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Media Lashes Out Over 6th Circuit Planned Parenthood Decision

A U.S. Appeals Court ruled Tuesday that Ohio can move forward with a state law that prohibits women’s health care funding from going to providers that also perform abortions.

“Federal appeals court upholds Ohio law stripping Planned Parenthood of funding for wide array of health services,” read the headline on Fred Barbash’s story in the Washington Post [1].

“Appeals court rules Ohio can defund Planned Parenthood,” read the headline on Alice Miranda Ollstein’s story at Politico [2]. “Federal Ruling OKs Ohio Anti-Abortion Law Blocking Planned Parenthood Funds,” read the headline on Dan Sewell’s story for AP, which ran on Talking Points Memo.   [3]

“Trump’s Lower-Court Judges Are Dismantling Roe v. Wade One Terrible Ruling at a Time,” wrote Slate on the top of Mark Joseph Stern’s story [4].

“The Latest: Planned Parenthood Blasts Federal Ruling” – subhead: “Leaders of Planned Parenthood are voicing outrage against the federal appeals court ruling upholding an Ohio anti-abortion law that blocks public money for the organization,” read the headline at U.S. News, which used an Associated Press timeline for its copy. [5]

The stories shared common themes. They all pointed out the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was divided – the decision was 11-6. They all pointed out, as Barbash put it in the Post [1], that the court was “bolstered by four new appointees of President Trump.” And they all noted the range of services Planned Parenthood offers that don’t involve abortion and attempted to imply, without evidence, that women would lose access to these services if this one provider was defunded.

Barbash picked up on the final theme [1] in his lead. “A divided federal appeals court upheld an Ohio law Tuesday that strips Planned Parenthood of government funding for a wide variety of health services for women solely because it also provides access to abortion,” he wrote [1].

“Among those services are cervical and breast cancer screening, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS treatment and education of teens on how to avoid pregnancy.”

This despite the fact no Planned Parenthood clinics offer breast cancer screening [6], and its education of teens on how to avoid pregnancy amounts to distributing birth control pills [7].

U.S. News accompanied its story with a photo of Jeffrey Sutton, a judge on the 6th Circuit, photographed in 2016 a he “participates in a panel discussion during the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington.”

The story then accepted without question the assertion by Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen that “the ruling will roll back public health gains,” although the organization “pledges …” it will “continue fighting for its patients.”

Slate predicted a more nefarious plot. [4]

“Progressives spend a lot of time fretting that the Supreme Court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade – for good reason, since four justices are ready to abolish abortion rights immediately, and another seems to be simply waiting for the right opportunity,” wrote Stern. [4] “But the lower courts need not wait for Roe to go to dramatically limit Americans’ access to abortion. They can effectively kill Roe by a thousand cuts, manipulating doctrine to let states shutter clinics and force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

“That is precisely what the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did on Tuesday, permitting Ohio to defund Planned Parenthood by proclaiming that there is no ‘Fourteenth Amendment right to perform abortions.’”

The “threadbare reasoning ignores controlling Supreme Court precedent and disregards the impact of Ohio’s crusade against abortion providers on women,” again implying, without evidence, that Planned Parenthood is the only provider of women’s health services in Ohio. “

Stern also points out, again without evidence, [4] that the $1.5 million Planned Parenthood received each year “supported STI tests, cancer screenings and contraception, but not abortion.”