How Fox News Is Covering Up The GOP Plan To Ban Contraception And Abortion

How Fox News Is Covering Up The GOP Plan To Ban Contraception And Abortion

Sean Hannity speaks at a Missouri GOP rally before 2018 midterm elections on podium with Donald Trump

Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS

Last week provided a stark case study of how right-wing commentators are trying to conceal the stakes for reproductive rights in the 2024 presidential election. Apparently recognizing that an agenda of curbing access to contraception and abortion is deeply unpopular, they are trying to avoid raising the salience of the issue so that Donald Trump can get reelected and have the opportunity to take action.

On Wednesday Senate Republicans blocked the Right to Contraception Act, a bill that would “establish nationwide rights for individuals to ‘obtain contraceptives and to voluntarily engage in contraception’ and protect health care providers who offer it.” All but two GOP senators opposed the legislation, claiming that “it was unnecessary because the use of birth control is already protected under Supreme Court precedent.” But access to abortion was also subject to such protections until Trump’s justices overturned Roe v. Wade, after which right-wing commentators and conservative allies began calling for new restrictions on contraception. Trump himself suggested he was open to such limitations before backing away from the subject in April.

Fox News, the right-wing cable channel that serves as Trump’s propaganda arm, does not want to talk about that vote. The network devoted only 3 minutes to the contraception legislation on Wednesday — two discussions on flagship broadcast Special Report — compared to 17 minutes on CNN and 58 minutes on MSNBC.

That night, Fox host Sean Hannity passed on an opportunity to clear up Trump’s position on a related topic when he aired an interview with the former president. Trump has refused to reveal whether he supports proposals by anti-abortion activists to curtail medication abortion, either by reversing federal approvals for the drugs or enforcing a moribund statute banning their distribution through the mail.

But Hannity is a Trump shill who is much more concerned with ensuring Trump gets elected so he can restrict reproductive rights than he is in forcing the presumptive Republican nominee to publicly adopt an incredibly unpopular position that might prevent his election. He declined to ask Trump about the details of his position on the use and distribution of abortion medications, which Trump has been saying since a mid-April interview with Time was coming in “two weeks.” Instead, he teed up the former president to praise his own record of ensuring the end of Roe while offering false attacks on the Democrats’ position.

Hannity and his Fox colleagues, knowing that the right’s position on abortion is unpopular, have urged the Republican party to keep their messaging vague and to downplay the impact their policies might have. At the same time, they have praised Trump for obscuring his views.

They’ve also taken their own advice, frequently offering significantly less coverage of stories pertaining to reproductive rights than their mainstream news competitors. This year alone, for example:

  • Following Louisiana’s passage of legislation classifying the two most popular abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances in May, Fox did not air a single segment on the legislation. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC aired a combined 1 hour and 33 minutes of coverage of the legislation over the same six-day stretch.
  • In May, during the first full day of Florida’s implementation of a six-week abortion ban, Fox spent less than 1 minute covering the restrictive new policy.
  • Fox did not cover Trump’s medication abortion position in the weeks following his April interview with Time. CNN mentioned it twice, while MSNBC provided 7 minutes of coverage over 7 broadcasts.
  • In April, when an Arizona court revived a 160-year-old state law banning abortions under almost all circumstances, Fox covered the ruling for just 12 minutes that day, compared to 2 hours of airtime from CNN and 2 hours and 20 minutes of coverage on MSNBC.
  • In March, Fox covered the Supreme Court case that could affect access to abortion drug mifepristone nationwide for only 20 minutes in a 24-hour period while CNN spent over 1 hour on coverage and MSNBC devoted almost 4 hours to covering the case.
  • In February, Fox devoted less than 6 minutes of coverage over six days to an Alabama court ruling that frozen embryos are legally equivalent to children, even as state in vitro fertilization clinics stopped treatments in response.

Fox doesn’t want to talk about Republican plans to curtail reproductive rights. Fox wants Republicans to get elected so they can curtail reproductive rights.


Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for either of the terms “Senate” or “Republican” or any variations of either of the terms “vote” or “Democrat” within close proximity of any of the terms “reproductive,” “abortion,” or “birth control” or any variations of the term “contraceptive” and also within close proximity of any of the terms “bill,” “legislation,” “law,” “measure,” “act,” “right,” “access,” or “effort” on June 5, 2024, when the U.S. Senate voted on the Right to Contraception Act.

We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the June 5, 2024, U.S. Senate vote on the Right to Contraception Act was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the vote. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the vote with one another.

We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the Right to Contraception vote without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the vote scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

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