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As Local Newsrooms Wither, Right-Wing Disinformation Is Burgeoning

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In a year when local news has been arguably more important than ever, newsrooms across the country have faced drastic cuts. The decimated industry has left many Americans without a clear avenue for getting relevant and reliable information about their communities -- and nefarious actors have taken advantage of this opportunity to fill the void with hyperpartisan narratives and conservative misinformation. While this tactic is not new from right-wing media, the stakes were higher and the consequences greater in 2020.

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was particularly devastating for an industry already in decline before the virus hit. Newsrooms strained by shrinking ad revenues and consolidation found they could not weather the pressures of COVID-19 without cutting staff or shuttering entirely. Thousands of outlets have been impacted this year, according to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, which maintains a database tracking these cutbacks. Local newspapers were hit much harder than local TV newsrooms, according to the Pew Research Center and NiemanLab.

In the absence of trusted local reporting, partisan commentary and right-wing misinformation can thrive. Conservative activists have already proven willing to seize on the decline of local news -- and the perceived trustworthiness of local outlets -- to further their agenda. For example, Media Matters has previously reported on the dark money-fundedFranklin Center's network of state "watchdog" sites, which provided partisan coverage of state governments earlier in the decade. A similar strategy is now taking hold in Georgia as the state heads into contentious January runoff elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

We are seeing the likely consequences of this dynamic already, as many stories were missing from the pages of local newspapers and the airwaves of local broadcast news in 2020. Local news outlets failed to warn viewers about health risks of political rallies, declined to inform people that a politician running for national office was making racist statements, and omitted right-wing extremist violence from their reporting. While local outlets fail to cover vital stories in their community, right-wing media have plenty of room to fill the gaps with misinformation via local talk radio, news stations owned by conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, and hyperpartisan local sites.

Local Broadcast TV Falls Dangerously Short

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially after it began affecting the 2020 presidential campaigns, local TV news stations sometimes failed to give important public health context in their coverage -- potentially putting viewers at risk. This has ranged from omitting new local COVID-19 developments in stories about national pandemic policy, ignoring problematic decisions by local governments or federal institutions with local impacts, or neglecting to report when local representatives spread misinformation related to the pandemic. Local news stations in several states repeatedly failed to connectPresident Donald Trump's superspreader political events to their area's status in the ongoing pandemic -- even failing to warn viewers about the health risks of attending these Trump rallies after several had been tied to infections and even deaths.

There were also serious failures in local TV coverage of voting procedures and controversial candidates for federal office. In Florida, most TV news coverage in the state failed to properly explain how a new court ruling would make it nearly impossible for residents with former felony convictions to vote -- a measure that disproportionately targets Black potential voters. Broadcast news stations in Pennsylvania and Minnesota also mostly neglected to explain proper procedures in the immediate aftermath of court rulings which changed how mail-in votes can be counted close to the presidential election. Local TV news coverage also largely overlooked the reported sexual misconduct and bigotry of then-candidate and now Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). They also neglected to mentionprint reports with new information about Sen. David Perdue's (R-GA) stock trading scandals before voting for the Georgia runoffs began (newspapers throughout the state also failed to cover this in their print editions).

Sinclair Broadcast Group Spread Misinformation

Sinclair Broadcast Group owns one of the largest concentrations of local television stations in the United States and uses it to broadcast conservative propaganda to unwitting local news audiences. In recent years, it hired Fox News castoffs who were fired for sexual misconduct to push right-wing misinformation.

Stations owned or operated by Sinclair have had their own unique failures related to the pandemic and the election. Around the end of August, at least 55 Facebook posts and 36 Twitter posts from Sinclair stations' social media accounts shared articles from their own or other Sinclair stations' websites which lacked context about data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effectively misleading people into believing COVID-19 isn't as deadly as it's proven to be. And when it came to broadcasts, the Sinclair station in the Florida congressional district where bigot Laura Loomer won her Republican primary election failed to mention the anti-Muslim hatred she is known for while covering her victory. Georgia's Sinclair stations in May similarly failed to cover recent insider trading news about Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, while non-Sinclair stations in the state did multiple times.

Locally produced newscasts are not the only way Sinclair has spread misinformation through the country this year. Sinclair employs several national correspondents who produce short news segments which are distributed throughout its network of local TV stations to air around the country in local news broadcasts. Over the summer, many of these national Sinclair news segments hid violence by police and others against protesters who were marching against police killings of Black Americans and repeated debunked falsehoods about the topic. On the weekends, the company also airs two news-like programs, Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson and Eric Bolling's America This Week, which have spread similar -- and at times more dangerous -- misinformation.

Sinclair's COVID-19 Misinformation Was Pulled Twice

Earlier in the pandemic, Sinclair's national correspondents would cover the right-wing protests against COVID-19 precautions without including warnings from health experts against the consequences of lifting those restrictions too early. Later on, these news reports amplified Trump's attempts to downplay how dangerous the novel coronavirus is and his lies about his mishandling of the pandemic, or distracted from his attempts to politicize the coronavirus vaccine effort. One of Sinclair's weekend programs, Full Measure, also touted the discredited use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

But it was on Sinclair's America This Week where the really deadly misinformation happened. The program started out by downplaying the threat of the pandemic, using racist terms, and pushing conspiracy theories about the origin of the coronavirus. As the pandemic grew worse and worse, host Eric Bolling repeatedly agreed with his guests that public health restrictions needed to end. Bolling brought up a Trump-boosted conspiracy theory downplaying the deadliness of the coronavirus. He aired a segment advocating for a "natural herd immunity" strategy that would kill millions -- and later interviewed the White House adviser who proposed that strategy to the president while failing to bring it up. Bolling also allowed Trump to spread COVID-19 misinformation via the town hall interview he conducted in October. In November, he floated a partisan conspiracy theory after Pfizer announced on November 9 that it had developed an effective vaccine, calling for a congressional investigation and suggesting the timing of the announcement was politically motivated.

On two occasions, Bolling's COVID-19 misinformation was so dangerous that Sinclair simply pulled it off its stations' airwaves. The first time was in late July, when he interviewed a conspiracy theorist from the Plandemic viral video which had been banned from social media platforms for its harmful misinformation. After widespread criticism, Sinclair pulled the entire episode after it aired on one station -- though not before defending the interview as an expression of free speech. The second occasion was in mid-October, when Sinclair cut a part of Bolling's opening monologue in which he falsely claimed face masks and lockdown precautions do not help slow the spread of COVID-19, though The New York Times reported that the Sinclair host "stood by his unsubstantiated claims that Chinese scientists had tampered with the virus."

Sinclair Also Spread Misinformation About Voting

As the presidential election approached, Sinclair spread misinformation about voting from both its national correspondents and its weekend program America This Week. In late June, a Sinclair news segment pushed Trump's debunked lies about fraud in absentee voting and included so little pushback against the lie that one local anchor had to more thoroughly explain the security features of mail-in voting following the prerecorded segment. In mid-July, Bolling used his program to amplify Trump's attacks on mail-in voting by using his interview of a former secretary of state in Washington state to validate claims that voter fraud is rampant. And a series of Sinclair national news segments which covered Trump's false attacks on mail-in voting made no mention of his deliberate weakening of the Postal Service prior to the election.

After the election, Sinclair stations also spread debunked misinformation that originally came from right-wing video group Project Veritas, which is known for infiltrating progressive organizations, campaigns, and nonpartisan institutions and heavily editing recorded undercover footage to allege wrongdoing. For example, multiple Sinclair stationsspread their lie that a post office was illegally backdating ballots in Michigan the day after local and national media debunked it.

Talk Radio Undermined Public Confidence

For decades, local conservative talk radio has served as a source of hyperpartisan commentary on community issues and as a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Without trusted local sources to provide the facts or hold these hosts accountable, misinformation and dangerous rhetoric can run rampant on local airwaves.

Throughout the pandemic, talk radio hosts have attempted to undermine the work of local officials to control the spread of the virus. In the spring, right-wing hosts across the country were at the forefront of efforts to promote protests against stay-at-home orders. Local radio hosts in Arizona rejected mask mandates implemented by cities there in June, when COVID-19 cases were surging. When coronavirus numbers surged in Wisconsin this fall, the hosts in the state downplayed the spike and complained about new public health orders.

Listeners' faith in the electoral process was also under attack ahead of the 2020 election. After Trump claimed "bad things happen in Philadelphia" during a debate, local radio hosts in the city suggested that local Democrats were planning to steal the state's election, and some even helped local Republican leaders recruit poll watchers. As Pennsylvania continued to count votes following Election Day, conservative hosts across the state suggested that the additional time needed to count mail-in ballots was actually a sign of a widespread conspiracy by Democrats engaged in election fraud.

Hyperpartisan "News" Pages Were Misinformation Superspreaders

In the days after the 2020 election, a site called the Milwaukee City Journal falsely claimedthat certain wards were reporting more votes than registered voters. A site called Peach Tree Times added to the ever-growing pile of voter fraud conspiracy theories by suggesting that ballot rejection rates in Georgia portended election shenanigans. Ahead of Georgia's runoffs in January, Georgia Star News -- a new website with deep ties to Trump and his former adviser Steve Bannon -- began to pepper audiences with stories of election fraud and conspiracy theories aggregated from the right-wing fringe.

Georgia Star News is the latest project of Star News Digital Media, which was founded in 2017 by tea party activists and now operates half a dozen conservative news sites. From the beginning, the company's explicit aim was to flood residents of battleground states with pro-Trump propaganda and to coat local news in the same grievance- and conspiracy-filled venom as used by outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.

Metric Media, which runs the Milwaukee City Journal and Peach Tree Times, operates nearly a thousand such pages. A New York Times investigation revealed that the company's sites amount to little more than content farms for right-wing political groups and PR firms.

Those sites and hundreds of others like them are part of a growing trend of hyperpartisan "news" pages designed to look like legitimate local news outlets that have taken advantage of the collapse of the local news industry. Such sites have been around for nearly a decade, but their numbers have grown dramatically over the past few years.

It's hard to overstate the importance of the local news industry in providing critical on-the-ground reporting that cannot be replicated on the national level. Cuts to funding and to whole newsrooms and outlets during the pandemic present a crisis point that will continue to be exploited by social media echo chambers and right-wing news outlets filling the void with misinformation.

Social media's replacement of local news outlets as the primary source for community information will likely contribute to an absolute deluge of conservative misinformation and the spread of local conspiracy theories in the years ahead, both issues we have already seen play out this year during the election cycle and the pandemic. The year 2020 has proven yet again that protecting resources for local reporting is essential -- and could even save lives.

Soiled By Blatant Partisan Bias, Barrett Must Recuse — But Will She?

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

As Justice Amy Coney Barrett begins her tenure on the Supreme Court, right-wing media have argued that Barrett does not need to recuse herself from cases concerning President Donald Trump, the election, the Affordable Care Act, and Roe v. Wade. However, this narrative ignores the reality that Trump promised a Supreme Court justice who will vote for him and his interests in these cases. Given Trump's unprecedented actions toward the independence of the court, Barrett has a duty to recuse herself to avoid the indisputable perception of bias.

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Anti-Abortion Groups Cheered Kavanaugh’s Testimony

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing demonstrated that he will be a threat to abortion rights and would likely vote to overturn or curtail protections stemming from Roe v. Wade — despite previous claims by right-wing media to the contrary. Abortion opponents reacted to the hearing by praising Kavanaugh’s position on abortion and reproductive rights, and by attacking pro-choice protesters and Democratic senators.

This week, Kavanaugh participated in a confirmation hearing for his nomination to the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed that he will be a threat to abortion rights. Rewire.News’ Jessica Mason Pieklo wrote that Kavanaugh’s references to “Roe as Supreme Court precedent and even ‘super-precedent’” served as a consistent talking point for the judge who was seemingly shielding his views on abortion rights. As Mason Pieklo explained, Kavanaugh’s invocation of precedent meant little because “precedent can be ‘unsettled’ by the Supreme Court.” In particular, “Kavanaugh reminded us of that time and time again by invoking Brown v. Board of Education,” a case that anti-abortion activists use “as an analogy” to describe a “pathway to overturn Roe.” Kavanaugh “also called birth control an abortifacient, … echoing another anti-choice talking point that dangerously conflates contraception with abortion.” Mason Pieklo also pointed to an email released during the hearing “where Kavanaugh says that many legal scholars do not see Roe v. Wade as settled law.”

Kavanaugh’s record also suggests he would vote in favor of overturning Roe, or otherwise support further curtailing abortion rights. For example, in 2017, Kavanaugh opposed allowing an unaccompanied pregnant immigrant teen [called Jane Doe] who was in federal custody to have an abortion — using language like “abortion on demand,” an inaccurate phrase frequently used by abortion opponents, to explain his decision. Kavanaugh also praised the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe during a speech in 2017 — which Mason Pieklo noted made sense, given that Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe and Kavanaugh’s dissent in the Jane Doe case both “fundamentally [deny] reproductive autonomy all while purporting to be respecting the bounds of the law.” New York magazine’s Irin Carmon pointed to Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) question about whether Kavanaugh’s language in the Jane Doe case “was a signal” to conservative organizations “that you were prepared, and you are, to overturn Roe v. Wade.” Carmon also indicated that Kavanaugh’s 2017 speech was another “signal” of the same sort.

As the hearing progressed, abortion opponents reacted with glee at Kavanaugh’s answers on abortion rights, and attacked pro-choice Democrats and activists who opposed his likely views on Roe. Here are a few examples:

During the hearing, anti-abortion outlet LifeNews celebrated Kavanaugh’s answers

  • Anti-abortion organization Americans United for Life tweeted one of the celebratory LifeNews articles, writing, “In yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearings, Judge Kavanaugh confirmed that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution.” Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kavanaugh’s answers about precedent were “simply recognizing the fact that discussion of the principles of stare decisis has become recognized as a leading decision in that area,” meaning that judges tend to talk about the decision in Roe as a matter of “settled law.” She also added that she believed “there is no reason to follow the precedent of Roe.”

Abortion opponents reacted to Kavanaugh’s demurring about Roe‘s precedent with reassurances that it could be overturned

  • Ryan Bomberger, founder of the anti-abortion organization Radiance Foundation tweeted about Kavanaugh calling Roe “settled law”:

  • Anti-abortion organization Students for Life of America reassured followers about Kavanaugh’s position on Roetweeting, “Any Court ruling can be overturned.”
  • Right to Life of Michigan downplayed the impact of overturning Roetweeting, “When Roe v. Wade falls, it simply puts the voters and elected officials back in the drivers (sic) seat. What happens will be up to you, the voter, not five unelected, unaccountable politicians acting as judges.” In reality, overturning Roewill have devastating consequences for abortion rights at the state level.

Anti-abortion activists and outlets also attacked pro-choice activists and protesters

  • LifeNews tweeted, “More abortion activists arrested after pro-abortion outbursts because they don’t care about civility.”
  • Radiance Foundation tweeted:

  • During one protest, Ryan Bomberger tweeted, “No irony here at all. While talking about mental illness court case, unhinged pro-abortion protesters resume their crazy outbursts.”
  • Father Frank Pavone of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life tweeted:

  • Anti-abortion organization Pro-Life Action League tweeted an anti-abortion myth about abortion safety, claiming that while pro-choice activists are “making a whole lot of noise about the supposed need to ‘keep abortion #safeandlegal.’ The problem for them, though, is that legal abortion isn’t actually very safe.”
  • Commenting on a protest, LifeNews tweeted, “The latest shouter: ‘Save Democracy Save Roe.’ How does killing a baby in an abortion without due process serve a democracy?”
  • LifeNews responded to pro-choice activists’ concern over Kavanaugh’s use of the phrase “abortion inducing drugs,” with an inaccurately-titled article: “No, Brett Kavanaugh Didn’t Call True Birth Control ‘Abortion Drugs.’ Plan B Can Cause Abortions.”

Anti-abortion activists and outlets used the hearings as an opportunity to attack Democratic senators on the committee

  • In response to a question from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) about whether there are any laws that explicitly regulate men’s bodies, LifeNews ran an article titled:

  • David Daleiden, founder of discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress, tweetedabout Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) while also promoting an upcoming (and widely mocked) anti-abortion movie:

  • Fox News’ Todd Starnes tweeted, “It is deeply chilling to watch people like @SenFeinstein defend the killing of unborn babies. #evil.”
  • National Right to Life tweeted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was “severely misguided about” Roe, because “it’s not about ‘privacy rights,’ Senator. It’s about depriving an entire class of human beings the fundamental right to life.”

Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox’s Tucker Carlson Is Mad About An Undocumented Teen Paying For Her Own Abortion

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson and guest Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America (SFLA), on Wednesday repeated the right-wing myth of so-called “taxpayer-funded abortion,” alleging that a recent judicial ruling requires taxpayers to pay for abortions for undocumented immigrants.

On October 18, a federal judge in Texas ordered the Trump administration to quit barring abortion access for an undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who is being held in federal custody in the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement. During the hearing, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the government was not impeding Jane Doe’s access to an abortion because she was “free to return to her home country for the procedure.” Judge Tanya Chutkan said she was “astounded” by DOJ’s argument. “She can leave the country or not get her abortion. That’s your position,” she replied. On October 19, the DOJ appealed the ruling, and a federal appeals court in D.C. announced that it would hear oral arguments on October 20. The D.C. court also issued an administrative stay temporarily blocking the teen from having an abortion.

Rather than discuss the facts of the case, on October 18, Carlson hosted Hawkins to repeatedly lie that the ruling would require taxpayers to fund abortions for undocumented immigrants. Carlson claimed, “Liberals are arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens.” Hawkins agreed, stating that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — which argued the case on behalf of Jane Doe — “sees this opportunity, along with their abortion allies, to mandate that taxpayers facilitate her abortion.” She also said that the organization was attempting to claim that the teen has a “constitutional right to have a taxpayer-funded abortion.” Hawkins alleged that the ruling would set a “dangerous precedence” (sic) for other people to “come to the United States illegally or legally” because the country would “fund a taxpayer-funded abortion for you.”

Unfortunately for Carlson, the facts of the case run contrary to his and his guest’s claims. Despite Carlson and Hawkins’ allegations, Jane Doe requires no government support to receive an abortion. According to BuzzFeed News, Jane Doe did not ask for “the government to pay for the procedure or arrange the transportation.” Instead, as Politico reported, Jane Doe “has [already] obtained the money to pay for” the abortion. But rather than acknowledge those facts, Carlson and Hawkins instead joined in the Fox News chorusof xenophobic scare tactics about undocumented immigrants in the United States. Carlson also has a history of advancing anti-choice misinformation, often by hosting anti-abortion leaders.

Beyond Carlson, right-wing media frequently push the myth that taxpayers fund abortions. Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.

During the October 18 segment, Hawkins additionally talked about the importance of having a “pro-life HHS” because “they’re the ones trying to protect this young girl from the ACLU, from Planned Parenthood who are just simply using her.” However, as Rewire’s Tina Vasquez detailed, this so-called protection is actually harmful: She explained that there are numerous allegations of HHS using underhanded tactics to impede access to abortion for Jane Doe and other undocumented immigrants — often in direct opposition to the individual’s wishes. As Vasquez noted, this interference is so extreme that some advocates have called Jane Doe’s case “a harbinger of the ‘anti-choice fanaticism’ working its way into the immigration system since Trump’s presidential inauguration.”

For example, according to the ACLU’s complaint, Jane Doe and other undocumented immigrants have been forced to go to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which employ deceptive tactics and push medicalmisinformation to dissuade or intimidate individuals from receiving desired abortion care. And unlike abortion providers, CPCs actually can receive taxpayer funding, despite providing little that resembles genuine health care. The ACLU also alleged that Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “personally contacted” one or more pregnant undocumented minors in order to dissuade them from having abortions. In one related incident, the ACLU found that an undocumented minor was taken to the emergency room after she had taken the first of two pills used in a medical abortion in order “to determine the health status” of the “unborn child” and potentially stop the procedure.

The stark reality is that, as the complaint stated, many of the undocumented pregnant minors who cross the Mexico border have an “acute need” for reproductive health care; studies have shown that many are pregnant as the result of rapes committed in their home countries or during the dangerous journey across the border. But instead of acknowledging that reality, Carlson and Hawkins opted to advance lies about immigrants and abortion access in order to vilify undocumented minors seeking medical care.

Fox News Hates That An Oregon Bill Provides Immigrants With Health Care — Including Abortion

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

On Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, host Martha MacCallum slammed an Oregon bill that would protect reproductive health care for all — including undocumented immigrants. MacCallum used the segment to misinform about the bill, combining xenophobic statements about immigrants with misinformation about so-called “sex-selective” and late-term abortions. In reality, the Oregon bill correctly treats abortion as an essential part of health care and ensures access for the most vulnerable communities — measures that are particularly important as Congress threatens to decimate the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.

The Oregon bill, titled the Reproductive Health Equity Act, requires insurance providers to cover a range of reproductive services, including abortion, regardless of income, citizenship status, or gender identity. The bill also includes a trigger law that would go into effect to protect the legal right to an abortion if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As Slate explained, “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, abortion care won’t immediately become illegal,” but instead will go back to the states. Oregon’s trigger law therefore ensures the protections of Roe will remain in place, unless the Oregon legislature repeals the protection. The bill has passed Oregon’s legislature and is expected to be signed by Gov. Kate Brown.

Nevertheless, during the July 13 edition of The Story, MacCallum mischaracterized the bill, claiming it would force “insurers and taxpayers to fund free abortions for virtually any reason, at any time, including sex-selective and late-term abortions.” MacCallum alleged that the bill was “radical” and that opponents had called it “grisly” and “appalling.” MacCallum also continued the long history of Fox hosts invoking undocumented immigrants as a scare tactic to rile up their right-wing audience. As her colleagues on Special Report with Bret BaierHappening Now, and America’s Newsroom had previously done when reporting on the Oregon bill, MacCallum peppered her segment with outrage that bill provided so-called “illegal immigrants” with access to abortion and reproductive health care.

As the United States Congress threatens to eliminate access to abortion and reproductive health care, Oregon is moving to protect access — for everyone, regardless of their citizenship status, gender identity, or income. Here are the myths MacCallum presented about “sex-selective” and late-term abortions to attack the Oregon bill, and the facts that counter them:

Sex-selective abortions are an anti-choice myth repeated by the right-wing media

During the July 13 segment, MacCallum repeatedly pushed the myth that the Oregon bill would enable so-called “sex-selective” abortions, alleging that the bill would say “it’s OK for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months.” Fox News and the right-wing media have long promoted thismyth, which was pushed by anti-abortion groups in order to encourage state and federal legislatures to introduce or pass bills restricting abortion.

The Oregon bill includes no language about “sex-selective” abortions — probably because no such procedure is legally practiced or promoted in the United States. Instead, the discussion of “sex-selective” abortions appears to be an allegation conjured directly from right-wing media. As the National Review speciously complained, because the bill did not expressly “prohibit sex-selective abortions,” the natural consequences would be that an “insurer has no choice but to cover that.”

Bans against “sex-selective” abortion have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.” Laws banning “sex-selective” abortions also rely on “false stereotypes and misleading language” to allow providers to deny access to people of color, particularly Asian Americans. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found that “these bans are detrimental to the reproductive health of Black and Asian American women” and violate the trust in a doctor and patient relationship by “turning a doctor into an interrogator of any woman seeking an abortion, especially women of color.”

Fox claimed Oregon bill pushes “abortions on demand” and promotes late-term abortions

MacCallum consistently fearmongered about what she described as the Oregon bill’s promotion of “abortion on demand” or even “full-term” abortions. At one point, MacCallum argued that the bill would allow “free abortions for virtually any reason at any time” and alleged that it would enable “late-term, even full-term, abortions.” These are all talking points used by right-wing media to create unease about late-term abortions and promote limitations on abortion access. In reality, abortion is a personal decision, like any other health care decision, and has been specifically protected by the Supreme Court as such. In contrast to MacCallum’s argument, late-term abortions are extremely rare and performed largely for medically necessary, or health-related, reasons.

The personal accounts of the people who’ve actually had late-term abortions are far more representative than what Fox News continually invokes. A woman profiled in a ThinkProgress article about late-term abortion described her pregnancy with twins as “the most wanted and planned pregnancy ever,” but after her one of the twins died and the other was discovered to have a fatal birth defect, an abortion was necessary to save her life.

Although MacCallum used the Oregon bill as an opportunity to recycle all of right-wing media’s favorite myths about late-term abortion, in reality it has little to do with the type of abortion allowed. Instead, the bill prevents insurance providers from denying people coverage based on immigration status, income, or gender identity. Unfortunately, segments like this are not uncommon on Fox. As a study by Media Matters found, Fox News frequently and consistently uses its platform to advance inaccurate information on abortion.

Header image by Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters