The Infrastructure of a Bad-Faith Political Attack

The Infrastructure of a Bad-Faith Political Attack

Lawmakers, media outlets, scientific journals, everyday folks: They’re all starting to recognize the mountain of bad faith that is the anti-abortion movement. 

Hopefully, it’s not too late. 

Since the radically right-wing Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, there’s been a burgeoning consciousness that the entire anti-abortion movement – you might call it the forced birth movement – is based on carefully-constructed lies meant to drown out actual, real life facts about the science of reproductive care. Even our both-sides-obsessed media now sees that the legal argument for ending legal abortion in the United States is based not in reality, but in an alternate reality the American right has built up over the past half century. 

Abortion is not actually dangerous; abortion clinics are not operated by cynical profit-hungry monsters; zygotes are not actually live human babies; there are not actually millions of people who regret having the procedure; abortion does not actually need to be among the most heavily regulated medical procedures in the country. But these, as you know, are precisely the arguments the right used to chip away at abortion access and – with a SCOTUS majority ready and willing to play ball – stripped around 170 million Americans of bodily autonomy in a 6-3 vote. 

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From 2014 to 2020, I was part of a dedicated team of journalists at reproductive justice outlet who tried like hell to sound the alarms about how, exactly, state-level Republican legislators were destroying abortion care access in a piecemeal fashion, waiting patiently for a far-right Supreme Court majority to emerge and deal the final blow to Roe. Time and again, Rewire flagged bullshit studies and so-called research that served as the basis of  the anti-abortion movement’s political attack against abortion providers and clinics. The right had successfully built the alternative reality on which bad faith depends, the environment in which is thrives and influences public debate.

Abortion rights opponents knew they couldn’t just say they didn’t believe women should have bodily autonomy; they had to come up with a legal framework based on what appeared to be reliable data and sober analysis – something to counter the actual reliable data and sober analysis coming from nonpartisan, apolitical researchers whose work showed abortion was safe and medically sound. 

The right’s research – conducted by carefully disguised right-wing organizations funded by wealthy abortion opponents – would be used by monstrously cynical state-level lawmakers to argue that the state had no choice but to shut down abortion clinics and pass cruel and inhumane 20 and 16-week abortion bans. What can we do, they’d say, shrugging and smirking all the while. This research paper says we must take action to restrict abortion access. No one – not major media outlets and certainly not Democratic lawmakers – understood the effectiveness of this bad-faith onslaught. In fact, this anti-abortion research was usually dismissed as the ravings of lunatics. No way, the thinking went, this will ever hold up in the courts. 

Here’s the thing: This research very much did hold up in state and federal courts! The fake data and faulty concussions were welcomed with open arms by judges who had been brought up in a far-right legal environment that has for half a century trained lawyers how to overturn the legal gains of the 20th century. Twenty-four years into the 21st century, they’re making gains every day. They are dismantling progress. Nowhere has that been more clear than in the right’s shredding of reproductive health care and rights. All they need is a reason to rule in favor of their ideological compatriots. Right-wing think tanks have again and again given these judges that reason. That the reason is based on lies and half truths does not matter, for this is an ends-justifies-the-means movement to its very core.

Sofia Resnick, a former colleague of mine at Rewire, recently detailed efforts to retract right-wing studies about the supposed dangers of medication abortion, which has become even more important in the post-Roe American health care landscape. Academic publisher Sage Journals in February retracted three studies from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, among the nation’s leading anti-abortion organizations. The folks who wrote the research papers in question – published between 2019 and 2022 – are affiliated with “pro-life advocacy organizations that explicitly support judicial action to restrict access to mifepristone,” and plaintiffs or expert witnesses in the a lawsuit stemming from the Lozier studies charging medication abortion was not, in fact, safe (it is). A key part of this bad-faith game is pretending one is a disinterested third party when one is in fact a frothing-at-the-mouth activist. It's an effective little trick.

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Examiner

The retractions are a welcomed development for anyone who cares about reproductive care. Seeing Lozier and similar organizations as fronts for abortion opponents is necessary if the US is ever going to claw back the freedoms it lost when the Roberts Court ended Roe. Let these dishonest think tanks rage about being censored or whatever the right is crying about these days (the Lozier folks called the retractions “political assassination”). Nothing these organizations produce – no data, no anecdotes, no conclusions – should be allowed to dictate public policy. This horseshit research was done in bad faith, with the express purpose of giving lawmakers and government officials and federal judges the legal legitimacy – the cover – to stop Americans from obtaining timely and safe abortion services. 

The problem, of course, is that the discrediting of the Lozier “research” is probably too late. The right’s effort to end access to medication abortion has reached the Supreme Court. The arguments have been made. The Lozier studies have functioned as the foundation of the legal argument that would severely limit access to a key drug used in medication abortions. John Roberts and his crew of right-wing activists in long black robes have already winked and nodded at the Lozier studies, and will make their decisions accordingly. That this legal case began when an anti-abortion activist-turned-federal-judge in Texas instituted a nationwide ban on medication abortion should tell you everything you need to know about the endgame here. 

As Resnick wrote in the Wisconsin Examiner, the “nation’s highest court is unlikely to give serious consideration to the exposed ambiguities in a decision that could have repercussions beyond reproductive health care.” 

It’s good that the right wing’s bad-faith infrastructure around abortion rights has been exposed to the light of day. It’s good that the organizations created specifically to generate nonsense anti-abortion research are being rejected in the ongoing legal war over reproductive rights and abortion access. We need more of this: An outright rejection of the bad faith that has infected every aspect of American politics and created a two-sided debate where there are not two sides. There is no countering real science. Once one leg of that infrastructure is kicked, hopefully the whole fucking thing will fall and our politics can be slightly less influenced by folks saying things they do not mean to achieve a political goal. The future of reproductive health care will depend on it.

Follow Denny Carter on BlueSky at and on Threads and X at @CDCarter13.