In July 2022, the United States began to come to terms with the complicated and fragmented legal status of abortion in the states, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing federal constitutional protections for abortion.
In particular, a set of questions arose over whether and how some states might seek to prevent their residents from obtaining abortions in other states, and how other states might seek to provide legal protections for residents subject to much stricter anti-abortion laws.
Against that background, social media users enthusiastically shared a July 1 tweet that appeared to describe a relatively extreme approach to preventing women from traveling to obtain an abortion. The tweet read:
Mississippi legislators openly discuss using dogs at airports to sniff women leaving the state. The dogs can tell if a woman is pregnant.
In reality, that claim was inaccurate — the concoction of Chip Franklin, a left-wing humorist who frequently posts polemical and irony-laden political commentary.
Our rating therefore is “False.” Although Franklin describes himself on Twitter as a “comedian,” he told Snopes that his claim was not intended to be humorous.
His claim was very widely shared on on Twitter, with many users posting comments that clearly showed they took the tweet seriously, and expressed genuine outrage and bemusement at what they took to be a fact about Mississippi.
On Facebook, users posted screenshots of the claim, giving it an even wider audience.
Franklin told Snopes the intention behind his tweet wasn’t to be funny. Asked to provide sources, he outlined the following:
- He had read that dogs could detect the presence of prostate cancer, COVID-19, and pregnancy
- During a Twitter Spaces conversation about the extent to which anti-abortion state governments might go in order to stop women from getting an abortion, “I brought up the idea of pregnant [sic] sniffing dogs at airports”
- Two participants in that conversation said they had heard Dr. Troy Majure, a Mississippi veterinarian, mention in a podcast that dogs might be able to detect whether a woman was pregnant
- Franklin asked some unnamed women whether they had heard about plans to deploy pregnancy-detecting dogs at airports, to which the women reportedly replied “Anything is possible.”
This is extraordinarily thin evidence on which to base the viral claim that Mississippi state legislators were publicly discussing the use of dogs in airports to “sniff out” pregnant women, and prevent them from travelling outside of the state.
The key component of what Franklin sent to Snopes was the admission “I brought up the idea of pregnant [sic] sniffing dogs at airports.” By Franklin’s own admission, he could present evidence of only one person independently raising the possibility of pregnancy-sniffing airport dogs as an anti-abortion tactic — himself.
The other points he highlighted are not relevant to the question of whether airport dogs were being publicly discussed as a tactic by Mississippi state legislators, Republican officials, anti-abortion activists, or indeed anyone, other than Franklin himself.
In sum, we found no evidence whatsoever of any state lawmaker in Mississippi engaging in any such discussion, and in any event, neither the state senate nor the state house have convened since the beginning of April.
Cohen, David, et al. “The New Abortion Battleground.” Columbia Law Review, vol. 122, Jan. 2022, https://scholarship.law.pitt.edu/fac_articles/517.
“Live Fact-Checking Updates: US Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/news/2022/06/24/dobbs-supreme-court-roe-wade/. Accessed 6 July 2022.
“Where Is Abortion Legal or Banned? A State-by-State Guide After Roe v. Wade Reversal.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/news/2022/07/06/us-abortion-law-state-by-state__trashed/. Accessed 6 July 2022.