NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
New Tennessee abortion pill law doesn’t ban Plan B
CLAIM: Newly signed legislation in Tennessee “banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it.”
THE FACTS: The law does not ban Plan B or emergency contraceptives used to reduce the risk of pregnancy after sex. It imposes strict penalties for distributing abortion pills — which are different from Plan B — via mail or delivery services and also bars pharmacists from dispensing the drugs. A tweet spreading the erroneous information about the new law spread widely in recent days, gaining tens of thousands of shares and likes before it was deleted. “Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it,” read the tweet from Pam Keith, an attorney and Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Florida in 2020. But that’s not what the legislation does. Keith did not respond to a request for comment, but suggested in a later tweet that she misunderstood the law. Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed HB 2416 into law last week. As The Associated Press reported, the legislation further regulates how abortion pills can be distributed. The law requires that a medical clinician be physically present when such pills are distributed — and bars them from being delivered by mail or dispensed by a pharmacist. It adds harsh penalties for providers who violate the provisions, including potential felony charges or a fine of up to $50,000. The bill specifically refers to “abortion-inducing drugs” that are provided with the aim of “terminating the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a patient.” That’s not the same as Plan B. Dr. John Schorge, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, noted in an email that Plan B medications are “basically oral contraceptives which in normal circumstances are given to regulate periods, prevent pregnancy and can have other health benefits.” They’re available as an emergency contraceptive to prevent pregnancy — sometimes referred to as a “morning after” option. The office of state Rep. Debra Moody, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said in an emailed statement that the “Tennessee General Assembly did not ban Plan B. We passed a law banning mail-order abortions.” “The new law simply says that a patient must meet in-person with a qualified physician in order to get a prescription for an abortion-inducing drug,” the statement said. The legislation will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. Use of abortion pills has been rising in the U.S. since 2000 when the FDA approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills, rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
— Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report with additional reporting from Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee.
Posts misattribute CDC quote in Supreme Court draft on abortion
CLAIM: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett cited a need for a “domestic supply of infants” in a leaked draft opinion for a decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
THE FACTS: The draft opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and the term appears in a footnote quoting a 2008 document about adoption data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following the leak in early May of Alito’s draft opinion — signaling that the court may be about to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling on abortion — social media users and bloggers seized on its inclusion of the term “domestic supply of infants.” Many correctly attributed the phrase to a footnote quoting the CDC on the document’s 33rd page, and have noted that it appears in a section that echoes remarks made by Barrett during December arguments in the case, which is challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. But others are falsely conflating the two. “BREAKING: In a brief re abortion, Supreme court Justices Amy Coney Barrett/Alito’s Draft, said US needs a ‘domestic supply of infants’ to meet needs of parents seeking to adopt — that those who would otherwise abort must be made to carry to term — giving children up for adoption,” reads one post with more than 35,000 retweets on Twitter and also spread widely as a screenshot on Facebook. “Justice Amy Coney Barrett Wants To Overturn Roe To Create A ‘Domestic Supply Of Infants’ For Adoption,” said a headline on a widely-shared blog post, although the post itself never actually mentions Barrett. The opinion, which was published by Politico on May 2 and later confirmed as authentic by the court, states that it is a first draft penned by Alito and circulated to other justices in February. In one portion of the draft, Alito outlines “arguments about modern developments” he says are used by Americans who believe abortion should be restricted. Among others, he lists “that States have increasingly adopted safe haven laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.” The last sentence cites a footnote, which quotes a 2008 CDC report about the demand for adoption in the U.S., reading: “(N)early 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.” This is the only use of the term “domestic supply of infants” in the opinion. Alito does not mention Barrett, but several articles about the draft opinion have noted that his mention of safe-haven laws is similar to a comment she made during the case in December, when she suggested such laws mean pregnant people can’t be forced into parenthood. “Why don’t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?” asked Barrett, who has long expressed personal opposition to abortion. She noted the pregnancy would still be “an infringement on bodily autonomy,” but added, “it seems to me that the choice more focused would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion,” according to a transcript. It remains unclear if the draft will reflect the court’s final decision and opinion. The Supreme Court’s public information office did not return a request for comment on the false claims.
No ruling yet in Dominion lawsuits against Powell and Giuliani
CLAIM: Election technology firm Dominion Voting Systems lost its lawsuits against attorney Sidney Powell and former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
THE FACTS: Legal records show that Dominion’s defamation lawsuits against Powell and Giuliani are ongoing in May 2022. Still, social media users are reviving a year-old false claim that Dominion Voting Systems lost the lawsuits. “ABSENT from the News,” read a tweet shared more than 18,000 times. “Dominion LOST their law suits against Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.” In January 2021, Dominion Voting Systems filed the lawsuits against Giuliani and Powell, claiming the lawyers falsely accused the company of rigging the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden. The suits sought more than $1.3 billion in damages from Giuliani and the same sum from Powell. Lawyers for Giuliani and Powell have both requested through attorneys that the suits be dismissed. A judge denied those motions. Neither case had a verdict as of May 11, 2022. There is no evidence of the widespread fraud that Trump and his allies claimed occurred in the 2020 election. An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states found far too few cases to make a difference in the election. Republican and Democratic election officials certified the election as valid, and a clear majority of Congress confirmed that President Joe Biden won.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.
Video spreads false claims about immigrants
CLAIM: Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who come from Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador are “twice as likely” to commit crime than U.S.-born citizens.
THE FACTS: Research shows that immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission actually commit crimes at lower rates in comparison to citizens born in the country. A video from 2018 featuring two prominent conservative activists making claims about immigrants coming into the U.S., including the claim about crime, has resurfaced and is circulating widely on social media. In the clip, Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, and Candace Owens, a conservative commentator, are speaking to a live audience about immigration and calling for a border wall. But experts say many of the claims they make to support their argument are false or misleading. The video, shared on Facebook on Sunday, has since been viewed over 2 million times. It was originally recorded at an event at Stanford University in 2018 where both Kirk and Owens spoke. Among the claims was the assertion that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from specific countries are more likely to commit crime than citizens born in the U.S. But experts say no evidence supports the notion. “It is false. Very false and troubling,” said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. “There is a lot of empirical evidence that goes in the other direction.” “Almost every reputable report that I have seen has found that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native born U.S. citizens,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University who teaches immigration law. Yale-Loehr cited a 2020 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. The study used data from the Texas Department of Public Safety and found that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally have “substantially lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of felony offenses.” When asked to provide evidence for Kirk’s claim, Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA, pointed to a 2018 news story about a report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, a conservative nonprofit, which found that immigrants between the ages of 15 and 35 who were living in the U.S. illegally accounted for almost 8% of Arizona’s prison population, despite being around 2% of the state’s population. The report also concluded that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are significantly more likely to be convicted of crime than “other Arizonans.” But the paper has “significant problems,” Gilman wrote in an email to the AP. She noted that the paper was not peer-reviewed and that the author failed to account for prosecutors’ potential bias against immigrants. “It may well be that migrants do not commit more crimes but are instead prosecuted at higher rates,” Gilman wrote. “The whole methodology is very questionable and the basic explanation of the method is not sound,” Ingrid Eagly, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote in an email to the AP. Ernesto Castañeda, director of the Immigration Lab at American University, wrote in an email that the finding that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are overrepresented in Arizona’s prisons “does not mean they were committing more or worse crime.”
— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.
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