It’s the fact-checkers that need fact-checking this time.
During the final presidential debate Wednesday night, moderator Chris Wallace (Fox News) asked both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and GOP candidate Donald Trump for their positions on abortion. Not surprisingly, the (usually pro-abortion) media took issue when Trump said Clinton’s policy supported “rip[ing] the baby out of the womb” up until birth.
In response, many in the the liberal media, from the Washington Post to National Public Radio (NPR), took Trump’s words out of context in order to “debunk” him.
The Washington Post
Following the debate, the Washington Post performed a “fact check” on “Trump’s claim on abortions up until the moment of birth.” The Post took issue with his “claim” that “In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby right out of the womb, just prior to the birth of the baby.”
“Trump suggested that abortions can take place just two or three days before birth,” columnist Glenn Kessler argued. “That doesn’t really happen.”
But the Post misrepresented his argument. Trump’s full sentence reads, “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, just prior to the birth of the baby.” (Vice also left out that particular qualifier.)
Even without that acknowledgment, however, the claim that “you can take the baby and rip the baby right out of the womb, just prior to the birth of the baby” is correct. It “can” happen. It is legally allowed in certain states – seven states – that have no age or time restrictions.
But Kessler didn’t mention those seven states. Instead, he pointed out the other 43 states that “prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy.”
He also argued that “most abortions take place early in the pregnancy” and that “only 1.2 percent of abortions—about 12,000 a year– take place after 21 weeks.” (So even according to Kessler, late-term abortions “can” happen.)
In another story for the Post, reporter Danielle Paquette accused Trump of a “misunderstanding of how abortion works in the United States.”
“Doctors won’t perform the procedure at nine months because the baby is viable outside of the womb,” she wrote. But “won’t” doesn’t mean they can’t.
Vox also took a swipe at Trump in a piece titled, “No, Donald Trump, abortions do not happen at 9 months pregnant.” (Again, he never said they did. He said they “can” – “if you go with what Hillary is saying.”)
To her credit, senior editor Sarah Kliff (who bashed the undercover Planned Parenthood videos released last summer) offered context for Trump’s quote:
I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.
Now, you can say that that's okay, and Hillary can say that that's okay, but it's not okay with me. Because based on what she's saying and based on where she's going and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day. And that's not acceptable.
Kliff attacked his comments as a “mischaracterization of Clinton’s position,” of “what abortion looks like in the United States” and of “how obstetricians treat late-term patients.”
“[I]t’s not the reality of abortion in America,” she argued. “When American women seek abortion services, it’s vastly more commonly [sic] early in their pregnancy.”
But “vastly more commonly” doesn’t mean it never happens. Kliff herself admitted that. “An estimated 1.3 percent of abortions happen later than 21 weeks into pregnancy,” she said. “And none are happening on ‘the final day’ of pregnancy.”
And again, Trump didn’t say “did.” He said “can,” “if you go with what Hillary is saying.”
Linking to Kliff’s story, Rolling Stone writer Jesse Berney accused Trump of “getting the facts so deeply, offensively wrong you could smell his stupidity through the television screen.”
“Of course, abortions do not take place at nine months,” he wrote in the story titled, “Donald Trump's Abortion Policies Would Kill Women.”
NPR also did a “fact-checking.” To Trump’s point that a baby can be ripped out in the ninth month "as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth," national correspondent Jennifer Ludden wrote, “But that is not at all likely.”
When Susan B. Anthony List communications director Mallory Quigley tweeted that it “happens at least 13,000 times a year according to CDC,” Ludden conceded “it is indeed roughly 1% of total 1 million abortions a year.”
That is indeed roughly 1% of total 1 million abortions a year. Though again, most late term at 20-24 weeks, not days before a due date. https://t.co/WCr7U7LlBT— Jennifer Ludden (@JenniferLudden) October 20, 2016
Quigley responded, “And DJT's point is that Clinton admits she WOULD NOT protect a baby EVEN on due date. She said it herself.” Quigley attached a video from ABC's The View as proof:
Not everyone agreed with the media majority. A lone (media) wolf, CNN producer Ben Tinker called Trump’s claim “true,” even if "misleading." He explained:
Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, made abortions legal during the entire term of a pregnancy, but put restrictions on the procedure during the second and third trimesters.
Clinton does believe mothers should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any point -- up until birth -- if her life is in danger, but abortions as late in a pregnancy as Trump suggests are almost unheard of.
While that sounded similar to the above media voices, none of the others came close to using the word “true” in regards to Trump and abortion.