Abortion Provider Sues Right-Wing Websites for Twisting Her Words & Defaming Her March 15, 2019

Abortion Provider Sues Right-Wing Websites for Twisting Her Words & Defaming Her

Dr. Leah Torres is an OB/GYN and trained abortion provider who’s outspoken about reproductive rights on Twitter, regularly rebutting misinformation about the abortion process.

A little over a year ago, someone asked her why she performed abortions, suggesting she did it for the money or because she liked infanticide — and asking if she hears “their screams” when she’s sleeping.

That’s not a genuine question. That’s like a Christian asking atheists why they “hate God” or worship Satan. The question itself is so ridiculous, and it suggests a complete ignorance of the topic they claim to want to learn more about, that it’s tempting to just respond with sarcasm.

So that’s what Torres did.

In a now-deleted tweet, she explained that fetuses can’t scream and that she made sure to “transect the cord 1st so there’s really no opportunity.” (She jokingly added, “I’m also a ‘uterus ripper outer,’ if that’s how you’d like to define hysterectomy.”)

What she was saying — as anyone who understands the procedure could tell you — was that she cuts the umbilical cord. That’s a typical way to perform a first trimester abortion. Researchers have said transecting the umbilical cord early in the pregnancy is a “feasible, efficacious and safe way” to perform an abortion. Torres said as much in subsequent tweets.

But as you can imagine, conservatives flipped out. They wrongly assumed she was slitting the throats of these fetuses, turning what they consider “murder” into something even more barbaric. Conservative outlets like Daily Caller said she was “cutting the throats of fetuses.” Others like WesternJournal.com lied by quoting her tweet like this: “I transect the (vocal) cord 1st so that there’s really no opportunity.”

Neither statement is accurate. The latter is especially egregious given that vocal cords don’t even develop until the second trimester.

In short, these publications spread lies about what Torres said, thereby unleashing their ignorant and gullible hordes on her. Harassment against abortion providers is bad enough, but these people were insinuating that Torres was performing illegal, gruesome abortions which were worthy of prison time (or worse). Utah law says it’s “criminal homicide” to perform an abortion in the way the conservatives were suggesting. How Torres actually performed abortions, however, was perfectly legal.

You can guess what happened from there. She began receiving death threats online. There were people saying her throat needed to be slit. She was doxxed, with her personal and professional information being posted online in order to incite others to go after her.

Also disturbing was how people contacted her employers, harassing them in the process. It got to the point where she was let go from her job because she was hurting their “professional reputation.” It took several months before she found another job in another state.

Now Torres is suing those conservative publications for defamation, saying they purposely spread misinformation about her. Specifically, her lawsuit goes after the Western Journal and its parent company Liftable Media, along with the Daily Caller.

A reasonable person viewing or hearing the statements in question could conclude that Dr. Torres was being accused of engaging in illegal activity. In context, the gist of the statements could be construed as defamatory to the Plaintiffs by an average member of the public.

A reasonable person viewing or hearing the statements in question would conclude that they were statements of fact, specifically that Dr. Torres had admitted to cutting the throats of fetuses.

Each of these Publications were published negligently, at a minimum and/or with gross negligence and/or intentionality.

Each of the Publications were published with actual malice. Defendants’ knew the content of their defamatory Publications was false, or made the statements with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity.

Dr. Torres had posted a follow up tweet to her original tweet on March 14, 2018 that unequivocally stated her tweet referenced fetal umbilical cords. Defendants ignored this clarification.

The lawsuit also charges the defendants with inflicting emotional distress and interfering with her employment. She’s asking for a jury trial and financial damages.

To be sure, defamation is hard to prove. It’s likely these websites will argue their writers weren’t publishing false information on purpose; they’re just too stupid to understand what they’re talking about. But keep in mind that Torres clarified her meaning and those websites never published a correction or follow-up articles explaining their mistakes. Hell, I just accessed their articles and they still don’t have any corrections or relevant updates.

This is what abortion providers have to deal with.

It’s not just their own general safety. It’s lies about what they do used against them. The entire anti-abortion movement is full of this kind of knee-jerk misinformation used to whip followers into a frenzy, whether it’s the false claim that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue to make money or that an abortion pill amounts to the murder of a “child.” In this case, right-wing activists twisted Torres’ words even though she never did anything wrong or illegal.

They didn’t care. They still don’t care. They had a story that the “pro-life” (and anti-fact) crowd would eat up and ran with it until they drove her out of work, in fear for her life. She’s finally trying to get it back. I hope she succeeds.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

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