Earlier this month, Rewire News Group President and Editor-in-Chief Galina Espinoza and Senior Editor, Law and Policy Imani Gandy joined the University of Pennsylvania’s Sophie Maddocks in a conversation about the future of reproductive justice under the Biden administration. What can the public discourse on sex discrimination and reproductive rights tell us about the health of democracy?

A brief transcript follows below. Watch the full conversation here.

Sophie Maddocks: I think it’s so alarming to hear about this complete misinformation/disinformation and that’s been propagated for so long. … What role has the mainstream media played in colluding with this and in polarizing the abortion debate? And how has this developed under the Trump administration as well?

Galina Espinoza: I’m so glad to hear you use the word polarizing because it gives me the opportunity to debunk one of my favorite myths, which is that abortion is a polarizing issue. It’s completely reasonable that most folks think that abortion is a polarizing issue based on the way that it is reported in the mainstream media.

But here are the facts. The facts are that 70 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal most or all of the time. I would challenge you to find any other issue in America right now that 70 precent of folks agree on. I mean, it’s a really clear majority, even when you start to look at people of faith, which is a conversation that’s come up a lot since the election of President Biden as a Catholic president. The Pew Research Center last year did a poll of Catholics and more than half of them also believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

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There’s a real disconnect between the reality of the way most Americans feel about abortion and what we do see reported and what has emerged as the prevailing narrative, which is that abortion is a divisive issue. It’s not a divisive issue.

Imani Gandy: When you talk about the polarizing nature of abortion, you’re usually talking about certain kinds of abortion. The anti-choicers love to focus on later abortion, which is about 1.2 percent of the abortions that people have. They like to focus on these later abortions, because it tugs at the heartstrings, the idea of a 28-week pregnant person deciding just willy-nilly that they “just don’t want to be pregnant anymore … just kidding I’m going to have an abortion,” which is not something that happens.

What I find really interesting is thinking about the ways in which questions regarding abortion are posed. When you are polling people about their feelings about abortion, the way you phrase the question can really change the outcome and can change the answer. For example, there are six-week bans, these “heartbeat bans.” Well, first of all, embryos don’t have heartbeats, they don’t have cardiovascular systems. So right out of the gate that’s a way that the media is sort of cementing this anti-choice narrative about heartbeat bans.

But besides that, if you were to ask a person, do you think that abortion should be permitted after a fetus has a heartbeat? People might say, well, no, because then they’re getting really close to [becoming] a person and that just seems icky. But if you explain to them that there is no cardiovascular system, that fetuses and embryos do not have heartbeats and then you say, well, what if I told you that banning abortion at six weeks means that most people won’t be able to get an abortion, because most people don’t know that they are pregnant at six weeks, so it’s basically a total abortion ban. You’re foreclosing that option for a lot of people. Well, the answer is going to change.

Watch the full conversation below. A transcript is available here.

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