The silence of Kaiser Family Foundation

Kaiser Family Foundation said abortion 'moments before birth' is not legal in the U.S. We asked KFF for justification and did not hear back.

Does federal law prohibit abortion in the moments before birth?

PolitiFact’s poorly-reasoned fact check (our critique here) of a claim about a new Colorado abortion law drew Zebra Fact Check’s attention. PolitiFact said the new law would permit abortion without recognizing different stages of pregnancy and also said it would not permit abortion “moments before birth.”

Citing Kaiser Family Foundation on U.S. Law

PolitiFact failed to explain its paradoxical reporting. But material in PolitiFact’s source list provided a clue as to where the unstated reasoning may have originated. PolitiFact cited a Kaiser Family Foundation page, “Abortions Later in Pregnancy.”

The article’s introductory paragraph says (bold emphasis added):

Abortions occurring at or after 21 weeks gestational age are rare. They are often difficult to obtain, as they are typically costly, time-intensive and only performed by a small subset of abortion providers. Yet these abortions receive a disproportionate amount of attention in the news, policy and the law, and discussions on this topic are often fraught with misinformation; for example, intense public discussions have been sparked after several policymakers have theorized about abortions occurring “moments before birth or even “after birth.” In reality, these scenarios do not occur, nor are they legal, in the U.S.

The final quoted sentence, in context with the preceding sentence, seems to say that abortion “moments before birth” counts as illegal in the United States. The article offers no support for that proposition. Nor could we find any documentation in support. However, in our critique of PolitiFact’s article we acknowledged federal law on “partial birth abortion” prohibits the specific later abortion procedure called “intact dilation and extraction.”

Zebra Fact Check also found a fact check concerning the Colorado law that quoted the dubious Kaiser Family Foundation claim to back its ruling.

The Washington Post Hotlink

Sometimes instead of explaining a key part of a story a journalist may supply a hotlink leading to the explanation. KFF supplies a hotlink for “moments before birth” that leads to a Jan. 31, 2019 Washington Post story about a Virginia abortion law.

The story bears no apparent relevance to any federal law restricting abortion “moments before birth.” On the contrary, the Post says “There is no time limit on third-trimester abortions; the procedure may take up until delivery.”

The Internet Archive forbade us access using the link KFF provided. We obtained access to this earlier archived version of the story.

‘I would like to know the justification’

Given Kaiser Family Foundation’s failure to offer evidence supporting its claim, Zebra Fact Check filled out and submitted an onsite comment form on April 16, 2022. We hoped to either obtain an explanation or prompt a correction.

While awaiting the promised response, “We’ll be in touch soon,” we used Twitter and email to raise awareness at KFF and PolitiFact regarding the discrepancy.

With over two weeks elapsed since our initial outreach, we have yet to hear back from KFF.

If we note any response in answer to our question, we will update this item.

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