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Looking in the Fun-house Mirror: Decoding Anti-Choice Spin

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February 28, 2013

This post is written by Kate Londen, Choice USA Communications Manager

Do you ever look at anti-choice news websites? I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you want to spend a good hour or so hate-clicking on sensationally titled articles out of a masochistic fascination. Reading their take on things is like looking in a fun-house mirror. Abortion causes breast cancer. Planned Parenthood is an abortion millContraception ruins sex.  You thought Beyoncé’s super bowl performance was awesome, right? Nope, it turned our children into guinea pigs for “an unfettered, out of control social experiment.” Up is down, down is up.

But sometimes news comes down that is unequivocally pro-choice.  What do anti-choice news site do then? Spin, baby, spin… and sometimes straight up lie.

For example, earlier this month two separate reports were released that showed historic drops in teen pregnancy, one nationwide and one that focused specifically on New York City schools.

Quick caveat here: our discussion of these studies should not suggest something inherently wrong with teenagers being pregnant or becoming parents. Lord knows, there is enough shaming and stigmatizing young people for their sexuality and reproductive health decisions – we’re not trying to add to that. But studies show that 82% percent of pregnancies among teenagers are unintended. It’s safe to assume that these large decreases in pregnancy among teens reduced that rate of unintended pregnancy.

So, fewer teenagers are finding themselves in the difficult situation of dealing with an unintended pregnancy. Break out the party hats, right? Not so fast, the studies show this decrease happened because – record scratch sound – more teenagers are using contraception.

“I think the main thing behind this is increased contraceptive use, and better contraceptive use,” Dr. Krishna Upadhya, who studies teen pregnancy at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Reuters Health.

This theory is further strengthened by the results in NYC schools. From 2001 to 2011, the rate of teen pregnancy dropped 27% (!). During that same period New York City public schools have increased the availability of birth control and emergency contraception in schools.

So how can anti-choice news websites spin this pro-choice news? Well many just ignored it. Some credit abstinence-only programs, despite the fact that the study states with abstinence-only programs have the highest teen pregnancy rates.

Some note the study’s assertion that contraception caused the drop, but then suggest that contraception does not prevent pregnancy.

But then others just choose to lie about it. Live Action News (the young, hip anti-choice site) took this opportunity to gin up fears about the NYC contraception program, Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH). Without even mentioning the drop in teen pregnancy rates, they paint CATCH as an extreme program with out-of-control school nurses inserting IUDs in little girls without parents knowing it and morning-after pills “handed out like candy.”

The truth is that this program makes accessing contraception private, easy, and free – removing the barriers regularly keep young people from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Of course, contrary to what Live Action reported, parents were able to opt their children out of the program. CATCH does provide a variety of birth control methods and although they make recommendations for IUDs, they do not insert them in schools.

It may not be surprising that anti-choice websites spread this misinformation, but it’s important to counter with facts because anti-choice lies and spin can have real influence on those with the power to turn their distortions into policy.

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