Anti-choicers smear an AZ abortion provider. Will the media blow it again?

30 Mar 2017 02:46 am
Posted by: Donna

I was up late Tuesday night thinking about how over the past couple of years two organizations – Planned Parenthood and the Democratic National Committee – and one individual – Hillary Clinton – had their images profoundly damaged by allegations of serious unethical and even criminal behavior. All the claims (that Planned Parenthood trafficked baby parts, the DNC somehow rigged state primaries, and pretty much everything Hillary Clinton was accused of) turned out to be overblown or even fell apart completely when subjected to actual scrutiny. Sadly, most people aren’t bothered to do due diligence in general, let alone when it might challenge a pre-conceived narrative they hold about, say, Hillary Clinton or the DNC or Planned Parenthood. And unfortunately, that description includes many people in political journalism.

That thinking prompted me to tweet this:

During the election many mainstream news outlets chased down multiple half-baked conspiracy theories pulled out of the butts of right wingers about Hillary Clinton. When wild accusations about her use of a private email server, or her family’s foundation, or her bout with pneumonia, etc., fizzled out, the media kept the stories alive and in the news cycle through “optics”. “Well, it doesn’t seem the Clinton Foundation did anything wrong by taking meetings with donors but the optics are bad!”, the pundits mused with furrowed brows, with some demanding the Clinton Foundation be shut down. Over and over the media did this, resulting in Clinton’s approval numbers plummeting and in her being perceived as less honest than Donald Trump.


The endless harping on Clinton’s email server finally culminated in what many believe to be the final blow to her election chances when FBI Director James Comey released a letter stating their re-opening of their investigation of Clinton based on emails found Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It turned out to be nothing but the damage was done in the crucial days while early voting was going on all over the country.

Similarly, the DNC fell victim to a campaign orchestrated by Russia and using Wikileaks to sow hostility to Hillary Clinton from the left by dumping a cache of stolen emails right before the DNC convention, and again one month before the election. The dumps were calculated and spun to play into existing beliefs that the Democratic establishment not only favored Hillary Clinton (arguably true) but that they actively worked to rig the primaries against Bernie Sanders (extremely unlikely, given how the DNC doesn’t run state primaries). Again, if you did your due diligence and actually read the ostensibly damning emails, all they revealed is that, yeah, some people in the DNC and Clinton campaign really didn’t like Sanders (shocking!) and that (gasp!) political operatives like to talk trash. Nothing more.

Trump and his supporters eagerly slurped up Wikileaks as well, for the obvious reason that they hurt Hillary Clinton, but also because they played into stereotypes of “crooked” Democrats engaging in voting fraud. Again, the entire story came down to “optics”, which was (of course) how the media framed and justified nonstop coverage of the content of leaked emails, rather than covering it as an actual crime against the Democratic nominee as it should have been.

Optics is a reality in politics, and bad optics is sometimes self-induced silliness like riding in a tank wearing a goofy hat, which may be avoided if you have good handlers. But when your “bad optics” are deliberately crafted by people using lies and distortions to make you appear unethical and even criminal, there’s no foolproof way for you to anticipate and neutralize against it. Especially if the targets of the manipulation, and most everyone else, seems to be invested in believing the worst they possibly can about you.

And that’s the thing about going with “optics” despite a dearth of evidence for heinous misdeeds alleged against both Hillary Clinton and the DNC. It’s not just sloppy jounalism (it is!) but it’s unjust as all hell too. Optics for politicians are like a cousin to respectability politics in that the amount of damage they will do to you tends to be proportional to your own identity and that of your likely constituents.

Seven hundred some odd words in, I now get to the crux of this post: If any group of people knows firsthand what it is to deal with unrelenting attacks on their integrity and constant bad optics problems, it is the people who provide low income women with sensitive, respectful reproductive and sexual health care. Every couple years or so, in Arizona and the rest of the country, anti-choicers wave around “sting” videos purporting to show abortion providers engaging in macabre activities.

These are highly staged operations where operatives gain access to clinic workers through false pretenses. They gain the trust of their targets and lull them into discussing outlandish and highly unlikely situations. Oftentimes the videos are then deceptively edited to make the abortion providers appear as bad as possible.

Every time they’ve done it so far, the MSM has lapped it up, until the wild allegations of the “sting” fall apart and then it slides into “optics” about Planned Parenthood (largest provider of repro health care to low income patients) and Democrats.

The latest installment in this saga (I’m getting to the point, promise!) came on Wednesday when the Center For Medical Progress (CMP), which happens to be facing fresh felony charges in California (warning: autoplay), released a shocking new video! featuring clips of an Arizona abortion doctor discussing her work and how she might obtain usable fetal tissue for medical research. And, yes, engaging in some dark humor about how she does her job, as doctors around people they trust and are comfortable around are wont to do.

I can hear you already. “But Donna, those jokes look really bad! This is bad optics!”

Which is precisely how it works. CMP videos are clearly choreographed and doctored to disturb people. Luckily for anti-choicers, despite the unpopularity of most of their positions, there is an endless willingness in the general public (and in the media) to believe the absolute worst of women (especially if they don’t know them personally) which gives anti-choicers the perfect opening to do these smears.

Watch how Center For Arizona Policy (CAP), in a manner Wikileaks would admire, spins:

A shocking new video released today by The Center for Medical Progress catches an Arizona abortion doctor discussing potential trafficking of aborted baby body parts – and joking about the need to workout her biceps so she has the strength to abort babies.

In the video, Dr. DeShawn Taylor, formerly of Planned Parenthood, now with Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix had a cavalier attitude about taking life and skirting the law.

When asked about babies born alive during abortion attempts, Taylor didn’t mention a 42-year-old law requiring her to try to save the baby’s life. Instead she tipped her hand, saying, “The key is you have to pay attention to who’s in the room… because the law states you are not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause fetal demise.”

You are probably going to be bothered about jokes made by abortion providers, or their descriptions of how they try to shield staff from upsetting sights, if you already subscribe to a whole bunch of stereotypes about women who seek abortions. Such as how most done past the first trimester are at the request of wanton floozies irresponsibly ending their pregnancies for funsies, but who are sometimes strangely altruistically driven to donate the fetal tissue for important medical research.

If you’re a regular person who believes all of this, I can forgive you. Though you should do better, honestly. If you’re a journalist? No. Again, the job here is not “optics”. This is not Planned Parenthood in a funny hat in a tank. This is a damning charge against reproductive health providers leveled by groups organized against them, who have a long history of lying and fomenting violence.

Ask the right questions: What are CMP and CAP alleging here, specifically? Is it even plausible? The claims by CMP and CAP are deliberately vague. Why? Why do they always run to the public airwaves and politicians with their allegations first and never law enforcement? What, precisely, are CMP and CAP accusing women and their doctors of doing? Make them spell it out. Pursue that.

Don’t blow this, media. Don’t make it about “optics”. It may be enticing, but it’s not good journalism. We see where this kind of coverage leads.


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