The Notoriously Anti-Choice Media Outlet Co-Sponsoring the Next Democratic Debate

Why is the Democratic National Committee, chaired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, partnering with an anti-choice publication for Saturday's debate if it seeks to only work with media outlets in line with its key principles?

Why is the Democratic National Committee, chaired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, partnering with an anti-choice publication for Saturday's debate if it seeks to only work with media outlets in line with its key principles? Wikimedia Commons

Last week the Democratic National Committee (DNC) pulled WMUR-TV from co-sponsoring the next Democratic debate scheduled for this upcoming Saturday over the New Hampshire television network’s refusal to move forward with union negotiations.

Citing the labor dispute as the reason for the move, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley explained in a joint press statement that the issue sat at the core of the party’s ideology and couldn’t be ignored.

“The right for workers to form and organize a union is a key principle of the Democratic Party, and is key to ensuring the economic safety of the American people by protecting their rights and benefits. It is the right to organize that made it possible for the middle class in America to grow over the past century, and it is as important today as it has ever been to keep our economic growth as a nation moving forward,” the statement read.

“We remain confident in our strong partnership with the ABC network and know that our Democratic candidates will have a robust debate, with a focus on the issues that matter most to hard working Americans across the country,” the statement continued.

The removal of WMUR-TV from the agreement left just ABC News and the New Hampshire Union Leader as sponsors of the debate, raising the question: Why is the Democratic Party partnering with a notoriously anti-choice publication if it seeks to only work with media outlets whose principles are in line with the “key principle[s]” of the party? 

According to the Democratic National Committee’s website, “protecting a woman’s right to choose” is one such core component.

“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports” Roe v. Wade, its website explains, specifically with regard to its 2012 party platform, “and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

Over the years, however, the Union Leader has carved a place for itself as a stringently anti-choice outlet through a series of editorials positioning the publication in opposition to birth control, abortion, Planned Parenthood, and politicians who champion these causes or organizations.

Most recently, in the wake of November’s deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, the media outlet responded by denying that the violence had anything to do with abortion, claiming that “pro-lifers have no reason to apologize” for what happened.

Without evidence, the president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains claimed that the shooter ‘was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion,’” a November editorial claimed. “This blame-shifting is not just opportunistic. It’s irresponsible.”

The Union Leader dismissed the accused shooter’s own reported comments relating the killings to “baby parts” and any commentary from pro-choice advocates about the political motivations behind the event.

“Robert Lewis Dear is a madman,” it wrote. “Blaming your political opponents for the violence done by insane criminals is pathetic. Those who speak their minds are not responsible for the warped logic of raving lunatics.”

But as Jodi Jacobson explained at Rewire, “Rhetoric and language do indeed have consequences”in this case, the rhetoric surrounding the anti-choice movement and the Center for Medical Progress’ deceptively edited videos. In the wake of the debunked videos released by the anti-choice organization, politicians and anti-choice activists used the very same sort of violent language parroted by Dear when he reportedly told police “no more baby parts.” 

And that same language on abortion is something with which the New Hampshire Union Leader‘s editorial board is all too familiar, having spent the large part of the summer promoting CMP’s videos despite mounting evidence that the organization and its videos had been deeply discredited.

In July, the Union Leader used its pages to call on the state not to renew their contract with Planned Parenthood and to begin a state investigation into the organization, citing CMP’s videos and calling abortion the “actual horrific practice of killing and dismembering human infants.”

An August editorial, recycling false and discredited claims made by CMP, referred to New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) a “shameless puppet of the abortion industry” for defending Planned Parenthood.

A few weeks later, the Union Leader wrote yet another editorial falsely claiming that CMP’s videos showed actual Planned Parenthood staffers participating in the “selling” of fetal parts.

Earlier this fall, the Union Leader again featured its leadership’s anti-choice viewpoints in a September editorial criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, falsely suggesting that the former secretary of state and others in the party have “lied” about later abortions by claiming they are a “medical necessity” for many.

“The ‘medical necessity’ line is a dishonest talking point fabricated by the abortion industry,” said the Union Leader’s editorial board.

Glossing over how critical access to care is for those who need it, the editorial went on to discuss “a University of California, San Francisco study of 200 women who had abortions after 20 weeks” despite not having a medical reason. It then lamented that some women choose abortion due to health problems found in the fetus. 

In truth, abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy account for just 1 percent of all abortions. The availability of the procedure is key to keeping women safe and healthy, as complications can arise during any point in a pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, many life-threatening conditions in both the mother and fetus aren’t discovered until this point of gestation.

And the 20-week abortion study cited by the Union Leader to prove that later abortions aren’t necessary? The Daily Beast reported that those 200 women who sought abortions at that point in their pregnancy had done so largely because they were “simply desperate, often because of the lack of access to decent reproductive health care.” About two-thirds of those included in the study had to have an abortion after 20 weeks due to financial barriers resulting in the delay of earlier abortions, delays the Union Leader‘s own policy stance would appear to aggravate. 

Even before this year, however, the Union Leader was busy spreading misinformation on reproductive health.

Back in 2014, the paper posted an editorial blasting Gov. Maggie Hassan for releasing a statement on a state-owned website announcing the introduction of the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby.

“When women are denied health insurance coverage that covers their basic health care needs … then women are—unfairly—being compensated less than their co-workers,” Hassan said. 

Calling the statement both “factually incorrect” and “propaganda,” the editorial board falsely claimed that it is “no secret that no woman is being denied coverage of their basic health needs by this decision. The owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores were paying for 16 types of birth control before Obamacare ordered them to. But they objected to being forced to pay for four contraceptives that they believe amount to abortion.”

“The court agreed and pointed out that if government wants to make employers provide abortifacients, it should pay for them itself,” the editorial continued.

Of course, the contraceptives at the center of the Hobby Lobby case were not abortifacients, but that wasn’t the only thing the newspaper got wrong.

As the National Women’s Law Center explained in a brief for the case, denying women parts of their preventive health services is a form of discrimination. “Employers that exclude women’s preventive health services from their health insurance plans while covering men’s preventive services discriminate against women. Such exclusion means that women are denied the comprehensive preventive health coverage provided to men.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader already endorsed a candidate for the 2016 election cycle, Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; its editors think the gender pay gap is “complete hooey“; and it devotes considerable space to spreading anti-choice misinformation and rhetoric.

If the Democratic Party is truly concerned with its debate co-sponsors espousing its values, why is the Union Leader participating?