The Corner


The New York Times, Also Factually Deficient on Abortion

People line up for taxis across the street from the New York Times building in New York City. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The New York Times runs a “fact check” of the same claim as the Washington Post. It’s by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, whose reporting on this subject earlier this year went awry. I’ll take its false and misleading claims one by one.

“Democrats support abortion rights, but that does not mean they call for women to have an unfettered right to terminate pregnancies up until the point of birth.”

Unfettered? No; they may, for example, support waiting periods or informed-consent regulations. But Stolberg is examining Ronna McDaniel’s condemnation of policies that “allow abortion up until the point of birth.” Most Democrats believe that abortion should be legal until birth whenever a doctor deems it necessary to protect the mother’s emotional health. Nearly all Democrats voted against a ban on abortions after twenty weeks.

“Ms. McDaniel was likely referring to a debate over a bill proposed last year by Democrats in the Virginia legislature, would have made it easier for women to obtain abortions late in pregnancy if the mother’s physical health or safety were at risk.”

No. The bill specifically allowed for third-trimester abortions in cases where they are deemed necessary to preserve the mother’s mental health.

“Democrats support codifying Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that held states could prohibit abortion after fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb. The current Supreme Court standard holds that states may prohibit abortion after fetal viability so long as there are exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”

The wording here is peculiar. Roe held that any prohibition would have to include an exception for health, which was broadly defined, to include emotional and mental health among other factors, in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton. Given Stolberg’s earlier erroneously restrictive reference to “physical health,” a reader could easily get the wrong impression.

“’Like the majority of Americans, Democrats believe that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion,’ the party’s draft 2020 platform states, adding, ‘Democrats oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to women’s reproductive health and rights.’”

Note that this accurate quotation does nothing to suggest that Democrats have any objection whatsoever to abortions very late in pregnancy. It reads like an endorsement of exactly the “unfettered right to terminate pregnancies up until the point of birth” that Stolberg is denying Democrats support.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.