Sometimes we come across potential fact checks that are so easily reviewed that it hardly seems worth the trouble. But at the same time, it’s important to set the record straight.
In this case, we have a matched pair of Four-Pinocchio claims on abortion made by lawmakers, one by a Democrat and the other by a Republican. In both cases, the spokesperson for the lawmaker refused to respond to our questions — usually a good sign that the lawmaker messed up.
Ocasio-Cortez’s misfire on the Texas law
“ ‘The extreme left is taking over’ WHERE. In Texas, Republicans passed a law allowing rapists to sue their victims for getting an abortion. Can anyone name a ‘far left’ policy that extreme implemented anywhere? We can’t even get our party to import cheaper RXs from Canada. foh.”
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), in a tweet, April 29
This tweet, like much of Ocasio-Cortez’s social media, quickly went viral, earning about 35,000 retweets and more than 200,000 likes. It’s mostly a gripe about how she thinks the right is more extreme than the left, but at its core the tweet makes a claim that is false — that a Texas law passed in 2021 allows rapists to sue victims for getting an abortion.
We checked the law, which has a near-total ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and empowers citizens to sue abortion providers and people who assist with abortions. It says: “Notwithstanding any other law, a civil action under this section may not be brought by a person who impregnated the abortion patient through an act of rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by Sections 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code.” Those sections deal with sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault (such as rape) and prohibited sexual conduct (such as incest).
On top of that, the law does not allow for abortion patients to be sued. Instead, suits can be brought against any person who “performs or induces an abortion” or who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”
The Texas Tribune, in a useful annotation of the law, said “the patient receiving such an abortion cannot be sued under the law, but everyone who helps that patient can be, including, for example, their doctor, driver or family member who helps pay for the procedure.”
As for rapists, “if the patient was raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of incest, the perpetrator cannot sue over the abortion performed,” the Tribune said. “However, the law does not prevent other people from suing over that particular abortion, even if the pregnancy occurred as a result of rape, sexual assault or incest.”
Ocasio-Cortez should delete this tweet. It’s embarrassingly wrong.
The NRSC’s false claim on doctors
“Joe Biden and the Democrats have and will continue to spread lies about where Republicans stand on abortion and women’s health care …. Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.”
— Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), memo on how to speak about abortion, May 3
Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued a memo with proposed talking points on abortion after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 made abortion legal across the United States.
The problem with this talking point is that one can easily find laws proposed or passed by Republicans that would jail doctors.
We can start with Scott himself. Along with 44 other Republican senators, he is co-sponsor of a bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, that makes it a criminal offense to perform an abortion if the development of the fetus is at 20 weeks or more. A violator is subject to criminal penalties — a fine, a prison term of up to five years, or both.
Hmm, who would perform an abortion other than a doctor?
In Scott’s home state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill last month that bans virtually all abortions after a gestational age of 15 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. “If a physician violates the ban, they would be guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine,” said the Tallahassee Democrat.
In Oklahoma, the Republican-dominated legislature passed — and the Republican governor signed — a bill that made abortion a felony and penalized doctors who perform abortions. A doctor convicted of violating the law could face up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. “The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” said GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen, who sponsored the bill.
In 2019, Alabama’s Republican governor signed a law that put doctors who perform abortions in the same legal category, Class A felony, as rapists, murderers and kidnappers. The minimum sentence for a Class A felony is 10 years, but it can go as high as 99 years in prison or life.
There are many more examples, such as a new law in Arizona that threaten doctors who perform certain abortions with a minimum of six months in jail and a GOP proposal in Ohio to punish doctors who perform abortions with up to two years in jail.
To sum it up, this talking point is bunk. Anyone who made this claim would make a fool of themselves.
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