Analysis Politics

Anti-Choice Extremist Pushes False Abortion Claims on CNN in Defense of Roy Moore

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

Janet Porter, who runs an anti-LGBTQ hate group, also repeatedly invoked host Poppy Harlow's pregnancy to promote the Alabama candidate accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Extreme anti-choice activist Janet Porter appeared on CNN’s New Day today to defend Republican Roy Moore amid allegations of sexual misconduct and to promote falsehoods about his opponent’s abortion position in the looming Alabama special election. During a 17-minute interview, CNN did not disclose Porter’s anti-choice stance, and she leveled a series of baseless and inflammatory claims, among them attacking the integrity of Moore’s accusers.

The segment kicked off with Porter appearing as a spokesperson for Moore, congratulating host Poppy Harlow on her pregnancy and using it to make false claims about Democrat Doug Jones and his position on abortion rights.

“Congratulations on your unborn child,” Porter told Harlow. “That’s the reason why I came down, as a volunteer, to speak for Judge Roy Moore, because he will stand for the rights of babies like yours in the womb where his opponent will support killing them up until the moment of birth.”

Porter again invoked Harlow’s pregnancy later in the appearance to push anti-choice falsehoods and defend Moore against allegations from multiple women that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.

“Here is the question that should be asked,” Porter said. “If you care about child abuse, you should be talking about the fact that Judge Roy Moore stands for protection, not only of our Second Amendment rights so we can protect ourselves against predators, for the rights of babies like your 8-month baby that you are carrying now. Doug Jones says you can take the life of that baby.”

After Harlow told Porter to stop talking about her pregnancy, Porter went on to claim allegations against Moore were false and that, “If we’re talking about what’s at stake here, we’re talking about fake allegations, concocted stories, about an innocent man versus real threat of child abuse, not only in the womb, but also in the locker room,” seemingly referencing anti-discrimination measures for transgender individuals.

But Jones, Moore’s opponent in the Alabama Senate race, has voiced support for current restrictions on later abortions except in cases of life endangerment. Though Jones told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd in September that he does not support a 20-week abortion ban, he later clarified in an interview with AL.com that though he supports “a woman’s freedom to choose to what happens to her own body,” when it comes to later abortions “the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That’s what I support.”

Nevertheless, anti-choice activists like Porter and conservative media figures have latched onto Jones’ comments to falsely claim that Jones supports abortions up until “the moment of birth.” It’s a falsehood based on a procedure that doesn’t even exist. Media watchdog Media Matters for America pointed out in a recent fact check that the claim often comes up in discussions of “partial-birth” abortions, a term invented by anti-choice groups to mislead and inflame rhetoric in the abortion debate.

As Rewire Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson explained when then-presidential nominee Donald Trump similarly misconstrued later abortions during a 2016 presidential debate, the suggestion “that third-trimester abortions are performed ‘on demand’ is an anti-choice myth meant to target women as being irresponsible and garner support for efforts to ban all abortions in the United States.”

“In real life and because of myriad restrictions and barriers to access, it is exceedingly difficult if not sometimes impossible to terminate a pregnancy in the last trimester, even when a wanted pregnancy goes horribly wrong or a woman’s life is in imminent danger,” wrote Jacobson.

Robin Marty further explained for Cosmopolitan that “there is no specific medical definition for a ‘late-term abortion,’ and because of that, abortion opponents are using it to mean anything they want.” Rutgers University professor and historian Johanna Schoen said that, as Marty puts it, the term is generally used to “group together any procedure after the first trimester and erase any distinction in developmental along the gestational period of the pregnancy.”

Though it was not disclosed in the segment, Porter has a long history of anti-choice activism. She heads the anti-choice group Faith2Action, the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group behind “heartbeat” legislation at the state and federal level that promises to outlaw legal abortion, and led a mid-November press conference bringing together a who’s who of anti-choice extremists to support Moore. As Rewire reported:

Porter orchestrated an Ohio GOP attempt to end legal abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy—before many people know they’re pregnant. The “moderate” Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the total abortion ban in favor of an equally unconstitutional 20-week ban, but Republican legislators have resurrected it as a pending bill in the current legislative session.

Porter subsequently convinced Rep. Steve King (R-IA), an unabashed white nationalist, to debut the federal version in Congress while both attended the funeral of Phyllis Schlafly, as People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch first reported.

Porter’s leadership of the Moore press conference aligns with her increasingly prominent role on the national stage. Porter ran two Capitol Hill press conferences for King, the most recent after King’s contentious hearing on the total abortion ban. And she partnered with Tom DeLay, the former U.S. House of Representatives majority leader convicted on campaign finance violations that were later overturned on appeal, to lobby Vice President Mike Pence and his staff.

Porter’s and other anti-choice extremists’ support for Moore never wavered in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations. Some, like Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, have refused to denounce Moore despite the allegations against him. Others, such as Janet Orient, the executive director of fringe anti-choice medical organization Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, have tried to play down the alleged sexual misconduct by Moore. Orient dismissed the claims against Moore in a Tuesday press release.

“Back in my day, jealous women might have called him a ‘cradle-robber’ because they felt they deserved him more,” said Orient. She went on to dismiss news that Moore had allegedly sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in 1979 as “heavy petting” with “an underage ‘child,’” though she did note that such behavior would be “icky” if it was true.

Activists with fringe views on abortion rights and LGBTQ rights consistently stuck by Moore as some establishment Republicans distanced themselves from him. The long-term strategy appears to have worked as the party has ultimately courted many of its supporters back to Moore’s camp.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a frequent target of Moore’s ire, in mid-November told reporters that he believed the women who had accused Moore and said the candidate should exit the race. Fresh off his Senate GOP tax bill victory over the weekend, however, McConnell changed his tune.

“We’re going to let the people of Alabama decide,” McConnell said on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.

President Trump on Monday formally endorsed Moore, encouraging the candidate to “Go get ’em, Roy!” in a phone call from Air Force One. He indicated that he would endorse Moore in an early morning tweet that said: “Democrats [sic] refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

The Republican National Committee, the party’s campaign arm, as of Monday restored get-out-the-vote funds to Moore, according to a New York Times report. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, doesn’t plan to do so, the newspaper reported.

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