NCpol media circle the wagons on abortion "fact check"

A "fact check" by the Raleigh News & Observer on the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act offers a perfect illustration of why Americans (particularly conservatives) no longer trust the media.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill yesterday, coincidentally at about the same time the Mueller report was released.

N&O reporter Andy Specht promoted his PolitiFactNC piece in this tweet:

For pro-lifers and conservatives, the "fact check" reads more like a rationalized defense of Democrat talking points.

This is unfortunate.

For starters, the reporters chose which statement to examine. It's not a surprise that they chose a pro-lifer's comment, but there were all sorts of other false statements from pro-choicers they could've probed.

But they didn't. I understand why they chose this statement, and I don't think it should escape scrutiny. I simply point this out in case it prompts the fact checkers to assess how they choose statements to examine.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Republican from Kernersville and one of the bill sponsors, said during an April 15 speech on the Senate floor that protections are needed.
“No, we do not have laws in place protecting babies who are born alive as the result of an abortion,” she said, according to WRAL.
Legal experts disagree.

This article did not include the legislative research staff analysis:

Paradoxically, the writers acknowledge that "legal experts" say there is a gap in the law...

The 2002 act, however, didn’t directly create civil or criminal penalties. It is “toothless and purely symbolic,” said Dwight Duncan, a University of Massachusetts law professor who serves on the the boards of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund and Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
Filling that omission was a key motivator for supporters of the bill introduced in Washington earlier this year.

Then they quoted a Durham attorney (who gets lots of Twitter love from NC political folks) as disagreeing with the first lawyer.

Brent Woodcox (yet another attorney) works for Republican Senator President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. He explained the loophole in a series of Twitter arguments last night (edited for clarity):

  • It’s somewhat akin to premeditated murder and negligent homicide. Standard criminal law mens rea requirements. Except in this situation the doctor has no duty of care for the baby who is not his patient. It’s not a crime at all.
  • An overt, intentional act is murder. Deaths of neglect are not covered by existing law.
  • No, it's not murder if someone is dying and you don't save them. You can't be prosecuted for murder for that unless you have some duty to act. A doctor has no duty to act toward anyone but a patient. The baby is not a patient. The woman is.
  • This law changed the current requirements under the law by ensuring that deaths of neglect for babies born alive as the result of a failed abortion are punishable as a felony. It also requires reporting of such deaths with failure to do so punishable as a felony.

None of this legal rationale is described in the fact check.

But from a journalistic perspective, it's obvious that we have differing legal opinions. It's really ambiguous (even the Durham lawyer's comment is couched in uncertainty).

So, how did the reporters rule? (bold added)

On the Senate floor, Krawiec said “we do not have laws in place protecting babies who are born alive as the result of an abortion.” That’s not true. There are federal and state laws that protect infants as soon as they emerge from their mother’s womb — regardless of the circumstances. We rate her claim False.

"Regardless of the circumstances"? That's simply not true. That's just the belief of one side.

Woodcox ripped the finding:

There is no law on NC's books that would punish a doctor who withholds care from a baby born alive after an abortion which is why this "fact check" doesn't identify one. @PolitiFactNC has become a pathetic lie factory that pumps out @NCDemParty talking points. #NCGA#NCPOL
#FakeNews@PolitifactNC: Born alive infants are protected under current laws.
Nonpartisan legal experts: There are currently no laws requiring an affirmative duty of care to preserve the life of infants who survive attempted abortions.
I trust the experts. #NCGA#NCPOL

Reporters pounced!

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Colin Campbell and Will Doran from the N&O were joined by WRAL's Travis Fain and the Fayetteville Observer's Paul Woolverton.


It seems like Doran, Fain, and Woolverton attempted to make the case that the ruling was accurately determined. (I don't believe they succeeded.)

On the other hand, Campbell went a different route.

Naturally, the "False" ruling was plastered all over social media and is now part of the arsenal used against pro-lifers in the raging culture war.

Which is pretty amazing, if you think about it, because it's pretty clear that the law is ambiguous.

This is also known as a loophole.

I'm not lobbying here for a ruling in favor of my belief. I'm arguing for a ruling that reflects the truth. And this "fact check" doesn't do that.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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