EMILY’s List says Jim DeMint claims women want to be forced to have ultrasounds

EMILYs List“According to DeMint: women want to be forced to have ultrasounds.”

—Melissa Ryan, digital director for EMILY’s List



The claim from EMILY’s List borrows a fabricated absurdity circulated by progressive sites.

The Facts

An email from EMILY’s list contained the following:


Former Senator and current President of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint went on Meet the Press on Sunday and predictably, he said something horrible.

According to DeMint: women want to be forced to have ultrasounds.

I would laugh, except that DeMint is an influential party leader. It’s yet another reminder of where their heads are at and just how far out of the mainstream Republicans are — and the agenda they’re pushing puts women’s lives in danger.


Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint appeared on the June 30 installment of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”  Here is DeMint’s full set of statements on the topic from the NBC transcript, minus various interruptions ([]):


David, cases like the Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell—[]—that shows the horrendous conditions in these clinics that have actually killed women. I mean, if we’re talking about women’s health, we need to consider that. But now two-thirds of Americans believe that, after a baby’s heart is beating and they can feel pain, that they need some protection.

So I’m glad to see a lot of states, like Texas and Arkansas, begin to consider this. And the more the ultrasounds have become part of the law, where a woman gets the opportunity to see that there’s a real child, it’s beginning to change minds. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s time that the 3,000 babies we lose every day have some people speaking up for them.


She’s [Rachel Maddow—ed.] forgetting about the thousands of women who want an informed choice, who want the opportunity—[]—to get a free ultrasound, which they can get, not from Planned Parenthood—[]—but from a lot of these pregnancy centers—[]  It is free in many cases; all the ones I’m familiar with—


YouTube has video of the conversation:


 Analyzing the Rhetoric

It wasn’t plain to us which part of DeMint’s statement means that women want to be forced to have ultrasounds.  We searched for the origin of that interpretation of his words and believe we found it at Raw Story in an article by Eric W. Dolan titled “Jim DeMint: Women want to be forced to have ultrasounds.”

The article helps pinpoint the statement from DeMint that inspired the title of the piece:


DeMint, however, insisted that some women wanted the state to force them to have an ultrasound.

“She’s forgetting about the thousands of women who want an informed choice, who want the opportunity to get a free ultrasound, which they can get not from Planned Parenthood but from a lot of these pregnancy centers.”


DeMint was responding to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said that mandatory ultrasound bills do not offer an opportunity for women but rather force on them a course of action.  DeMint pointed out that women who want the ultrasound are not forced to receive an ultrasound against their will.

The paraphrase of DeMint from Dolan and perpetuated by EMILY’s List plays a crafty game of fallacious ambiguity.  It’s absurd on its face for a person to want something forced on them.  If they want it then it isn’t forced, by the normal use of the words “want” and “forced.”  Dolan’s paraphrase serves as an apparent attempt to make DeMint look silly.  But it’s fairly obvious that DeMint isn’t contradicting himself.  It’s possible for women to favor a law that mandates that women receive ultrasound images of the fetus prior to having an abortion procedure.  And it’s possible for those same women to comply willingly with the law they favor.  It follows that those same women want the law to apply to other women who do not favor the law.

A CBS News report on Virginia’s “right-to-know” law shows substantial support among women for a law that requires an ultrasound:


The survey shows more men disapprove of the law than women. Fifty-six percent of men disapprove, while 38 percent approve. Forty-nine percent of women disapprove, while 44 percent approve. Most Democrats (67 percent) disapprove, and most Republicans (61 percent) approve.


In this sense, then, thousands of women favor an ultrasound requirement for women seeking an abortion.  But we don’t think DeMint was talking about support for right-to-know laws, even though conservative Ralph Reed made the same point a short time later on the same program.  We think DeMint was simply saying that if a woman wants the ultrasound then it makes little sense to say the procedure is forced, as Maddow had intimated.  Obviously, DeMint’s reply did not blunt Maddow’s associated point that many women would face having a procedure they do not want.


“According to DeMint: women want to be forced to have ultrasounds.”

icon False Missing Context FallacyIcon Ambiguity Straw Man

Given the lead-in from EMILY’s List that DeMint “said something horrible,” we can’t offer the charitable interpretation discussed above, that thousands of women favor laws that compel women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound showing an image of the developing fetus.  That meaning of the statement is doubtless true, and we can’t imagine anything “horrible” about stating that truth as DeMint did in context.

EMILY’s List delivered up a twisted paraphrase with just enough misleading context (“something horrible”) to help make sure readers would end up with a straw man version of DeMint’s argument in their minds.  The misdirection was facilitated by relying on a dubious paraphrase instead of any quotation from DeMint.

The attempt to make DeMint’s comment seem absurd is also made obvious by the comment “I would laugh” after the misleading paraphrase.  The overall context of the EMILY’s List fundraising letter qualifies as fallacious ridicule of DeMint’s statement.



June 30: Nancy Pelosi, Wendy Davis, Tim Huelskamp, Ralph Reed, Michael Eric Dyson, Jim DeMint, Rachel Maddow, Pete Williams.” Meet the Press. NBC. CNBC, 30 June 2013. Msnbc.com. NBCNews.com, 30 June 2013. Web. 15 July 2013. Transcript.

Dolan, Eric W. “Jim DeMint: Women Want to Be Forced to Have Ultrasounds.” The Raw Story. Raw Story Media, Inc., 30 June 2013. Web. 15 July 2013.

Madison, Lucy. “Poll Shows Virginia Voters Opposed to Ultrasound Bill.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 15 July 2013.

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