Recently, The New York Times published a column claiming that Facebook is ignoring fake news masquerading as pro-life articles and viewpoints. In it, Rossalyn Warren laments that the massive social media platform has not done more to weed out what she refers to as misinformation from pro-life news sites.
The major flaw in Warren’s column is obvious from the beginning. From the outset to the conclusion, she does very little to successfully explain why any of the articles, examples, or pro-life news sites that she identifies actually qualify as fake news.
On Hillary Clinton’s Late-Term Abortion Comments
She begins by questioning an article circulated prior to the 2016 election about Hillary Clinton’s late-term abortion comments. Referring to the article’s author, Warren says, “She argues that a baby never needs to be aborted to save a mother’s life but doesn’t cite any sources or studies, and presents anecdotes and opinion as fact.” The phrase “late-term abortions” does not have a specific definition, but given the original context of Clinton’s comments, we can see she’s discussing late-second- and third-term abortions.
Warren neglects to address any of the arguments in the pre-election article, instead choosing to simply label the comments as false. She correctly notes that partial-birth abortions are illegal, but fails to explain how that disproves that late-term abortions are never necessary to save a mother’s life. While it’s unclear why the partial-birth abortion procedure was referenced, the logic presented in the original article is still valid.
Late-term abortion, in this context, occurs during the time in gestation when a preborn child could survive on his or her own outside the womb. Thus, there is never a need to abort a preborn child after 24 weeks to save the life of his mother, because in any situation where the mother’s life might be in danger, the preborn child could just be delivered (via C-section).
It does not take any sources or studies to come to this conclusion. It’s obvious by simply following the logic. A person could still argue that women have a right to a late-term abortion, but it’s clear that late-term abortions are never necessary to save the life of the mother.
Two Newspapers Aren’t the Only Credible News Sources
Warren continues: “Evidence-based, credible articles about abortion from reputable news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post didn’t make it to the top of the list of ‘most shared’ articles on Facebook last year… But articles from the site LifeNews.com did.”
Obviously, The New York Times and Washington Post are not the only credible news outlets, or the only outlets that can access research, studies, and credible information regarding abortion. Thankfully, most of this information is available to the general public so almost anyone can write an evidence-based article on almost any topic without needing abortion-supportive publications like The New York Times or Washington Post to filter their thoughts and explanations. Further, it’s dishonest and malevolent to attempt to discredit a news site just because it focuses on one issue and chooses to cover stories that other mainstream sites opt not to.
Warren continues by calling out two pro-life news sites: LifeNews and Live Action. She asserts “These sites produce vast amounts of misinformation,” yet once again neglects to explain to her readers exactly how or why her assertion is true. She does offer one example, pointing to a video shared on Live Action’s Facebook page for which she accuses the organization of claiming a link between abortion and breast cancer.
But Warren’s claims are again baseless for several reasons. For starters, nowhere on the page does Live Action actually claim that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. Live Action poses a question about the possibility of an abortion-breast cancer link with its share of the video.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the video is a clip from the documentary “HUSH.” “HUSH” was produced by Punam Kumar Gill, a pro-choice woman. It explores the scientific evidence in search of the truth about a possible abortion-breast cancer link. The film is neither pro-life nor pro-choice, but takes a pro-information approach to finding out the truth about the possible connection.
Lastly, “HUSH” talks to researchers on both sides of the abortion discussion and references dozens of studies done on the abortion-breast cancer link. If Warren is worried about pro-life information not being evidence-based or credible, her concern should here be pacified by the sheer amount of digging into science done in the production of the film she is critiquing.
Yet despite all the research, the film still does not definitely claim one way or the other on the existence of a link between abortion and breast cancer, instead allowing viewers to decide for themselves. Suffice it to say that Warren’s claims about Live Action here are completely unjustified and unwarranted.
How Dare My Ideas Be Less Popular
Warren next points out that stories and articles generated by sites such as Life News and Live Action generate more engagement than those produced by mainstream organizations, and that “people on Facebook engage with anti-abortion content more than abortion-rights content at a ‘disproportionate rate.’” Ultimately this means more people will see the information pro-life sites produce. Acknowledging this does nothing to show or prove how either of the aforementioned pro-life sites are promoting fake news or any sort of misinformation about abortion.
Warren’s last goal is to identify and discuss some reasons for quickly identifying and removing what she considers fake news about “reproductive rights” from the social media platform. She begins by correctly noting that it’s not always clear what constitutes a fake news site. However, she does not offer any insight about how to determine what might be a fake news site, and says this about anti-abortion sites: “They do not mimic real publications, and they publish pieces on real events alongside factually incorrect or thinly sourced stories.”
If you are still waiting for Warren to offer actual examples, she doesn’t ever get around to that in this column. She does, however, continue mocking anti-abortion sites and accusing them of not being real sources of news or information.
Ideological Motives Are Different than Financial
Warren also notes the limitations of Facebook simply removing financial incentives to publishing fake news (the profit motive). That’s because anti-abortion sites are not motivated by profit, but ideological or religious convictions that typically have nothing to do with money. When she notes that the pro-life movement is rooted in an ideology, she is exactly right.
Setting aside religiosity, the ideological reasons people oppose abortion center on justice, equality, and human rights. While she accuses anti-abortion advocates of being anti-science, it is the pro-life movement that has embraced the growth in fetal biology knowledge and increases in our understanding of preborn human life.
It is the pro-life movement that recognizes a unique human being is created at conception, that fights for equal rights for preborn children. It is the pro-life movement that sees the injustice of abortion and the injustice in giving one demographic of human beings the right to destroy another demographic of human beings. Her observation about the ideological roots of the anti-abortion movement are correct, even if she doesn’t seem to understand the importance or the implications of said ideology.
Warren concludes by verbalizing concerns over the upcoming referendum on abortion laws in Ireland and whether social media platforms like Facebook are taking seriously what she considers anti-abortion fake news. She is overly concerned that people who oppose abortion might continuing spreading “misinformation” about their ideological reasons for their opposition. Save for one misrepresented reference to partial-birth abortion, the column ends with Warren still having offered no credible examples of anti-abortion sites producing and promoting fake news.
Ultimately, Warren takes it upon herself to label as fake news any site that embraces an ideology that she does not agree with. She continually calls the credibility of anti-abortion sites into question without doing anything to successfully prove a lack thereof. Her entire column rests on the premise that anti-abortion sites are full of misinformation and falsehoods, yet her attempts to demonstrate her premise fall dramatically short.
Warren’s condescending attitude toward people who oppose abortion is pervasive, and her column is as smug as it is uncompelling. Readers should be advised that just because Warren labels anti-abortion sites as fake news does not make them so. One person does not get to make a claim such as this, especially considering the lack of evidence to support her position. That, at the end of the day, would be the real fake news.