News Abortion

Associated Press Pressured Into Anti-Choice “Correction”?

Robin Marty

The latest "correction" on the D.C. abortion ban looks like it came straight out of the anti-choice handbook -- because it probably did.

The Associated Press appears to have caved into pressure from anti-choice activists, issuing an erroneous “correction” that sounds exactly like a line from the National Right To Life Committee media guide.

Lifenews.com brags about the change in language, stating:

All too often the pro-life movement is grossly misrepresented in the mainstream media. Pro-life advocates never expect, or even hope for, favorable coverage, but rather aspire just to be covered fairly. In a May 17th story on the DC Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Associated Press not only missed the mark on the purpose of the bill but printed blatant factual errors.

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In fact, abortion is currently available on demand in the District of Columbia. In Roe vs. Wade and its companion case Doe vs. Bolton, the Supreme Court legalized abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.

But “in fact” abortion is not “available on demand in the District of Columbia… for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.”

The original story read:

In the district, abortion is legal before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb and after viability to protect the life or health of the mother. In 2004, the D.C. Council wiped an outdated criminal ban on abortions off the books. Anti-abortion activists have claimed that makes the city unusually permissive on abortion. District officials and abortion-rights supporters say the district law follows the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.

But the APcorrected” itself, stating:

In a May 17 story about a bill that would ban abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by district officials, erroneously reported that abortion of a viable fetus is legal in the district only to protect the life or health of the mother. Abortions for any reason are legal in the district.

Claiming that abortion is legal for any reason up until the moment of birth is a favorite talking point of the anti-choice movement. One of the “expert witnesses” at the 20-week ban claimed as much himself, despite the fact that under the Roe v Wade decision that simply isn’t the case at all.

If the AP was somehow “wrong” to rely on information from district officials, how is it a “correction” to use anti-choice activists’ false assertion that the law of the land includes abortions for any reason?

In D.C., an abortion post viability is allowable for the exact same reasons it is allowed under the established criteria in Roe v. Wade: life or health of the mother. But anti-choicers take the fact of the condition, “health of the mother,” which includes mental health exceptions, to claim that abortion is legal for “any reason up until birth.”  When the media repeats this, they perpetuate a falsehood, and also the notion that a pregnant woman or girl who needs an abortion for a reason that includes but is not limited to mental health — such as a later discovered anomaly, or dealing with a rape, is simply a frivolous “excuse.”

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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