Friday, February 12, 2016

Dustin Siggins: "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Did an abortion defunding bill try ‘to redefine rape’?"

Dustin Siggins continues to establish himself as one of the finest critics of the disastrously inept fact-checking outfit "PolitiFact."

Siggins' latest takedown of PolitiFact's hapless liberal bloggers looks at PolitiFact's fact check of the liberal interest group Emily's List, which claimed a Republican legislator had tried to redefine rape.

Newfangled PolitiFact Colorado looked at whether Emily's List was right that another Colorado Republican,  Mike Coffman, voted to redefine rape and found the Emily's List claim "Mostly True":
Emily’s List said that Coffman "co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape." The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt "forcible rape." Yet he later voted on the floor for an amended version that had removed the "forcible" modifier from the bill.
How did it come to pass that it's "Mostly True" that redefining a ban on federal funding for abortions redefines rape?

Siggins, writing for LifeSiteNews, placed some focus on that inconsistency:
[PolitiFact Colorado] wrote, "Critics said the 'forcible rape' language could rule out other forms of sexual assault that are considered rape, including statutory rape, attacks where women are drugged or threatened, and date rapes."

Likewise, he quoted Coffman's Democratic opponent, Morgan Carroll, who said, "Rape is about the lack of consent – not the degree of force – and this definition takes us backwards."

However, which "definition" of rape are we talking about? Generally speaking, there are at least two broad definitions of rape – sexual intercourse between two people when one party is unwilling and sexual intercourse between a legal adult and a legal minor (which can be consensual).
Siggins went on to express doubt that having sex with an incapacitated person fails to count as a forcible rape.

We found support for Siggins' skepticism at Justia.com:
Forcible Rape—Rape by Force

Definition: The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.

[...]

"Against her will" includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of her youth). The ability of the victim to give consent must be a professional determination by the law enforcement agency. The age of the victim, of course, plays a critical role in this determination. Individuals do not mature mentally at the same rate. For example, no 4-year-old is capable of consenting, whereas victims aged 10 or 12 may need to be assessed within the specific circumstances regarding the giving of their consent.
Put simply, the legal definition of "forcible rape" in effect during 2011, when Coffman's bill was debated, included lack of consent.

PolitiFact Colorado cited unnamed "critics" who argued otherwise:
Critics said the "forcible rape" language could rule out other forms of sexual assault that are considered rape, including statutory rape, attacks where women are drugged or threatened, and date rapes.
Does it matter to PolitiFact Colorado whether the "critics" were right? Is it okay to simply assume the anonymous critics raised a plausible and likely problem with the proposed law?
  • PolitiFact Colorado neglects to define "forcible rape"
  • PolitiFact Colorado offers no evidence it looked into the definition of "forcible rape"
  • PolitiFact Colorado cited anonymous "critics" as a key part of its analysis
We think at minimum a neutral fact-checker would take a more detailed look than PolitiFact Colorado did at the definition of "forcible rape."


Afters

We contacted the author and the editor of the PolitiFact Colorado fact check about problems we noted above. We will update this article if we receive any reply.


Correction Feb. 12, 2016: Corrected one instance in which the word "abortion" was mistakenly substituted for "rape".

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