In March 2017, claims appeared that former House Speaker Paul Ryan said women using birth control was akin to committing murder first appeared, racing around the internet at its usual pace.
The story appeared at the now-defunct hoax and satire site USPOLN, under the headline, “Paul Ryan: ‘If There Was A Legitimate Way To Have Intercourse And Not Get Pregnant, God Would Have Included It In His Holy Books.'” The report began:
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Sunday refused to say if some women would lose access to birth control benefits after Republicans repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. The Wisconsin Republican promised during an interview on CNN that the repeal of Obamacare would lower the costs of health care by providing “vouchers” to poor Americans. CNN host Jake Tapper noted that many women were paying nothing for birth control thanks to an Affordable Care Act mandate. “Is that going to end?” he wondered. “Look, I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty details of these things,” Ryan replied curly.
“I’m not a preacher, nor am I a holy man, but the fact to the matter is that Obamacare is bad for our economy, it’s bad for Americans, both poor ones and ones who aren’t, overall, it’s a bad program and a bad piece of legislation and that’s why it’s gotta go,” Ryan argued stubbornly, all the while ignoring the question. “And if our biology allowed for a safe way to have intercourse, if we were meant to have intercourse completely naturally and not get pregnant because of it, then God would have included something about it in one of his Holy Books. Now, I haven’t found anything on the subject – and not for lack of looking, Jake – have you, perhaps?”
The story circulated quickly, and many who commented didn’t take time to read the disclaimer on USPOLN’s “contact” page that reads:
USPOLN is a US Political News and hybrid News/Satire platform on the web.”
The report followed Paul Ryan’s release of House Republicans’ proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Act. The failed bill would have defunded Planned Parenthood, which uses federal funds to administer a variety of women’s health services, including birth control and cervical health screenings (no federal funds can be used to support abortions via the Hyde Amendment.) The Republican bill would also have prevented low-income women who are on Medicaid from receiving healthcare from Planned Parenthood — including birth control.
The “hybrid” USPOLN story blended factual news reports that some women would lose access to birth control under the American Health Care Act — and satirized it by reporting that Paul Ryan compared birth control to murder. Excerpts of the story were decoupled from their original publication and embedded in other stories and displayed on sites that did not offer a visible (or any) disclaimer. However, the story is not true.