Shortly before the new year, a number of religious organizations were given protection from the HHS abortion and contraception mandate. While social conservatives and defenders of the First Amendment cheered, numerous prominent media organizations manipulated basic scientific facts to deny that the mandate—required by federal law—forces people to fund abortion-inducing drugs.
Media Matters did this at least twice, on January 1 and January 2, with the The New York Times and NBC News doing likewise. While Pew Research did not deny that the mandate requires abortion funding, its weaselly assessment of the debate surrounding the mandate was almost as bad. To wit, Pew stated that many with religious beliefs “oppose abortion and believe that using emergency contraception like the morning-after pill is akin to abortion” (emphasis added).
Like Pew, Politico tried to have its cake and eat it, too (emphasis added):
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While the FDA calls those products [i.e., intrauterine devices (IUD) and “morning-after pills” like Plan B and ella] contraception, many organizations say that they could prevent the implantation of a fertilized embryo, which they consider akin to abortion.
These excerpts are symptomatic of the media’s aggressive push to frame the HHS mandate as a contraception issue. But the coverage of potentially abortifacient drugs like Plan B and ella, as well as indisputably abortifacient intrauterine devices (IUD), makes this an abortion issue as well.
As pointed out at JustFactsDaily.com last February:
[R]egardless of whether Plan B, Next Choice, or ella cause abortion, the Obama administration is forcing insurers, and thus, their customers to pay for devices that destroy embryos before they implant, which many doctors, scientists, and citizens consider to be abortion.
And this says nothing about IUDs, of which HHS’s own Office of Women’s Health says, “It [sic] fertilization does occur, the IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.”
So how do Media Matters, the Times, and others justify their claim about the mandate’s abortion requirements? They say life begins at implantation, not fertilization, and thus drugs and devices like Plan B, ella, and IUDs do not cause abortions.
This is a Clintonian strategy: it all depends on what the definition of “conception” is. Also “pregnancy,” “contraception,” and “abortion.”
First, “conception”: in 1965, the American Congress (then the “College”) of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed its definition of this term to denote implantation of a human blastocyst in the uterine wall, rather than the union of spermatazoon and ovum to form a unique single-celled human organism. Under this new definition of “conception,” any drug or device that destroys the new human being after fertilization but before attachment to the mother’s uterus is a contraceptive rather than an abortifacient.
But doctors are not above being wrong. And with a moment’s scrutiny, even the average citizen can tell that this definition is absurd.
First and foremost, one can find ample scientific evidence that human life begins at fertilization. Likewise, embryology textbooks declare fertilization, not implantation, the beginning of a human’s existence.
One can also simply apply common sense: are we human beings because of what we do (implant in our mothers’ uteruses), or because of what we are (living organisms with human DNA)? The latter definition resonates on a fundamental level—indeed, advocacy groups from abolitionists to suffragettes have used it to push for rights and privileges based on common, inherent humanity, not on actions or behavior. Even homosexual activists use this tactic to great effect.
With the above understood, one’s definition of “conception” will necessarily color what one means when referring to “contraception” and “abortion.” Using ACOG’s—and Planned Parenthood’s—”implantation” definition of conception (and, therefore, pregnancy), there would have to be six to twelve days when a woman’s body shelters and supports a new human life—yet, according to ACOG, she is not pregnant.
Semantic gyrations like these are as ludicrous after nine months as they are after nine days. Take the other end of the pregnancy spectrum: the left often defines abortion as “termination of pregnancy,” which means that even C-sections and births by induced vaginal delivery qualify under this absurd definition, as do miscarriages.
It’s clear that when one uses the accurate definitions of “conception” and “pregnancy”—founded on fertilization—any drug or device that prevents implantation in the mother’s womb is an abortifacient. The copper IUD, included in HHS’s mandate, qualifies without question, because it is designed to kill a baby after fertilization and before implantation.
Regarding Plan B and ella, there is intense debate about whether these drugs, and others like them, interfere with implantation. However, Plan B’s own packaging warns that the drug may destroy a newly conceived human being (referred to as “a fertilized egg” on the box), and the scientific evidence strongly indicates that ella kills “a fertilized egg.”
One might think the media was blissfully unaware of these facts. However, last week, NBC let the mask slip when its editors changed an originally correct article from noting that the mandate requires abortion coverage to the following (italics in original):
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated the Affordable Care Act requires companies to offer health-care coverage that provides abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. It does not.
On Twitter, NBC News White House Producer Shawna Thomas—listed as a contributor to the article—doubled down on the faulty “correction”:
@DustinSiggins I contributed some info to the piece but was not the author. Originally article mistakenly said abortion-drugs were required.
— Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews) January 2, 2014
@DustinSiggins Contraception mandate covers Plan B. Sometimes this is erroneously called an abortifacient.
— Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews) January 2, 2014
But as the above information proves, for Thomas and her media colleagues to state that the HHS mandate does not require abortion-inducing drugs is disingenuous in the extreme. And while Pew and Politico do not go as far as their mainstream colleagues, they do give the impression that the mandate may end human life in the womb—even though IUDs unquestionably do this, and Plan B and ella likely do as well.
In 1973, the Supreme Court infamously decided that even though it “[was] not in a position to speculate as to the answer” of “when life begins,” it would err on the side of death. Over 40 years later, the media is setting the stage for the Obama administration to make the same fatal mistake.