False Witnesses

Rewire.News launched our False Witnesses gallery in November 2014, after we began noticing that some of the same few expert witnesses were repeatedly testifying in court (and earning thousands in taxpayer dollars) or in legislatures, despite some of their dubious claims and questionable research.

We are revisiting this series at a time when the constitutional fate of many reproductive rights hangs in the balance, particularly with a U.S. Supreme Court likely tilting against access to them. We have updated and extended our gallery from 14 to 20 individuals, whose backgrounds and expertise levels vary but whose anti-choice agendas align. The new figures introduced in this edition are Freda Bush, Maureen Condic, George Delgado, Anthony Levatino, David Prentice, and Martha Shuping.

In this gallery, readers will find detailed information about the key “alternative facts” put forward by people and groups who are opposed to abortion, as well as the individuals who have developed and spread those myths.

Many of the doctors in this series overlap in their affiliations with anti-choice legal and medical groups. Many find themselves on the same speaking panels and co-signing the same legal briefs. Several of them appear in a recent Canadian film, Hush, a documentary that is supposed to be an objective look at the health risks of abortion, but primarily airs the views of doctors and academics who are also politically active anti-choice advocates.

Some are associated with groups that support new members of the Trump administration.

For instance, Dr. Martha Shuping belongs to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization that also claims new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as one of its members. Notably, this organization promotes baseless claims linking vaccines to autism and abortion to breast cancer.

Several of the individuals in this series belong to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), a nonprofit group that promotes controversial viewpoints about reproductive health while advocating for the criminalization of abortion. AAPLOG claims approximately 2,500 members, compared with the main professional organization of OB-GYNs, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which claims approximately 58,000 members.

The day after President Donald Trump’s electoral victory, AAPLOG announced in an email to members that it would “be submitting a list of qualified pro-life physicians willing and able to serve the new administration.”

In a subsequent February email to members, AAPLOG encouraged them to prepare to testify as potential experts in state litigation, noting that the organization had, so far in 2017, “already received requests from over 10 different states to identify physician experts capable of testifying in favor of or in defense of bills and laws protecting unborn human life.”

In the same email, the organization also announced it will be hosting an “Expert Witness Workshop” co-sponsored by the conservative legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom at a conference in fall 2017.

And of course, the Trump administration itself is aggressively anti-choice. Vice President Mike Pence is an ardent opponent of reproductive rights, and Trump promised to fill Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat with a justice that would overturn the ruling that formalized the Constitution’s protection of a patient’s right to choose whether to continue their pregnancy. In January, Trump nominated federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch, who notably authored the federal court opinion later adopted by the Supreme Court arguing that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate violates corporations’ religious freedom.

The False Witnesses are crucial in all of these efforts, as their activities lend a veneer of scientific credibility to what are, in reality, ideologically driven policies.