Fact-checkers change rules to declare late-term abortion ads false
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Focus on the Family ran ads celebrating the ruling and accused multiple states of allowing late-term abortions “even up to the moment before birth.”
PolitiFact looked at the ads and declared them to be “Mostly False.”
But the facts tell a different story — and reveal a trick in the publication’s fact-check game.
That’s our topic in this edition of Fact Check Check.
Since the moment the court’s ruling was leaked in May, pro-life organizations praised the decision and began to shift attention to fighting abortion in the states.
One of those groups, Focus on the Family, ran a number of Facebook ads targeting six states — Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. The evangelical Christian organization accused those states of allowing abortion up to the moment before birth without restrictions.
Fact-checkers at PolitiFact asked Focus on the Family for data to back up the claims. The group cited a report from World Population Review an independent organization that provides worldwide demographic data.
The report said that the six states in question have QUOTE “no state-imposed thresholds” on late-term abortions.
PolitiFact then went to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation for information about abortion laws in the six states.
Both Guttmacher and Kaiser showed that several states had no gestation or viability prohibitions on abortion.
Included in that list: Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.
The Guttmacher site also says, QUOTE “44 states prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy.” Which means 6 states — the 6 states Focus on the Family cited — do NOT.
Even in its own fact-check summary, PolitiFact admitted, QUOTE “Under laws in those six states, abortion is not specifically prohibited at any stage of pregnancy.”
Yet PolitiFact called the ads “mostly false.”
It did so by changing the premise of the fact-check.
After admitting that late-term abortions in the six states are not prohibited, Politifact repeatedly noted that these late-term abortions QUOTE “are rare” in the six states.
But the Focus on the Family ads never mentioned the frequency of late-term abortions — only that they were unrestricted.
We asked both PolitiFact and Focus on the Family if they had anything to say about this.
PolitiFact said it stands by its ruling. Managing editor Katie Sanders told us in an email, “We don’t have anything to add for your piece that isn’t already in the story/published rating explanation.”
Focus on the Family VP of communications Paul Batura responded to our queries, saying, “We would encourage PolitiFact to get their facts straight. Late term abortions are legal in the states specified in our advertisements. Fortunately, they are rare – but we never claimed they weren’t.”
Batura added, “We rate PolitiFact ‘Mostly False.’”
Our ruling on this fact check?
Wrong – and dishonest.
PolitiFact’s fact-checkers admitted that the six states cited by Focus on the Family “do not explicitly prohibit an abortion from being performed at any stage of pregnancy” — which was Focus on the Family’s point — but called the ads false anyway.
Then they compounded their error by “fact-checking” something Focus on the Family never claimed.
That’s why we fact-check the fact-checkers.