SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah doctor is suing conservative news outlets, arguing they amplified false claims she has performed illegal abortions.
The 2018 online coverage cost abortion provider Leah Torres her job and incited death threats against her, she alleges in the defamation suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
Attorneys for Torres argue she "endured a massive campaign of mob harassment" last year that forced her to leave Utah to find work.
The federal lawsuit names the Daily Caller, plus the Western Journal and its parent company, Liftable Media. It alleges the companies "published the false and malicious lie that Dr. Torres had admitted to cutting babies' throats or vocal cords" in March 2018.
Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel said Friday that "when the doctor ambiguously referred to 'cutting the cord,'" many on Twitter took it to mean the vocal cord.
"Our reporter reported accurately in his piece what Ben Shapiro and others on Twitter were saying," Patel said in a statement. "The doctor then tweeted again well after our publication that she was referring to cutting an umbilical cord and not a vocal cord. Upon learning of this clarification from the doctor, to be as fair as possible, we have now updated the piece in question to include the doctor’s contention."
The reports followed Twitter interactions between Torres and an abortion opponent who asked, "Do you hear their screams?" The doctor reported fetuses are not able to scream and mentioned cutting a cord as part of an abortion procedure. She later clarified on March 14 she was speaking about the umbilical cord, her attorneys noted, but several Twitter users alleged she had been referring to the vocal cord.
A Daily Caller article the same day reported she had tweeted about "cutting the throats of fetuses so they can't scream," the suit alleges. Her foes posted fake online patient reviews and she received death threats that she then reported to the FBI, according to her attorneys.
Torres has suffered emotional distress and fears for the safety of her family and friends, the 21-page civil complaint says. She seeks damages be determined at trial.
Torres has testified in the past against a Utah law that requires doctors to tell women that drug-induced abortions can be halted, saying science does not support the move. She has also publicly stated that a 2016 Utah law requiring fetal anesthesia or painkillers for elective abortions after 20 weeks lacks guidance on how doctors should give the treatment.