Report: Fox News’ Coverage Of Abortion Is Mostly Men Telling Lies
For whatever reason, abortion – a common medical procedure for women – remains a controversial topic in the mainstream. It’s a favorite topic of the notoriously conservative Fox News. And if Fox News is your main news source, well, maybe you should think again. According to a new study, unsurprisingly, in the past year Fox News’ coverage of abortion is men telling lies, like, literally, according to a new report by Media Matters.
This isn’t just me being upset by an opinion that differs from mine. This isn’t even just me, as a feminist, being enraged by some white dude’s misogynistic ignorance. This is literally math and objective facts.
According to the Media Matters report, 70 percent of those who discussed abortion on Fox News were anti-choice, and out of 863 statements about abortion, 705 of these were indisputably blatant lies. Statements were objectively evaluated for accuracy.
As per Slate, the report considered statements along the lines of “Planned Parenthood illegally uses taxpayer dollars from Medicaid to fund abortions” (it doesn’t); or that “birth control triggers abortions,” “Planned Parenthood ‘harvests,’ ‘sells,’ or makes ‘profits’ from fetal tissue,” and “that the Center for Medical Progress’ videos fall under the scope of fair journalism” (all false.)
Fox News’ most prominent political talk shows, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity, were the worst offenders. Each show had terrible ratios of true vs. false statements about abortion.
Given the polarizing events concerning abortion that have taken place over the past year, these ratios on Fox News shows aren’t exactly surprising. The whole Planned Parenthood debacle that took place this summer had just about everyone on the anti-choice side of the aisle up in arms over the women’s health organization allegedly selling “baby parts” or, as Fox’s Megyn Kelly put it, “harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money.” (So, in Fox News’ defense, at least one of its brightest anti-choice stars is a woman.) According to the report, false statements about Planned Parenthood accounted for 336 of its 705 false statements about abortion over the past year.
As a quick refresher, the scandal surrounding Planned Parenthood emerged after a notorious anti-choice group illegally filmed a meeting with doctors at the women’s health center, and shared heavily edited footage rendered to appear as if the Planned Parenthood staff were selling fetal tissue.
In reality, they were very frankly discussing the commonplace practice of donating fetal tissue for medical research, and receiving compensation for the costs of preparing the tissue for donation. It’s also worth noting that research involving fetal tissue has historically saved lives, leading to the development of the first polio vaccine. Fetal tissue research was once supported on a nonpartisan level, and only in the context of abortion does fetal tissue donation become the equivalent of “selling baby parts.”
The inaccuracy of the dialogue around abortion on Fox News isn’t just in its false statements, but in the crucial facts it unfailingly omits. For example, it fails to make “any mention of economic barriers to obtaining abortions,” and to discuss the safety of the procedure, the science of fetal viability, the ineffectiveness of regulations that attempt to prevent abortions, and the overall public health benefits reaped by all when women have access to reproductive choice,
The study found that while the fact vs. fiction disparity is most dramatic on Fox News (while MSNBC is killing it with featuring pro-choice facts), even cable news outlets like CNN and MSNBC have a representation problem when it comes to who’s doing the talking. That’s not to say only women should be allowed to discuss the topic– regardless of your gender, if you have something constructive to add to the dialogue, then by all means do so.
But the fact that on cable news the majority of the people discussing abortion are men reflects the disturbing reality that so many modern laws regulating abortion, and so many decisions about women’s health and bodies, are made by male politicians who will never have to experience life under these laws or fully understand the implications of their decisions. Ultimately, women are the ones who are actually affected by events pertaining to abortion, so I don’t think it’s a very radical idea that their voices should have greater weight in the dialogue than do those of men.
From accuracy to representation, there’s a lot of issues cable news is grappling with in its treatment of abortion. So, at least until a report comes out dissecting the discussion of abortion on internet news outlets, for the moment it would appear Americans’ rapid conversion to internet over TV news might just be something worth celebrating.