Analysis Abortion

Kasich Touts and Clinton Stays Silent on Welfare Reform That Could Leave One Million People Hungry

Ally Boguhn

Federal guidelines mandating that food assistance recipients find a job or lose their benefits kicked in last month for residents of 21 states, leaving as many as one million at risk of food insecurity—a result that owes no small debt to the welfare reform efforts of former President Bill Clinton's administration and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) in the '90s.

Federal guidelines mandating that food assistance recipients find a job or lose their benefits kicked in last month for residents of 21 states, leaving as many as one million at risk of food insecurity—a result that owes no small debt to the welfare reform efforts of former President Bill Clinton’s administration and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) in the ’90s.  

Work requirements have been part of welfare programs for nearly two decades, but the high unemployment rates of the Great Recession led dozens of states to qualify for and accept a federal waiver from the mandates because there simply were not enough jobs available. Today, the economy has been improving, albeit slowly: In many states, able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents will once again face work requirements to access food assistance as those waivers expire, or states choose not to accept them in part or whole. 

As Ben Mathis-Lilley pointed out at Slate, Bill Clinton and John Kasich worked together in the 1990s to lead the charge on the very welfare reform measure that stands to boot so many off of food stamps 20 years later.

Bill Clinton ran for president in the early ’90s touting a welfare reform platform that aimed to “put an end to welfare as we know it” in the United States by mandating a work requirement for public assistance programs. “We’ll give them all the help they need for up to two years. But after that, if they’re able to work, they’ll have to take a job in the private sector, or start earning their way through community service,” Clinton promised.

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In 1996, then-President Clinton followed through on that declaration, signing into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA)—a bill originally introduced by then-Ohio Congressman and current Republican presidential candidate Gov. Kasich. 

As Bill Clinton had promised, PRWORA established strict work requirements for those seeking to use welfare programs, such as food assistance. Under the new law, able-bodied adults without dependents could only use three months of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in three years, unless recipients worked, volunteered, or participated in education or career training programs for at least 80 hours per month. States with high unemployment were allowed to apply for a federal waiver of those rules.

The measure was controversial enough that three senior officials resigned from the administration in protest of the law.

“I have devoted the last 30-plus years to doing whatever I could to help in reducing poverty in America. I believe the recently enacted welfare bill goes in the opposite direction,” Peter B. Edelman, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, said of his resignation at the time. 

Analyses conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in 2001 on the impact of PRWORA confirmed what Edelman and other critics had suspected: that Clinton’s welfare reform measure had failed on many fronts. EPI’s analysis suggested that poverty had “not been reduced among the kinds of families most affected by welfare reform” and that although many former welfare recipients were working, they remained unable to move up the job ladder to improve their economic well-being.

Nevertheless, on the campaign trail, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who helped lead the original push behind PRWORA in the ’90s, has pointed to his work to reform welfare as one of his “great accomplishments.”

“This is one of those successes that when we get old and we’re all in our rocking chairs, we’re going to look back and say, ‘Thank God we were able to make America a little bit better,’” Kasich said of the law when it was passed.

More recently, Kasich has again pointed to his work on the issue as a critical component of what qualifies him to be president. “What I tell people is yeah, I’ve been a reformer. I’ve been involved in more fights than you can imagine but with great accomplishments—whether it’s jobs, whether it’s welfare reform, fixing my own state—so I just tell them that these problems we have, they can be fixed, and people seem to be very positive and hopeful when they leave,” Kasich said during a Tuesday rally in New Hampshire, according to Politico.

During his tenure as governor, Kasich has pushed to reinstate work requirements in much of Ohio, even as the state’s economy has been doing so poorly that it qualified for relief from the mandate in 2015.

This comes as little surprise, given that while speaking on the House floor in 1996 in defense of his bill, Kasich claimed that requiring welfare users to work was only fair. The legislation “says, look, you have got to go to work; you have got to get trained. You cannot be on welfare forever,” he asserted.

Kasich has faced much pushback for using the waivers inserted into PRWORA for states experiencing high unemployment rates unequally by only obtaining them for some regions of the state, a pattern critics say disproportionately harmed people of color. According to Mother Jones, despite having qualified for a full waiver in 2014, the Kasich administration only accepted a partial one:

In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

Kasich’s favored working requirements returned to the rest of the state, leaving many without the benefits they needed to be food secure. More than 10,000 Ohio residents lost food assistance in early 2014 after the work requirements were reinstated, according to the Columbus Dispatch.  

The decision led to stark disparity in who received food stamps in Ohio. In the 16 counties selected by Kasich, 95 percent of food stamp users were white, but before the policy, reports Mother Jones, the state’s overall percentage of white users was much lower, at 65 percent: “[S]ix months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.”

Ohio’s lagging assistance policies may have contributed to its poor performance in ensuring its residents have proper access to food. Between 2012 and 2014, the state had a food insecurity rate of roughly 17 percent, higher than the national average of 14 percent, according to a September 2015 analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Kasich’s presidential campaign website claims the “historic reforms to federal welfare programs” he helped accomplish are part of his platform for “lifting up the most vulnerable Americans.”

Meanwhile, current Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton was a proponent of PRWORA during her husband’s administration, during her time as a senator, and as late as her 2008 presidential run.

In 1999, Clinton lauded the welfare reform measure for helping push recipients to work. “It’s important to recognize, though, that simply passing a law requiring welfare recipients to find work would have failed to fulfill the President’s promise,” Clinton wrote of the law, according to BuzzFeed. “Too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives, and many would have found it difficult to make the transition to work on their own.”

As a U.S. senator in 2002, Clinton again touted the role PRWORA had in pushing welfare recipients to work, claiming it was an effort to “substitute dignity for dependence” and that those who got jobs were “no longer deadbeats.” 

In her 2003 memoir Living History, Clinton again offered a defense of her husband’s welfare reform decision, noting that although it was “far from perfect” she had agreed that it should be passed and worked to make that happen after the president vetoed the first two proposed reform bills.

“I agreed that he should sign it and worked hard to round up votes for its passage—though he and the legislation were roundly criticized by some liberals, advocacy groups for immigrants and most people who worked with the welfare system,” Clinton wrote. “I felt, on balance, that this was a historic opportunity to change a system oriented toward dependence to one that encouraged independence.”

In 2008 while on the campaign trail, Clinton again fell back on familiar rhetoric. “Welfare should have been a temporary way station for people who needed immediate assistance,” Hillary Clinton said during an interview with the New York Times in which she discussed her husband’s welfare reform measure. “It should not be considered an anti-poverty program.”

Research shows welfare programs like food assistance do help pull people out of poverty.

Since then, Clinton hasn’t been as vocal on the issue, but in late 2013 she did bring up problems with food stamps during an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, seemingly referencing a federal budget battle that stood to cut food assistance benefits.

“I think we should be looking at the work that we have today,” Clinton said at the time, explaining that focus should be on the issues that matter to voters, not on whether she would run for president. “Our unemployment rate is too high. We have people getting kicked off food stamps who are in terrible economic straits. Small business is not getting credit, I could go on and on, so I think we ought to pay attention to what’s happening right now.”

In June 2015, Clinton again brought up food stamps. “No one who works an honest job in America should have to live in poverty,” the presidential candidate told a convention of fast-food workers in Detroit. “No man or woman who works hard to feed America’s families should have to be on food stamps to feed your own families.”

Despite numerous think pieces and calls for Clinton to address her husband’s welfare reforms specifically, it does not appear that she has directly addressed the topic on the campaign trail during the 2016 race.

When asked directly by Bloomberg in May 2015 about whether she would distance herself from her husband’s welfare overhaul, a spokesperson from Clinton’s campaign provided a statement claiming the candidate would address the issue “in the coming months”:

Hillary Clinton has a long record fighting for everyday Americans and their families, and she is running to make sure all families are not only able to get ahead, but stay ahead. In the coming months she will discuss more details on her approach to addressing children and families living in poverty, including how best to support those families who rely on the safety net of welfare to temporarily keep their families afloat during the hardest of times, as well as other ideas to further strengthen families and help them move forward.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign website does include a promise to “preserve, protect, and strengthen” Medicaid and Social Security, two other social safety-net programs, but does not reference the Clinton administration’s PRWORA reforms.

Her economic platform instead names “raising incomes for hardworking Americans” as the “defining economic challenge of our time,” noting that “too many families are working harder and harder, but still not getting ahead.” She proposes doing so by providing tax relief for families, raising the minimum wage, and supporting equal pay policies, among other things.

Clinton’s Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has criticized Hillary Clinton’s past support of welfare reform policies, as well as the reforms themselves, but has also faced criticism for not adequately taking on the issue.

Anti-poverty experts, however, suggest that the Clinton administration’s welfare reform measures are an issue Hillary Clinton needs to take on. “Welfare reform needs to be revisited,’’ Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University told Bloomberg. “I think Hillary needs to stand up and say, ‘My husband and the Republicans in the 90s really thought they’d put together a package that was going to fix welfare and poverty but didn’t fix either one.’ She needs to call America to the barricades in the struggle against deep poverty.’’

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”