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Nightly News Fails, Samantha Bee Shines On Abortion Coverage In 2016

TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee drastically outshined nightly broadcast information exhibits in its protection of abortion and reproductive rights through the first 11 months of 2016. The weekly comedy program, in simply 31 episodes, spent greater than twice as a lot time as any single nightly information present discussing abortion all through the entire yr, and host Samantha Bee’s protection each delved into coverage and debunked abortion myths, in contrast to the majority of broadcast protection. Broadcast information’ missing protection of reproductive rights, notably in a yr marked by a number of newsworthy occasions round abortion and abortion entry, mirrored the media’s bigger failure to debate substantive coverage issues and left a niche that allowed conservative misinformation to dominate the nationwide dialogue that did happen.

A Media Matters research discovered that ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News spent a mixed complete of 46 minutes and 11 seconds discussing abortion and reproductive rights from January 1 to November 30. NBC led the printed networks within the time spent overlaying abortion, with 16 minutes and 23 seconds, whereas ABC and CBS spent 15 minutes and 52 seconds, and 13 minutes and 56 seconds, respectively, masking issues associated to reproductive rights. By distinction, TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee spent a complete of 39 minutes and 43 seconds discussing abortion from when this system premiered in February via November, which means the weekly comedy program provided greater than double the period of time anybody community devoted to the difficulty.

Throwing the disparity into even sharper aid, Full Frontal’s virtually 40 minutes of abortion protection occurred over the course of 15 segments in simply 31 episodes, whereas the nightly newscasts’ 46 minutes complete befell over 37 segments in roughly 1,000 editions mixed.

Undercoverage Came Despite The Year’s Many Newsworthy Abortion Stories, And Despite Polling Showing Abortion Was One Of The Policy Topics Voters Cared About Most

The lack of protection about abortion on nightly broadcast information exhibits was completely at odds with the quantity and scope of main abortion tales in 2016. And a Pew Research Center report on essential issues within the 2016 election discovered that 45 % of respondents ranked abortion as “very important” in deciding their vote, putting abortion within the prime 15 issues of the election cycle. There was no scarcity of subjects associated to abortion and reproductive rights for the newscasts to give attention to this yr:

  • States Continued To Gut Abortion Access In New And Inventive Ways. States across the nation handed a collection of legal guidelines aimed toward limiting entry to abortion. In the primary half of 2016, “17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions,” in line with the Guttmacher Institute. These laws included a requirement to carry a burial or cremation for any fetal stays (together with these from miscarriages), misguided anesthesia requirements for abortions at 20 weeks or later, and even makes an attempt to completely ban abortion.

  • Whole Woman’s Health Struck Down Unconstitutional Barriers For Abortion Access. The Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt dramatically reshaped the authorized panorama of abortion rights by clarifying the “undue burden” commonplace, which restricted the power of states to manage (and prohibit) a lady’s entry to abortion. The determination struck down the Texas anti-choice law HB-2, rejecting the “barely plausible” claims that it elevated affected person security, thus issuing a strong rebuke to the “woman-protective anti-abortion” rhetoric that permeated the dialogue of HB-2 and different Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) legal guidelines, of which quite a few different states also have variations. 

  • Trump’s Anti-Abortion Campaign Rhetoric And His Election Energized Anti-Choice Lawmakers And Anti-Abortion Activists. President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on reproductive rights all through the marketing campaign included pledging to overturn Roe v. Wade, calling for women who’ve abortions to be punished, and pushing anti-choice myths like that of “partial-birth abortion.” Anti-choice lawmakers and activists, energized by Trump’s election, have continued plotting their assault on women’s health. As Politico reported, “Congressional Republicans are aiming to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood early next year,” in what can be “the single biggest victory for anti-abortion groups in years.”

  • The Supreme Court Punted In Zubik v. Burwell, Leaving Contraception Access In Limbo For Many Women. The Supreme Court in June sent Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case introduced by spiritual nonprofits difficult the opt-out strategy of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception mandate, again to the decrease courts in a deadlocked Four-Four choice, urging an appeals courtroom to forge a compromise between the 2 events and leaving tens of millions of women with out contraception entry. As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston explained, the nondecision created issues round “how soon the government can work out technical arrangements to provide actual access to the contraceptive benefits.”

  • Congressional Republicans Attempted, But Failed, To Defund Planned Parenthood. Congressional Republicans voted in January to strip $450 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, marking “the first time a bill defunding Planned Parenthood has made it to the president’s desk in more than 40 years,” in accordance with Mother Jones. President Obama finally vetoed the laws.

  • Republican Congressional “Witch Hunt” Targeted Women’s Health Care Providers. The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives continued its “witch hunt” towards women’s health care suppliers in 2016, which has been based mostly almost solely on misinformation and has put abortion suppliers, researchers, and sufferers liable to violence. In their report, Republicans on the panel referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas lawyer common’s workplace, claiming that the group illegally profited from fetal tissue donations. Congressional Democrats on the panel accused the Republicans of utilizing “McCarthy-era tactics” and abusing their energy.

  • A New Report Discovered A Sharp Uptick In Anti-Choice Violence. A report released in April from the National Abortion Federation discovered “a dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” associated to abortion. The report referred to as the development “alarming.”

The lack of reproductive rights protection on broadcast information mirrored the broader sample of coverage discussions being omitted from election protection. An October research by Tyndall Report found that night newscasts devoted a mere 32 minutes to substantive coverage protection all through the entire yr. Another research from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center found that solely 10 % of stories protection in the course of the election targeted on the candidates’ coverage stances. By distinction, 42 % of stories stories targeted on polling and horserace protection.

Samantha Bee Artfully Debunked Conservative Misinformation, Which News Media Allowed To Flourish With Its Lack Of Coverage

The lack of nightly broadcast information protection on abortion and reproductive rights allowed misinformation about abortion to realize traction within the media and in politics. For instance, within the third common election presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace framed a query about abortion across the myth of partial-birth abortion. Trump echoed the partial-birth abortion fable in his reply, outrageously stating that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy].” Vice President-elect Mike Pence additionally invoked the idea of “partial-birth abortion” to assault Clinton throughout the one vice presidential debate. These mentions marked the one two occasions abortion was mentioned within the basic election debates.

While nightly information packages have been failing to adequately cowl abortion — and permitting the partial-birth abortion fable to fester — on Full Frontal, Bee explicitly referred to as out the idea as a fable, exclaiming right into a bullhorn, “Partial-birth abortions aren’t a thing.”

Bee emphasised the “nonmedical” time period’s origin as a “right-wing assemble” made up by the National Right to Life Committee within the 1990s, and she or he explicitly referred to as out Chris Wallace for “conflat[ing] partial-birth abortion — which doesn’t exist — with late term abortion, which does, rarely.” Bee additionally mocked Trump for his remark about infants being ripped from the womb at 9 months, stating that “removing a baby from a woman’s womb in the ninth month isn’t an abortion — it’s a birth.” Bee’s protection of the third presidential debate set a mannequin for media to name out different media figures and politicians who undertake right-wing media fictions, like “partial-birth abortion,” to assault and demonize reproductive rights and the individuals who help them.

Bee additionally immediately refused false claims that politicians and conservative media pushed in protection of HB-2, which the Supreme Court overturned in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In oral arguments within the case, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller falsely claimed that the laws the regulation put in place, which included necessities that amenities the place women get abortions meet the identical requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASC) and that docs performing abortions have admitting privileges at a close-by hospital, have been medically crucial. Keller additionally asserted that the regulation wouldn’t scale back entry to abortion providers as a result of “the six most populous areas of Texas” would be capable of carry out “over 9,000 abortions annually.” A report for the University of Texas in January found that the regulation had already “delayed and in some cases prevented” abortions altogether.

Bee interviewed Texas Republican state Rep. Dan Flynn — one of many authors of HB-2 — and uncovered the flawed logic behind the arguments that HB-2 helps women’s health care. Bee pointedly requested, “How does removing access to health care increase health care?” and she or he corrected Flynn when he asserted that abortion includes “cutting on people’s bodies,” noting that “you don’t cut a woman in an abortion, though.” And Bee debunked Flynn’s claims of increased safety and clinic entry, asking, “Have you thought about regulating the safety of back alleys? Because that’s where a lot of women will be having their abortions now.”

Crucially, Bee additionally spotlighted Americans United for Life (AUL), “an anti-choice group that creates boilerplate bills for lawmakers around the U.S.” that prohibit abortion rights. Bee referred to as out Flynn’s lack of expertise about reproductive health, saying, “you don’t seem to know anything specifically about abortion, really at all,” and explaining — in a method most information media fail to do — the method via which AUL’s restrictive anti-choice mannequin laws is handed in state legislatures.

Full Frontal provided a clinic in the right way to correctly debunk conservative misinformation on abortion. From her deep dive investigations into long-standing myths to her monologues responding to modern occasions, Samantha Bee set the bar for information protection of abortion issues.


Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ media for mentions of “abortion,” “Planned Parenthood,” “women’s health,” “reproductive rights,” “Center for Medical Progress,” “Roe v. Wade,” and “Whole Woman’s Health” in editions of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, NBC’s Nightly News, and TBS’ Full Frontal that aired between January 1 and November 30. For this research, Media Matters included solely these segments the place the said matter of dialogue was abortion or the place the dialogue contained “substantial discussion” about abortion (outlined as a dialogue by which two or extra audio system had no less than one direct change on abortion). We recognized 4 varieties of segments: a number monologue, a information package deal or information report, a panel dialogue, or an interview. We didn’t embrace teasers for upcoming segments. Segments recognized have been timed utilizing iQ media.

Sarah Wasko contributed graphics to this piece

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