On Friday, Facebook prevented the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List from running ads in swing states slamming Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, for their extreme pro-abortion stances. Facebook cited a fact-check from The Dispatch, Steve Hayes’ outlet, but The Dispatch later withdrew the fact-check and issued an apology. As of Friday afternoon, Facebook has kept up the “partly false information” flag despite The Dispatch’s apology.
The suppression appears more noteworthy after Facebook and Twitter suppressed the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, leading the RNC to file an FEC complaint against Twitter, claiming it gave an “in-kind contribution” to the Biden campaign.
“Big Tech and the media are teaming up to run interference for the Biden-Harris campaign on what is a losing issue for Democrats – their shameful support for abortion on demand through birth,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “This is the latest example of Facebook censoring political speech and is perfectly timed to shut down SBA List’s vital digital communications as we work to reach eight million voters in key battlegrounds in the final days before Election Day.”
Facebook claimed that ads “must not include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise. Advertisers that repeatedly post misinformation may have permanent restrictions placed on their ability to advertise on Facebook.”
Here's the message we see in our Facebook ads dashboard. Facebook is demanding that we appeal the rejection not to them, but to the third-party "fact checker" @thedispatch which published the inaccurate "fact check" article: pic.twitter.com/hvXsdvAJhN
— Susan B. Anthony List #ConfirmAmy (@SBAList) October 16, 2020
Dannenfelser claimed that The Dispatch’s fact-check was “false,” and The Dispatch’s later apology seems to confirm her contention.
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“Our ad makes the same factual argument Vice President Pence made about the Biden-Harris record in support of late-term abortions during the vice presidential debate, an argument Kamala Harris didn’t bother refuting herself,” the SBA List president explained. “Our argument is also backed by the Democratic Party platform, which flatly calls for no limits on abortion.”
Dannenfelser noted that Facebook shut down similar pro-life ads from SBA List in 2018, but the company later apologized. “Now they have outsourced their censorship to the anti-Trump press, continually waging a suppression campaign specifically targeting pro-life conservative voices. We refuse to be silenced.”
Steve Hayes, founder of The Dispatch, published an apology, claiming that he incorrectly published the fact-check.
“The fact-check was published in error and in draft form, before it had been through final edits and our own internal fact-checking process. As a result, the viral post was assigned a ‘partly false’ rating that we have determined is not justified after completing The Dispatch fact-checking process. We regret the error and apologize to the Women Speak Out PAC. We’ve pulled the fact-check and lifted the rating,” Hayes wrote.
Even so, Facebook has yet to remove its “Partly False Information” flag as of press time. When users click the “See Why” button, Facebook directs them to a blank page because The Dispatch has revoked its fact-check.
But are the abortion ads true?
Democrats and their allies in the media have disputed the claims in the ads.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are extreme on abortion. Biden and Harris support abortion up to the moment of birth, all at taxpayer expense, and they promise to nominate only pro-abortion judges,” the ads claim.
As for the claims that Biden and Harris would only nominate pro-abortion judges and that they support taxpayer funding for abortion, there is no dispute. Biden has said he will have “a litmus test on abortion” for any Supreme Court justices. Both Biden and Harris have clearly condemned the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion.
Newsweek and PolitiFact have claimed that Biden and Harris do not support abortion up until the moment of birth, but the outlets could not identify statements or policies explicitly limiting abortion to early phases of pregnancy.
National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru did a deep dive on the records of Biden and Harris and concluded that the balance of evidence supports the claim that the Democrats back abortion up to the moment of birth.
Biden has repeatedly called for codifying Roe v. Wade (1973) into law. This likely means including provisions of Doe v. Bolton, which further expanded a woman’s “right” to abortion. Roe prohibits states from banning abortion even at the end of pregnancy if a physician believes abortion is necessary to protect a woman’s health. Doe stipulates that “the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” While some argue that Doe did not intend to say a broad health exception is constitutionally required, subsequent court decisions have insisted on it.
Ponnuru noted that there is reason to believe that more than 10,000 abortions take place after the 20th week of pregnancy every year in America and that the bulk of these abortions do not take place because of risks to the mother’s physical health or fetal abnormalities.Yet prosecutions for such abortions are extremely rare, perhaps because the Supreme Court appears to have made such laws unenforcable.
Neither Biden nor Harris have suggested that the Court should adjust its jurisprudence to allow abortion to be banned late in pregnancy.
Worse, Biden and Harris have each sponsored bills that seem to keep late-term abortion legal even if the Court were to reverse Roe. The “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which Harris has sponsored, explicitly provides for legal abortion after a baby’s viability when the “treating health care provider” thinks abortion necessary for the mother’s “health,” and the bill stipulates that all terms should be construed “liberally.”
She has also sponsored legislation to provide federal funding for abortion and to require state governments to pay for abortion, and both of those bills lack any limitation on funding for late-term abortions in the text.
While Biden has previously stated (decades ago) that he opposes late-term abortion, he sponsored Senate legislation to make abortion legal after viability when needed to protect “health,” with the text not specifying physical health.
As Dannenfelser noted, the Democratic platform endorses “reproductive health, rights, and justice” including “safe and legal abortion,” and opposes “federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights” — with no qualifications on endorsements of abortion and no limits based on the length of pregnancy.
Many media outlets rush to cover for Biden and Harris to make their abortion positions appear less radical than they truly are, but until Biden and Harris explicitly state that they oppose late-term abortion, ads like those run by Women Speak Out PAC should be considered accurate — or at least debatable — and certainly fair game.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.