New York’s brand new governor wants Facebook to censor pro-life “misinformation” about abortion.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, sent a letter Monday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that the social media giant increase efforts to censor pro-life “misinformation” in light of Texas’ new law banning abortions after babies’ heartbeats can be detected.
Hochul, who took office in late August after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned over numerous #MeToo allegations, expressed concern that viral Facebook posts about the Texas Heartbeat Act will make women who seek abortions feel “unsafe” and “alone.”
“The truth is that abortion is a safe, common medical procedure,” Hochul wrote. “One in four women will undergo an abortion in her lifetime. I am proud that New York is leading the fight to ensure that every woman and birthing person has access to abortion care.”
Hochul did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation specifying what type of misinformation she wishes Facebook to censor, but her Monday letter references Facebook posts about the Reproductive Health Act, which Cuomo signed into law in January 2019.
The Reproductive Health Act’s passage removed abortion from New York’s criminal code, allows non-doctors to perform abortions, and allows women to obtain late-term abortions if their health is in danger or if their unborn baby is not viable.
Fact-checkers like PolitiFact have rated Facebook posts “false” for saying that the New York law allows abortions up until birth, though the legislation does not specify at what point an abortion is no longer permissible.
The Reproductive Health Act states that an abortion may be performed when “according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”
The Reproductive Health Act does not define “health” or “fetal viability,” as a USA Today fact check noted.
The USA Today fact check rated the claim that the law legalizes abortion up until birth as “partly false,” saying, “while it is true that New York’s abortion law allows procedures after 24 weeks, there are rules guiding that procedure: if the fetus is not viable or if the health or life of the mother is at risk.”
“If medical practitioners determine that either of these factors are present, the mother can choose to have an abortion,” the fact check concluded.
Pro-life activists like Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, have said that they are inappropriately targeted by biased Facebook fact-checkers. In September 2019, two abortionists were cited in a fact check dinging Live Action, and one of the abortionists had openly criticized Live Action and Rose.
The Aug. 30 fact check, published in Health Feedback, targeted an Aug. 9 video that included the statement “abortion is never medically necessary.” The fact check also dinged a separate video shared by Live Action, featuring Dr. Kendra Kolb also saying that “abortion is never medically necessary.”
Facebook works with third-party fact-checkers certified through a “non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network” in attempts to identify and rate false news. Content rated false will appear lower in a user’s news feed—this “significantly reduces the number of people who see it,” according to Facebook.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 earlier this month to deny abortion providers’ request to block the Texas Heartbeat Act. President Joe Biden called the ruling an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” on Sept. 2, and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Sept. 9 that the Biden administration is suing Texas over the state’s new law.
The new law has particularly upset abortion advocates, as it allows “any person” to sue doctors, abortion clinics, or anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”
Those who sue over an abortion may be awarded $10,000 “for each abortion” the defendant performed, induced, aided, or abetted in violation of the law.
Hochul and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also announced an agenda to “affirm abortion rights and cement New York’s status as a place to welcome women seeking abortion care,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The governor directed state agencies to coordinate a statewide public information campaign” that will make women aware of their legal protections and develop a patient bill of rights. Hochul also ordered the New York Department of Health to help ease patients’ ability to access abortion drugs in health visits that take place over the phone or the internet, the press release said.
“The recent law in Texas—and the Supreme Court’s refusal to block it—is dangerous and disturbing,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “This law is not just unconscionable, it’s unconstitutional. At the federal level, we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and intrude upon personal decision-making.”
“Here in New York,” she continued, “we luckily have a governor who understands and champions fundamental reproductive rights. I stand ready to support Governor Hochul’s efforts to ensure that providers, patients and the people of New York have the best information about abortion care and the resources to get the care they need.”
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