Creators of online misinformation or disinformation (yes, there’s a difference) thrive during big breaking news events because people are oftentimes emotional and seeking resources that justify those strong feelings.
When you combine that very human reaction with the psychological pattern of people seeking information that justifies their existing beliefs (creating what’s called an “echo chamber”), volatile or sensational posts often fill many online spaces during major events. And, importantly, those posts have varying degrees of truth and credibility.
We saw that pattern repeat itself after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in summer 2022. Armed with an archive of numerous fact checks about abortion and Roe from over the years, the Snopes’ newsroom started tracking potentially harmful and widely shared rumors related to the ruling — all within minutes of the court publishing the decision on its website the morning of June 24.
For days, that fact-checking effort continued. Below is a sampling of such rumors in the form of TikTok videos, alleged text messages, tweets, Reddit posts, and quote images, as well as what we know about them:
- Firstly, the rumor that someone mailed their uterus to the Supreme Court is unfounded. You read that right: We’re talking about the organ. We found no evidence of someone actually mailing a uterus to the Supreme Court as an act of protest, despite a number of widely shared TikTok videos that claimed otherwise.
- This text supposedly written by a hospital nurse in a state with trigger laws spread like wildfire. A University of California professor in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences told us that he doesn’t “have any reason to believe these stories that are circulating [like the one in the text] aren’t true.”
- This is a real video of a U.S. Representative next to Trump saying that the ruling was a “historic win for white life.” The office of Congresswoman Mary Miller, a Republican from Illinois, was quick to state that she had misspoke and meant to say the decision was a win for the “right to life.”
- A 1915 poster titled “Why We Oppose Votes for Men” is satire. It was posted on Reddit the day the court overturned Roe, listing reasons such as “because man’s place is in the army” and “because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.”
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders indeed made this promise about kids’ safety. A viral tweet showed the Arkansas Republican gubernatorial candidate comparing the presumed safety of fetuses to kids in classrooms — and the tweet is authentic. Sanders made the comment shortly after the deadly massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and she secured the Republican nomination.
- TikTok is drawing attention to a fictional “amendment” to Kentucky law about monthly “pregnancy checks.” After the state’s governor signed an anti-abortion law in 2019, a Democratic representative introduced the “proposal” as a form of satirical protest. “[I] never intended it to become law,” she said on Twitter. “(although I worry we’re getting closer to that reality).”
- No, Thomas Jefferson didn’t say this about religious institutions, government, and civil rights. Since at least 2011, various memes and posts have attributed the quote to him. But, in reality, it originated with author Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.
- But comedian George Carlin really did make this remark about human rights. This quote by him started circulating after the Supreme Court’s decision: “Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country is a bill of temporary privileges.”
— Reporters across the Snopes newsroom contributed to this report.