Lila Rose's videos are dishonest on many levels, obviously so. And yet, she often gets respectable treatment in the mainstream media. It's time to stop give Rose's games of make-believe grown-up attention.
When Lila Rose started releasing yet another set of her “exposes” of Planned Parenthood, pro-choice activists could be excused for rolling their eyes. Rose has been doing this for roughly forever, and it tends to go nowhere, because she uses deceptive editing and blatant lying, and there was no reason for us to believe it would be different this time. And on that front, it wasn’t. But what was different was that Rose coordinated her attack with a larger anti-choice push on accessible contraception and STD testing through Planned Parenthood. And this time, the “abortion” cover story is barely being used—anti-choicers are really coming out of the closet on their opposition to anything that minimizes negative outcomes of sex for young and impoverished women, even if there’s no chance of a fetal life being terminated. Sure, there’s a formal mention of abortion in Mike Pence’s bill to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers, but it’s just a formality at this point. Few are pretending this is about abortion, since none of that funding supports abortion, and most of it would actually prevent abortion. Rose’s videos support this—there’s equal attention paid to scandalizing the audience with the revelation that young people have access to contraception and STD testing as there is to floating the scare term “abortion.”
When you have that kind of coordination, it doesn’t matter how deceptive or asinine Lila Rose’s “exposes” are. Right wing media, especially Fox News, stays on-message, and the talking points this month are to say and do anything to smear Planned Parenthood, and by implication, smear sexually active women who lean on Planned Parenthood for their medical care. So, even though Rose’s second video shows no wrongdoing whatsoever, it’s being pumped all over Fox News as if it did. Sadly, gullible viewers probably do buy Fox News lying and suggesting young women don’t have a right to medical confidentiality or to appeal to the courts for safe abortions. Nor were viewers properly informed that Planned Parenthood immediately turned in the potential sex traffickers, or that the employee in the first video flouted Planned Parenthood policy, which is evident from the video, and the employee telling the actors that most of the rest of the office should be avoided because they, you know, follow procedures and don’t break the law.
There is, at this point, no reason for any mainstream media outlet to bite when Lila Rose or one of her comrades, most notably James O’Keefe, puts out a video claiming to say anything. (And there was, thankfully, some skepticism from mainstream media sources, though not enough.) O’Keefe is a known liar, as is Andrew Breitbart, who promoted the videos. O’Keefe also has a history of virulent misogyny, most notably when he concocted a scheme to trap a reporter in a situation that seemed a lot like it was going to be a rape in order to humiliate her by showing her begging to be set free. (Not sure why this would be humiliating for anyone but O’Keefe, but again, it just shows what a misogynist he is.) O’Keefe helped Rose get her start, which just gives you a good idea of how this whole project of hers in grounded in misogyny, dirty tricks, and blatant lying.
And sure enough, it didn’t take long for the evidence to come out that Live Action is doctoring footage, in this case to reinforce the already-bogus narrative that there’s something wrong with informing young people of their full legal rights.
Appreciate our work?
Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:
But even without this, you can point to multiple ways that Rose’s videos are dishonest and therefore not fit for mainstream media news, which is supposed to be fact-based.
The biggest lies in the videos are lies of omission. Rose implies heavily in the videos that Planned Parenthood “cooperated” with alleged sex traffickers, but no where in the video does she mention that Planned Parenthood called the FBI and reported the supposed sex traffickers, usually as soon as they left. This is a pretty big lie, since this fact proves that Planned Parenthood did the exact opposite of what Rose claims they did. You don’t call the cops on someone you’re “cooperating” with. In a pathetic attempt to salvage this lie, Rose suggested that if they were really serious about stopping pimps, they would have usurped the police’s authority and detained the actors, something that is possibly illegal (interfering with an investigation) and, if the person in question really was a dangerous pimp, very dangerous. No serious grown-up can buy this excuse for maintaining such a big lie.
Then there’s lie of implying that the one employee they did catch doing something wrong is indicative of the entire organization of 11,000 employees. Omitting 11,000 employees who’ve done nothing wrong is a pretty big lie of omission. Even the woman caught on tape couldn’t omit such a huge chunk of people, as noted before, and she complains about them and how they actually do their jobs properly.
Then there’s the lie of implication. The videos, especially after the first one, only work to scandalize if you believe that young people don’t have rights. If you believe, incorrectly, that a minor can’t get contraception, STD testing, or accurate information about your legal rights without parental notification, maybe these videos would scandalize you. Rose and Fox News go out of their way to imply that the offers of non-abortion reproductive care to minors are somehow outside the law. The reality is that these are the rights of young people. That many conservatives don’t believe that young people should have human rights doesn’t mean that those rights don’t exist.
When will we stop letting a handful of dishonest sadists capture so much of the media’s attention in their quest to shut down basic, necessary services to some of the most vulnerable people in our society? There’s a lot of real news going on now, and all the time, and that deserves our attention instead of these side shows based on lies and paranoia.
Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.
For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.
Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.
With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.
Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.
Appreciate our work?
Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:
Democrats for Life of America leaders, politicians, and rank-and-file supporters often contradict each other, and sometimes themselves, exposing a lack of coherent strategy at a time when the Democratic Party's platform is newly committed to increasing abortion access for all.
The national organization for anti-choice Democrats last month brought a litany of arguments against abortion to the party’s convention. As a few dozen supporters gathered for an event honoring anti-choice Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), the group ran into a consistent problem.
Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) leaders, politicians, and rank-and-file supporters often contradicted each other, and sometimes themselves, exposing a lack of coherent strategy at a time when the Democratic Party’s platform is newly committed to increasing access to abortion care for all.
DFLA leaders and politicians attempted to distance themselves from the traditionally Republican anti-choice movement, but repeatedly invoked conservative falsehoods and medically unsupported science to make their arguments against abortion. One state-level lawmaker said she routinely sought guidance from the National Right to Life, while another claimed the Republican-allied group left anti-choice Democrats in his state to fend for themselves.
Over the course of multiple interviews, Rewire discovered that while the organization demanded that Democrats “open the big tent” for anti-choice party members in order to win political office, especially in the South, it lacked a coordinated strategy for making that happen and accomplishingits policy goals.
Appreciate our work?
Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:
Take, for example, 20-week abortion bans, which the organization’s website lists as a key legislative issue.When asked about why the group backed cutting off abortion care at that point in a pregnancy, DFLA Executive Director Kristen Day admitted that she didn’t “know what the rationale was.”
Janet Robert, the president of the group’s executive board, was considerably more forthcoming.
“Well, the group of pro-life people who came up with the 20-week ban felt that at 20 weeks, it’s pretty well established that a child can feel pain,” Robert claimed during an interview with Rewire. Pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to legal abortion care before the point of fetal viability, Rogers suggested that “more and more we’re seeing that children, prenatal children, are viable around 20 to 22 weeks” of pregnancy.
Medical consensus, however, has found it “unlikely” that a fetus can feel pain until the third trimester, which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. The doctors who testify otherwise in an effort to push through abortion restrictions are often discredited anti-choice activists. A 20-week fetus is “in no way shape or form” viable, according to Dr. Hal Lawrence, executive vice president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
When asked about scientific findings that fetuses do not feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy, Robert steadfastly claimed that “medical scientists do not agree on that issue.”
“There is clearly disagreement, and unfortunately, science has been manipulated by a lot of people to say one thing or another,” she continued.
While Robert parroted the very same medically unsupported fetal pain and viability lines often pushed by Republicans and anti-choice activists, she seemingly acknowledged that such restrictions were a way to work around the Supreme Court’s decision to make abortion legal.
“Now other legislatures are looking at 24 weeks—anything to get past the Supreme Court cut-off—because everybody know’s it’s a child … it’s all an arbitrary line,” she said, adding that “people use different rationales just to get around the stupid Supreme Court decision.”
Charles C. Camosy, a member of DFLA’s board, wrote in a May op-ed for the LA Times that a federal 20-week ban was “common-sense legislation.” Camosy encouraged Democratic lawmakers to help pass the abortion ban as “a carrot to get moderate Republicans on board” with paid family leave policies.
Robert also relied upon conservative talking points about fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, which routinely lie to patients to persuade them not to have an abortion. Robert said DFLA doesn’t often interact with women facing unplanned pregnancies, but the group nonetheless views such organizations as “absolutely fabulous [be]cause they help the women.”
Those who say such fake clinics provide patients with misinformation and falsehoods about abortion care are relying on “propaganda by Planned Parenthood,” Robert claimed, adding that the reproductive health-care provider simply doesn’t want patients seeking care at fake clinics and wants to take away those clinics’ funding.
Politicians echoed similar themes at DFLA’s convention event. Edwards’ award acceptance speech revealed his approach to governing, which, to date, includes support for restrictive abortion laws that disproportionately hurt people with low incomes, even as he has expanded Medicaid in Louisiana.
Also present at the event was Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D), responsible for a restrictive admitting privileges law that former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed into law in 2014. Jackson readily admitted to Rewire that she takes her legislative cues from the National Right to Life. She also name-checked Dorinda Bordlee, senior counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund, an allied organization of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“They don’t just draft bills for me,” Jackson told Rewire in an interview. “What we do is sit down and talk before every session and see what the pressing issues are in the area of supporting life.”
Jackson did not acknowledge the setback, speaking instead about how such measures protect the health of pregnant people and fetuses. She did not mention any legal strategy—only that she’s “very prayerful” that admitting privileges will remain law in her state.
Jackson said her “rewarding” work with National Right to Life encompasses issues beyond abortion care—in her words, “how you’re going to care for the baby from the time you choose life.”
She claimed she’s not the only Democrat to seek out the group’s guidance.
“I have a lot of Democratic colleagues in my state, in other states, who work closely with [National] Right to Life,” Jackson said. “I think the common misconception is, you see a lot of party leaders saying they’re pro-abortion, pro-choice, and you just generally assume that a lot of the state legislators are. And that’s not true. An overwhelming majority of the Democrat state legislators in our state and others are pro-life. But, we say it like this: We care about them from the womb to the tomb.”
The relationship between anti-choice Democrats and anti-choice groups couldn’t be more different in South Dakota, said state house Rep. Ray Ring (D), a Hillary Clinton supporter at DFLA’s convention event.
Ring said South Dakota is home to a “small, not terribly active”chapter of DFLA. The “very Republican, very conservative” South Dakota Right to Life drives most of the state’s anti-choice activity and doesn’t collaborate with anti-choice Democrats in the legislature, regardless of their voting records on abortion.
Democrats hold a dozen of the 70 seats in South Dakota’s house and eight of the 35 in the state senate. Five of the Democratic legislators had a mixed record on choice and ten had a pro-choice record in the most recent legislative session, according to NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota Executive Director Samantha Spawn.
As a result, Ring and other anti-choice Democrats devote more of their legislative efforts toward policies such as Medicaid expansion, which they believe will reduce the number of pregnant people who seek abortion care. Ring acknowledged that restrictions on the procedure, such as a 20-week ban, “at best, make a very marginal difference”—a far cry not only from Republicans’ anti-choice playbook, but also DFLA’s position.
Ring and other anti-choice Democrats nevertheless tend to vote for Republican-sponsored abortion restrictions, falling in line with DFLA’s best practices. The group’s report, which it released at the event, implied that Democratic losses since 2008 are somehow tied to their party’s support for abortion rights, even though the turnover in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress can be attributed to a variety of factors, including gerrymandering to favor GOP victories.
Anecdotal evidence provides measured support for the inference.
Republican-leaning anti-choice groups targeted one of their own—Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)—in her June primary for merely expressing concern that a congressional 20-week abortion ban would have required rape victims to formally report their assaults to the police in order to receive exemptions. Ellmers eventually voted last year for the U.S. House of Representatives’ “disgustingly cruel” ban, similarly onerous rape and incest exceptions included.
If anti-choice groups could prevail against such a consistent opponent of abortion rights, they could easily do the same against even vocal “Democrats for Life.”
Former Rep. Kathy Dalhkemper (D-PA) contends that’s what happened to her and other anti-choice Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, which resulted in Republicans wresting control of the House.
“I believe that pro-life Democrats are the biggest threat to the Republicans, and that’s why we were targeted—and I’ll say harshly targeted—in 2010,” Dahlkemper said in an interview.
She alleged that anti-choice groups, often funded by Republicans, attacked her for supporting the Affordable Care Act. A 2010 Politico story describes how the Susan B. Anthony List funneled millions of dollars into equating the vote with support for abortion access, even though President Obama signed an executive order in the vein of the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funds for abortion care.
Dalhkemper advocated for perhaps the clearest strategy to counter the narrative that anti-choice Democrats somehow aren’t really opposed to abortion.
“What we need is support from our party at large, and we also need to band together, and we also need to continue to talk about that consistent life message that I think the vast majority of us believe in,” she said.
Self-described pro-choice Georgia House Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) rejected the narratives spun by DFLA to supporters. In an interview with Rewire at the convention, Abrams called the organization’s claim that Democrats should work to elect anti-choice politicians from within their ranks in order to win in places like the South a “dangerous” strategy that assumes “that the South is the same static place it was 50 or 100 years ago.”
“I think what they’re reacting to is … a very strong religious current that runs throughout the South,” that pushes people to discuss their values when it comes to abortion, Abrams said. “But we are capable of complexity. And that’s the problem I have. [Its strategy] assumes and reduces Democrats to a single issue, but more importantly, it reduces the decision to one that is a binary decision—yes or no.”
That strategy also doesn’t take into account the intersectional identities of Southern voters and instead only focuses on appealing to the sensibilities of white men, noted Abrams.
“We are only successful when we acknowledge that I can be a Black woman who may be raised religiously pro-life but believe that other women have the right to make a choice,” she continued. “And the extent to which we think about ourselves only in terms of white men and trying to convince that very and increasingly narrow population to be our saviors in elections, that’s when we face the likelihood of being obsolete.”
Understanding that nuances exist among Southern voters—even those who are opposed to abortion personally—is instead the key to reaching them, Abrams said.
“Most of the women and most of the voters, we are used to having complex conversations about what happens,” she said. “And I do believe that it is both reductive and it’s self-defeating for us to say that you can only win if you’re a pro-life Democrat.”
To Abrams, being pro-choice means allowing people to “decide their path.”
“The use of reproductive choice is endemic to how we as women can be involved in society: how we can go to work, how we can raise families, make choices about who we are. And so while I am sympathetic to the concern that you have to … cut against the national narrative, being pro-choice means exactly that,” Abrams continued. “If their path is pro-life, fine. If their path is to decide to make other choices, to have an abortion, they can do so.”
“I’m a pro-choice woman who has strongly embraced the conversation and the option for women to choose whatever they want to choose,” Abrams said. “That is the best and, I think, most profound path we can take as legislators and as elected officials.”