Abortion in the Fox News Reality

Nicole Summer

When the infamously "fair and balanced" Fox News produces a documentary about abortion, you have to roll your eyes a bit and maybe even shudder at the prospect. But Saturday's "Facing Reality, Choice" almost lived up to the channel's motto.

When the infamously "fair and balanced" Fox News produces a documentary about abortion, you have to roll your eyes a bit and maybe even shudder at the prospect. But Saturday's "Facing Reality, Choice" almost lived up to the channel's motto. Almost.

The documentary followed three pregnant women in their decision to have an abortion, place the baby for adoption or keep the baby. Kayla, a Southern Baptist in her early 20s who wore a chastity ring in high school, decides to have an abortion after her boyfriend is less than supportive and notes that being a single mom is not exactly accepted in her church. Jeanne is a troubled 29-year-old woman who is pregnant for the seventh time by the end of the documentary and plans on giving the baby up for adoption to the same couple who adopted one of her previously born drug-addicted children, although she seems to be waffling and might keep the baby with her drug dealer boyfriend. Brooke is a 26-year-old married mom who, after several years of trying to get pregnant again, decides to carry to term a baby who will likely die within minutes of being born due to a fatal genetic syndrome.

To Fox's credit, the documentary is decidedly apolitical, focusing solely on the three women, their friends and family and their doctors. The women tell their own stories and each woman says she has no regrets about any of her decisions. Fox is even fair to Dr. William Harrison, Kayla's doctor, who says that he is "not in the business of murdering children" but rather "saving the lives of my patients." Dr. Harrison, a brave and unapologetic man who might have reason not to be so forthcoming after Fox notes in a caption that he performs about 1,000 abortions a year, breaks the news that "no one gets pregnant so they can have abortions."

Yet, with the selection of these three women as the subjects, Fox frames the story. All three women were white, in their 20s, southern and claimed to be religious. Not that southern Christians don't have abortions, but this is hardly the face of abortion or unwanted pregnancies in this country. Where was the married woman in her 40s with three kids already and suddenly facing an unplanned pregnancy? Where was the single 30-year-old professional woman with a supportive boyfriend but who simply isn't ready to have children yet? Where was the rape victim? Where was the woman who didn't "agonize" over her decision to have an abortion?

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While the politicians and crusaders are kept out of the picture, the anti-choice bias lurks under the surface. Kayla's a partier who's having her second abortion, and Jeanne's an unbalanced drug addict whose plight makes one cry out for better access to birth control. But Brooke is the only stable woman of the three, and her decision is to have and keep the baby, even though it will die. Faced with a tragic situation, she and her husband leave it in "God's hands" and are made out to be saints. The documentary doesn't excoriate Kayla for her abortion or Jeanne for her lifestyle – it leaves that to the viewers, who will see a young woman crying as she gets her second abortion and a drug addict pondering whether she and her drug dealing boyfriend should keep the baby or give it up for adoption. One story the documentary doesn't show: a stable, sane woman exercising her constitutional and bodily right to make her own decisions. There've gotta be a few of those out there, right?

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

News Health Systems

The Crackdown on L.A.’s Fake Clinics Is Working

Nicole Knight

"Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options," Feuer said. "And therefore every day is a day that a woman's health could be jeopardized."

Three Los Angeles area fake clinics, which were warned last month they were breaking a new state reproductive transparency law, are now in compliance, the city attorney announced Thursday.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press briefing that two of the fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, began complying with the law after his office issued notices of violation last month. But it wasn’t until this week, when Feuer’s office threatened court action against the third facility, that it agreed to display the reproductive health information that the law requires.

“Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options,” Feuer said. “And therefore every day is a day that a woman’s health could be jeopardized.”

The facilities, two unlicensed and one licensed fake clinic, are Harbor Pregnancy Help CenterLos Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

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Feuer said the lawsuit could have carried fines of up to $2,500 each day the facility continued to break the law.

The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care. Unlicensed centers must disclose that they are not medical facilities.

Feuer’s office in May launched a campaign to crack down on violators of the law. His action marked a sharp contrast to some jurisdictions, which are reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach as fake clinics’ challenges to the law wind through the courts.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Some 25 fake clinics operate in Los Angeles County, according to a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California, though firm numbers are hard to come by. Feuer initially issued notices to six Los Angeles area fake clinics in May. Following an investigation, his office warned three clinics last month that they’re breaking the law.

Those three clinics are now complying, Feuer told reporters Thursday. Feuer said his office is still determining whether another fake clinic, Avenues Pregnancy Clinic, is complying with the law.

Fake clinic owners and staffers have slammed the FACT Act, saying they’d rather shut down than refer clients to services they find “morally and ethically objectionable.”

“If you’re a pro-life organization, you’re offering free healthcare to women so the women have a choice other than abortion,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents several Los Angeles fake clinics fighting the law in court.

Asked why the clinics have agreed to comply, Bowman reiterated an earlier statement, saying the FACT Act violates his clients’ free speech rights. Forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs,” Bowman said.

Reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, Googling “abortion clinic” might turn up results for a fake clinic that discourages abortion care.

“Put yourself in the position of a young woman who is going to one of these centers … and she comes into this center and she is less than fully informed … of what her choices are,” Feuer said Thursday. “In that state of mind, is she going to make the kind of choice that you’d want your loved one to make?

Rewire last month visited Lost Angeles area fake clinics that are abiding by the FACT Act. Claris Health in West Los Angeles includes the reproductive notice with patient intake forms, while Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”


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