal with pain specifically.” Even Dr. Anand, who believes that fetal pain could start earlier than the literature suggests, told the Times that he used to testify in court cases on abortion bans but that he stopped because “it’s just gotten completely out of hand.”

    In an interview with Salon, Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Anne Davis said warnings about fetal pain are “created concerns” that are “based in politics,” not science. According to Davis, a fetus’s brain is not sufficiently developed to perceive pain until 24 weeks gestation.

    A transcript of Conway’s comments on abortion is below:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT: I know you have had a very busy week, Kellyanne. Today is no different. You’re going to be marching for the March for Life today in Washington along with the vice president. Why are you doing this?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: I believe in the sanctity of life. I think that if we can promote and protect life from conception to natural death it says an awful lot about our country. It's no mistake that in our own Declaration of Independence life was the very first right that is mentioned. And it was precious then. It remains precious now. We have to stop this culture that just looks the other way. Partial-birth abortions, sex-selection abortions -- I can basically go get a pregnancy test and then go get a sex test and schedule my abortion. That's not America’s foundation. Taxpayer-funded abortion. Of course fetal pain abortion, where nonpartisan and nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks, basically the halfway point.

    And we just have to look at this as a culture of life. Many presidents and vice presidents have said they were pro-life. They were. But to have Vice President Mike Pence go out on that mall today in just a few short hours and address those who are coming around from the country and indeed the world to bond together to protect the culture of life is truly remarkable and historic. I think it's a big day for Vice President Pence. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, 1/27/17]

  • Media Should Be Reporting About The Consequences Of A Permanent Hyde Amendment

    Senate Approval Would Do More Than Extend This Anti-Choice Funding Rule -- It Would Make It Stricter, And More Harmful Than Ever

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Anti-choice lawmakers in Congress just voted to make abortion care even more inaccessible in the United States -- and the media should be reporting on the potential consequences of their efforts.

    The day after President Donald Trump issued an executive order to reinstate prohibitions on U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations from even mentioning abortion services to their international patients, 235 Republicans and three Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to further block domestic abortion access by making the Hyde Amendment permanent.

    The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding budgetary rider that has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have long called for further action to prevent taxpayers from funding abortions.

    If the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017” (HR 7), now passes the Senate, it would do more than extend the current restriction; it would also make the rule stricter and more harmful than ever. Media should be taking note.

    While some outlets such as Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, and Broadly have prominently highlighted HR 7’s negative impacts in their headlines -- emphasizing its disastrous consequences for low-income and already marginalized communities -- outlets like CNN, Fox News, and Buzzfeed have framed their coverage around the argument that the bill would prevent federal abortion funding. Here’s what they’re missing:

    1. The Hyde Amendment Would Now Be Permanent (And More Expansive) Law

    The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1977 and has since been extended as a budgetary rider to Medicaid appropriations bills. In practice, this has meant the House has had to vote to apply the rider to every funding bill. If HR 7 becomes law, anti-choice politicians would eliminate this step in the process and make the Hyde Amendment an automatic funding restriction that can be reversed only via future legislation.

    Plus, as permanent law, the ban would apply to more than just federal Medicaid funds. As Mother Jones explained, HR 7 also prohibits federal funds from contributing to any “health benefit plans that include abortion coverage.” Unlike in previous iterations of the Hyde Amendment, this version creates penalties for even private insurance plans obtained through non-religious companies that cover abortion care.

    As the Huffington Post reported:

    The bill also provides incentives for private health insurers to drop abortion coverage, bans abortion coverage in multi-state health insurance plans except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, and denies women and small businesses tax credits if they choose health plans that cover abortion.

    2. Abortion Providers And Public Facilities Would No Longer Be Able To Support Abortion Services

    In addition to targeting insurance coverage for abortion care, HR 7 also prohibits federally owned or operated facilities and federal employees from providing abortion services:

    “No health care service furnished—

    “(1) by or in a health care facility owned or operated by the Federal Government; or

    “(2) by any physician or other individual employed by the Federal Government to provide health care services within the scope of the physician’s or individual’s employment, may include abortion.

    The impact of the Hyde Amendment has previously been felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans. By expanding the restriction to include prohibitions on federally owned or operated facilities and providers, the bill’s authors have substantially curtailed the number of available care options for these populations. The Guardian explained:

    The bill would also convert a slew of existing, provisional bans on abortion coverage into permanent law. These include bans on abortion coverage for women on federal insurance, such as many Native American women, women in the Peace Corps, in federal prisons, or those enrolled in Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and prohibit the city of Washington DC from using its own local funds to subsidize abortion services.

    3. Low-Income And Marginalized Communities Were Already Disproportionately Impacted

    The Hyde Amendment has already created a significant barrier to accessing abortion care for low-income patients and those from marginalized communities. Given the number of economic and logistical barriers patients already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde Amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication to what is normally a safe procedure.

    In a statement to Refinery29, Destiny Lopez, the president of All* Above All -- a coalition of reproductive rights activists -- explained the dire consequences of HR 7 for low-income patients. She said:

    "Already, too many women are denied abortion coverage because of how much they earn: HR 7 is cruel and callous legislation that would make these discriminatory bans permanent law … This is all part of the Trump-Pence agenda to punish women.”

    Beyond low-income patients, women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    4. Blocking Abortion Access Doesn’t End Abortion -- It Just Makes It Less Safe

    Abortion is one of the safest and most common medical procedures. By making abortion care less accessible, anti-choice lawmakers don’t decrease the number of abortions -- they make abortion care overall less safe.

    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.”

    * Image courtesy of Sarah Wasko

  • 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.