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What the Media Got Wrong Yesterday

Mary Katharine Ham catches several media distortions about Paul Ryan yesterday, including the misleading claim that Ryan voted to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In fact, Ryan was one of more than 60 co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which doesn’t technically ban anything. As Ramesh Ponnuru explains, the act simply affirms the right of state legislatures to protect unborn life. The question of how to act on that right is up to the individual legislatures:

The first item: “He supports the Sanctity of Human Life Act (emphasis in original). Odell wrote that the bill “seeks to ban all abortions, including in instances of rape and incest.” Ryan may, for all I know, believe that abortion should be illegal with exceptions only to save a mother’s life. But has he really co-sponsored a bill to effect this policy? No. The bill declares that fertilization marks the beginning of a human life and then “affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.” In other words, it doesn’t ban anything: It merely affirms that legislatures have the authority to protect unborn life. If Odell wishes to argue that a legislature moved by the convictions of the bill must, to be consistent, ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest, she can do so. It’s not in the bill.

Here is the text of the actual bill:

  1. In the exercise of the powers of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8 of the Constitution, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States–
  • (1) the Congress declares that–
    1. (A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and
      (B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and
  • (2) the Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.

The act is an affirmation of when life begins, but it leaves the enforcement and specifics up to the state legislatures (or, up to subsequent acts by Congress).

But the media coverage wasn’t all bad yesterday. As Guy Benson notes, Wolf Blitzer shredded Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan wouldn’t exempt people over the age of 55:

DWS has no defense on this, short of outright lying, which she valiantly attempts to do before getting swatted down by Blitzer. Democrats know that Ryan’s proposed Medicare reform wouldn’t go into effect for anyone over the age of 55 — but if they acknowledge that, then the Mediscaring in Florida becomes far less effective. That’s why DWS dug in so hard on this. In the end, she finally had to admit the truth; but let’s see how many in the media call her on it if she continues to distort Ryan’s plan.



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