Fact-Checking Politifact on Ted Strickland and Abortion

August 17th, 2016 9:07 AM

Two weeks ago, pro-abortion Ted Strickland’s campaign revealed its support for repealing the Hyde Amendment, longstanding bipartisan policy which prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion through Medicaid.

Together with Susan B. Anthony List, Ohio Right to Life blasted Strickland’s position: “Ted Strickland stands in lockstep with Hillary Clinton and the abortion lobby in their desire to force Americans to pay for abortion on demand, up until the moment of birth, with their taxpayer dollars.”

This statement obviously didn’t sit well with some in the media.

Just last Friday, Politifact released a wildly off-base opinion of our claim, rating it as “mostly false.” The first among many problems with this article is that it proves the very thing it set out to disprove: That the repeal of the Hyde amendment would legalize taxpayer-funded abortions up until the moment of birth.

It confirms that Ted Strickland supports the repeal of the Hyde amendment, and it confirms that taxpayer-funded abortions would increase by the thousands if the amendment was in fact repealed. It also confirms that there are 7 states (and Washington DC) where there are no gestational restrictions on abortion.

So how did Politifact come to the conclusion that our claim was “mostly false?” Obfuscation and spin.

Mostly, Politifact took issue with the idea of legalized abortion-on-demand up until the moment of birth. Politifact rated this claim as False “because abortions at the nine-month mark just don’t happen.”

However, just last week, FactCheck confirmed that “there are many places in the world where abortion up to birth is legal.” For supporting evidence, the column sited seven places in the United States where this is the case. Furthermore, from the limited data that is available at the CDC, we know that at least 6,180 abortions occurred in the United States after 21 weeks gestation in 2012. Guttmacher’s statistics put that number at 12,000. 

As for “abortion-on-demand,” the Politifact column offers no True/False rating on this point, but instead spins the meaning of “on-demand” to include the location of abortion facilities in states like Oregon and New Hampshire. It’s a weak argument and sounds more like the spin that would come from NARAL or Guttmacher. Abortion is literally legal for any reason in Oregon and Politifact wants to debunk this on the basis that there isn’t an abortion clinic on every street corner? That is more than a bit of a stretch.

Considering the column’s “health care” sources, it is no surprise the author’s arguments read like those of the abortion lobby. Both have in fact acted as key players in the abortion lobby’s advocacy efforts: the Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood’s research arm) and Daniel Grossman, a “rising star in pro-abortion circles,” according to National Right to Life.

Politifact does not state that either of its sources have clear and obvious stakes in this debate, and that neither are objective sources on the matter. This is either sloppy journalism, or intentional omission of important information.

The article’s confusion wasn’t helped by the Strickland campaign’s apparent silence on the issue of late-term abortions. At one point the author says, “On his website, Strickland says he believes that ‘a woman’s healthcare choices are between a woman and her doctor,’ which is an indication that he favors abortion rights. But does he agree with abortions ‘up until the moment of birth?’”

As the communications director for Ohio Right to Life, I emailed with the author of this article, answering follow-up questions and clarification where desired. I have to assume the spokesman for the Strickland campaign did the same—especially since he is listed as a source for the story.

So is the author asking a question that went unanswered in her interview, or is she posing her readers with a question that is entirely rhetorical, intended to lead the reader to the “mostly false” conclusion she would prefer? If the former, shame on the Strickland campaign for not offering clarification or condemnation of such a horrible act as late-term abortion. Shame also on Politifact for not telling its readers if this was the case. If the latter, shame again on Politifact for using a rhetorical device rather than pure and objective facts to back up its rating. If the writer doesn’t know the answer to the question, she needs to state that. Otherwise, the writer undermines the “fact” in “Politifact.”

Tell the Truth 2016

By my tally, at a minimum, 2 out of 4 of our points were clearly confirmed as “true.” That doesn’t sound like “mostly false” to me. On the other two points, Politifact had to spin the information in order to muddy the waters on whether abortion is allowed “on-demand up to the moment of birth.” FactCheck confirmed this point a week ago, using laws from the United States to support its review.

Honestly, taxpayer-funded late-term abortion on demand, up until the moment of birth sounds absurd for a reason. Most reasonable people simply wouldn’t support that. In fact, a recent Marist poll shows that 62 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortions. Objectively speaking, Ted Strickland and the Democratic Party’s support for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, would in fact legalize taxpayer-funded late-term abortion on demand, up until the moment of birth. 

That position simply isn’t reasonable. But it is not Ohio Right to Life who owns the absurdity of this position. It is Ted Strickland and the entire Democratic Party. 

We rank Politifact’s fact check as False.