Setting The Record Straight On Local Election Season Fake News
March 11, 2020 | View PDF
The commencement of election season has brought a rash of fake news being written by right-wing extremists, borrowing a play from the radical left, and spread on social media about my voting record. The distortions concern pro-life issues and my vote this past session for the Medicaid Reform and Integrity Act (MRIA) that our Sidney Health Center asked me to support.
It’s disappointing to see politically motivated misrepresentations, but I’m glad to highlight my pro-life work, set the record straight, and help people be better able to identify fake news.
The fact is I have a pro-life voting record. I received a 100% rating from the pro-life Montana Family Foundation for my votes during the 2019 legislature and I co-sponsored the pro-life, “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that was passed by the Republican controlled legislature before being vetoed by Governor Bullock. My support of pro-life efforts is also focused locally, where for years I’ve been a supporter of Sidney’s life-affirming Sunrise Women’s Clinic, which provides pregnancy help resources.
The false accusation by extremists is that by voting for MRIA, also referred to by its federal program name as “Medicaid Expansion,” this expanded and supported taxpayer-funded abortions. The reality is that pregnant women are excluded from enrolling in the federal “Medicaid Expansion” program because they are covered separately by “traditional Medicaid”—that has been in place in Montana since 1967—if they meet certain income thresholds, long predating the 2015 enactment of the federal Medicaid Expansion program and 2019 reform act. Medicaid Expansion covers individuals who are 19 to 64 years of age who are not pregnant or disabled and who have incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.
The 2019 reform act (MRIA) that I voted for, added work requirements and a six-year sunset on the program, among many other key reforms, but did nothing to expand coverage to more pregnant women, and did not change rules to expand or support abortions.
Under the separate traditional Medicaid program that has long provided healthcare to the disabled, elderly poor, and pregnant women, “medically necessary” abortions do have to be paid for by the state of Montana, due to a 1994 Montana District Court decision. Furthermore, for the past 43 years the Hyde Amendment has prevented federal Medicaid dollars from being used on abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother.
All of these above actions far predated my vote on the 2019 Medicaid Reform Act and thus, MRIA did not impact Medicaid rules on access to abortion.
Election season means all citizens have to watch out for outrageous headlines, claiming to be “news” on social media and intended to influence our elections. Sadly there are people who operate in the shadows and care nothing for truth or accuracy in what they write, but will use well-meaning people sharing their misinformation to further their own personal political agenda. And if intentional misinformation campaigns win, the people of Richland County and Montana lose.
These are four ways to flag a potentially fake news story:
1. Consider the source – does it have a reputation for accuracy?
2. Is an author identified, putting personal credibility on the line to back up what they claim?
3. Does the headline sound outrageous?
4. Are there any other respected news sources reporting the same information?
Social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter allow users to easily report a story claiming to be “news” so that it may be fact-checked. Another way to stop fake news can be to politely let the person who shared the suspicious news story know your concerns.