Reuters Fact Check dumps context to fact check abortion tweet

Zebra Fact Check found Reuters Fact Check using the same fallacy four fact-checking organizations “verified” as to their compliance with the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles used in rating a claim from anti-elective-abortion group Live Action. Live Action said abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of the mother. Facebook justified censoring the offending meme by citing Lead Stories, The Healthy Indian Project, Science Feedback and the Associated Press (AP Fact Check).

Reuters used the fallacy of equivocation in a separate check of essentially the same claim. The fact checkers said their experts contradicted a tweet from Alexandra DeSanctis Marr:

Though Reuters Fact Check embedded DeSanctis Marr’s tweet, it otherwise treated the context of the tweet as unimportant. But context serves as the fact checker’s essential tool for ensuring correct interpretation of a claim.

For “anti-abortionist” DeSanctis Marr, “abortion” refers to elective abortion. Her tweet responds to Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s question during oral arguments about when the health of the mother comes into play for legal restrictions on abortion. DeSanctis Marr stakes out the position that the legislative end in play–making elective abortion illegal–already accounts for the life of the mother. Elective abortion by definition delivers no therapeutic benefit such as saving the mother’s life.

Reuters Fact Check treated the definition of “abortion” as though it could not vary. The fact checkers encapsulate their argument in the first two paragraphs:

Contrary to claims made online, certain medical conditions may require the termination of a pregnancy to avoid fatal complications for the mother.

“Abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life,” reads a popular tweet ( here ), as campaigners call 2021 the “worst year” for abortion rights ( here ).

Fallacy of Equivocation

The reasoning in the fact check follows if “abortion” carries the same meaning throughout. As we showed, it apparently does not carry the same meaning. DeSanctis Marr refers to elective abortion. The definition of abortion Reuters Fact Check tries to use in contradicting her includes non-elective abortion.

Reuters Fact Check committed a fallacy of equivocation. Its fact check counts as a failure.


Clarification Aug. 1, 2022: Eliminated a transition between two sentences in the opening paragraph that made one big nonsense sentence out of both.

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