A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Nonsense in New Mexico

GOP lawmaker tarred by anti-abortion spin in the Land of Enchantment.


Summary

Rep. Steve Pearce’s campaign and an independent anti-abortion group both have attacked Rep. Heather Wilson in the hotly contested race to be the Republican nominee for an open New Mexico Senate seat. But Pearce and the group run afoul of the facts: 

  • A mailer from Pearce claims that Wilson "voted for cloning that would create human embryos specifically to be destroyed for scientific research." Actually, she voted to make it illegal to clone humans for reproductive purposes; the bill did not address embryos to be used for research, as anti-abortion groups wanted. It’s simply false to say she voted for something that wasn’t part of the bill.
  • The anti-abortion group says she "voted to fund abortion providers." She actually voted against de-funding Planned Parenthood, which receives government grants for services like breast cancer screening and pregnancy and HIV testing – but not abortion.

The group also exaggerates in saying that there are "4,000 abortions every day in the United States." According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan group whose research is respected on both sides of the divide, the figure was 3,315 in 2005, the most recent year for which it has data.

Correction: Our original story attributed the Pearce mailer to the anti-abortion group, which has distributed its own mailer. They are two different documents. We have corrected the article throughout.

Clarification: We also initially said the cloning bill would make it illegal to clone humans. It would outlaw cloning for reproductive purposes.

Analysis

Five-term GOP Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce are battling to be the Republican nominee to fill the seat of New Mexico’s Sen. Pete Domenici, who is retiring after many years in office. The Susan B. Anthony List, an organization "dedicated to advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women in the political process," hopes for a primary victory by Pearce when voters go to the polls next Tuesday, June 3.
 

Wilson on Abortion?

Pearce’s campaign has distributed a mailer on abortion that claims Wilson "voted for cloning that would create human embryos specifically to be destroyed for scientific research." But that’s simply not true. The campaign is misrepresenting a bill that would have actually outlawed human cloning for the purpose of producing an infant. In June 2007, Wilson voted in favor of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which said:

H.R. 2560: It shall be unlawful for any person to perform or attempt to perform human cloning; or to ship, mail, transport, or receive the product of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology knowing that such product is for the purpose of human cloning.

Congressional Quarterly reported critics were upset that the bill "would not extend the ban to include cloning of human embryos for research purposes." Pearce has said this is why he voted against it. The National Right to Life Committee, another anti-abortion group, objected as well, which was one of the reasons the organization gave Wilson only a 42 percent rating on its latest scorecard. But to accuse Wilson of affirmatively voting for something that wasn’t even in the legislative language is an outright falsehood.

The bill died on the House floor.

Funding Abortions?

SBA List is running an ad on Christian radio stations, and it has sent out a mailer that features a photo of Wilson next to a sonogram of a fetus. A banner promises "The Truth About Heather Wilson on Abortion." But that’s hardly what we get.

The mailer says Wilson "voted to fund abortion providers," and the radio ad repeated the charge, adding that "Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar abortion business." That’s misleading. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization with gross revenues of nearly a billion dollars, but abortions account for a small fraction of the services it provides – 3 percent in 2006, according to the group’s annual report.

(Click to Play Audio)

[TET ]

SBA List Ad: "Truth"

Announcer: There are 4,000 abortions every day in the United States. That’s 4,000 children who weren’t given a chance for life. This is a tragedy, but not to Representative Heather Wilson. She’s part of the problem. Listen to the facts about her record. Heather Wilson voted to send your tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion provider in the United States. Planned Parenthood is a billion dollar abortion business. Yet Heather Wilson thinks they deserve your tax dollars. Heather Wilson claims she’s pro-life, yet Wilson voted twice to allow FDA testing and approval of the deadly RU-486 chemical abortion pill.

Call Heather Wilson at 505-346-6781 and tell her you know the truth about her record.

Paid for by Susan B. Anthony List Incorporated, www.sba-list.org. Not authorized by any candidates or candidates’ committees. [/TET]

While Wilson did vote against a 2007 appropriations bill amendment that would have made Planned Parenthood ineligible to receive any more federal money, the amendment would have cut off government funds that go to the group for breast cancer screening, contraception, and pregnancy and HIV testing. It is for these services that the group receives federal grants, which totaled $336.7 million in 2006, according to its annual report. The government provides no funding for abortions.

Even the author of the amendment, GOP Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, praised the work of groups such as Planned Parenthood when he introduced the legislation:

Pence: There are many good things happening in federally funded Family Planning clinics nationwide: 5 million Americans served, 90 percent of whom are low income; 900,000 unintended pregnancies were averted by Title X family planning funding; and it is reassuring that abstinence education is required for all clients.

Critics like Pence contend that funding any of the services of a group that also provides abortions helps to underwrite that group’s activities in a broad sense. We offer no opinion on that position. But we do think the language in the SBA List ad and mailer requires some context, at the very least.

False Statistic

The group claims in both the radio ad and the mailer that "there are 4,000 abortions every day in the United States."

But that number is higher than the estimates from the most frequently cited sources. The Centers for Disease Control says there were 839,226 abortions performed in 2004, the last year for which it has data, though that number doesn’t include figures from three states (notably California), which did not report them. The CDC’s incomplete data would calculate to 2,299 abortions per day. The nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute estimates the number is higher than that, but not as high as the figure SBA List uses. Guttmacher says there were 1.21 million abortions in 2005, which comes to 3,315 a day.

We want to thank reader Caleb Brandon for sending us copies of these mailers. If you receive any mailings or calls of questionable veracity, please send them along to editor@factcheck.org.

-by Justin Bank 

Sources

Armstrong, Drew. "Cloning Bill Defeated in House." Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 9 June 2007.

Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2007, H.R. 2560.

"U.S. House turns back stealth attempt by Democratic leadership to pass ‘clone-and-kill’ bill," National Right to Life. New Release. 6 June 2007.

"Annual Report," Planned Parenthood. 2006-2007.

Strauss, Lilo T., Gamble, Sonya B., Parker, Wilda Y., Cook, Douglas A., Zane, Suzanna B., Hamdan, Saeed, "Abortion Surveillance: 2004," Centers for Disease Control. 23 Nov 2007.

Susan B. Anthony List Mailer Attacking Heather Wilson.

People for Pearce Mailer Attacking Heather Wilson.