CBS Sees 'Conservatives' Wanting to Restrict Abortion, But No 'Liberal' Label for Pro-Choice Advocates
Published: 1/31/2011 9:01 AM ET
Catching up on an item from last Thursday's CBS Evening News, after recounting for the second time the case of Philadelphia abortion Dr. Kermit Gosnell's horrific practice, anchor Katie Couric introduced a piece devoted to upcoming political fights over abortion. During the report, opponents of abortion were twice labeled as "conservatives," while the word "liberals" was never used to refer to advocates of abortion rights. The report also finally mentioned - briefly - the March for Life pro-life rally from earlier in the week in the nation's capital.
As the report reiterated the case of Dr. Gosnell, the argument on both sides of the debate was presented as to which side is bolstered by his callous activities. Couric: "Criminal abuse like this is extremely rare, but it's not stopping both sides in the abortion debate from using the case to re-energize supporters."
After correspondent Elaine Quijano made the case on both sides, ideological labels soon came. Correspondent Nancy Cordes: "Republicans are now back in power in the House at least, after a walk in the desert, and they have certain constituencies that they need to satisfy. One of those constituencies is the conservative right wing of the party for whom abortion is a very important issue all the time."
After a soundbite of Susan Muskett of the National Right to Life Committee, Couric added: "Conservatives first went on the offensive during debate over health care reform when they tried to keep any money from expanded insurance coverage from being used to pay for abortions. Opponents said existing law, in the form of the Hyde amendment, already prohibited that, but that's not keeping abortion foes from trying again."
Notably, New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith - a leading pro-life advocate in the House who was briefly seen and mentioned in the report - has a lifetime rating of only 60 percent from the American Conservative Union, which hardly makes him a solid conservative.
The piece, which included soundbites from several CBS News personalities, at one point included Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson undermining the House vote designed to block ObamaCare from funding abortion as she related: "When Speaker John Boehner and Congressman Smith introduced HR 3 last week, the reaction from everyone on Capitol Hill was: But this was supposed to be a jobs agenda, right?"
Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Thursday, January 27, CBS Evening News :
KATIE COURIC: It's been 38 years since Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion in America legal. This week, hundreds of thousands of abortion rights opponents marked the anniversary with a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are pushing for new limits on abortion. A similar movement has already gained support in a lot of state capitals. Tonight, we put the shifting battle over abortion "In Focus."-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center
ELAINE QUIJANO: Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a west Philadelphia doctor who was never trained as an OB-GYN, but, in fact, prosecutors say he carried out illegal late-term abortions.
COURIC: And did so for the last 20 years. Gosnell has been charged with killing seven babies after they were born alive, and for the murder of one woman. Remains from the procedures were in trash bags around his clinic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were fetal remains in the same exact refrigerator that the employees had their lunch in that day.
COURIC: Criminal abuse like this is extremely rare, but it's not stopping both sides in the abortion debate from using the case to re-energize supporters.
QUIJANO: On the one hand, you have abortion rights advocates who say if you clamp down on abortion rights even further you're going to have more doctors preying upon women because they won't have any other options out there. On the other side of the debate, you have anti-abortion advocates who say, look, this is precisely why we need to limit abortions, to prevent people like Dr. Gosnell from operating.
COURIC: The issue of abortion has taken a back seat in recent years, but aggressive state action to limit abortion and new leadership in Congress, like House Speaker John Boehner, have pushed abortion back into the public debate.
JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE SPEAKER: A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land. It's one of our highest legislative priorities, and, as such, I've directed that it receive the designation of HR 3.
NANCY CORDES: Republicans are now back in power in the House at least, after a walk in the desert, and they have certain constituencies that they need to satisfy. One of those constituencies is the conservative right wing of the party for whom abortion is a very important issue all the time.
SUSAN MUSKETT, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE: Now with the new Congress, we are no longer playing defense as you were in the last two years. We can now play offense.
COURIC: Conservatives first went on the offensive during debate over health care reform when they tried to keep any money from expanded insurance coverage from being used to pay for abortions. Opponents said existing law, in the form of the Hyde amendment, already prohibited that, but that's not keeping abortion foes from trying again.
JILL JACKSON, CBS NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: When Speaker John Boehner and Congressman Smith introduced HR 3 last week, the reaction from everyone on Capitol Hill was: But this was supposed to be a jobs agenda, right?
COURIC: Although 40 percent of Americans favor limits on abortion, fewer than one percent consider the issue a priority. The abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped since 1980 from nearly 30 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, to less than 20. Anti-abortion activists view House Resolution 3 as a chance for victory on a national stage in a battle that's clearly escalated beyond Washington since the November elections.
JEFF GREENFIELD: I think if you're looking at abortion as a political issue, the real action is going to be at the state level. In state after state, Democratic governors were replaced by Republican governors - many, if not most of them, favoring far more restrictions on abortions.
COURIC: Twenty-nine states are now led by governors or legislatures solidly opposed to Roe V. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protected the right to an abortion.
GREENFIELD: I think you're going to see much more energy on the part of those who oppose abortions or favor more restrictions.
COURIC: Last year, 16 states enacted new restrictions on abortion. Nebraska is joining other states that ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And Oklahoma wants to require doctors to show a woman the ultrasound of her fetus prior to an abortion.
NANCY KEENAN, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: As more and more of these states enact laws that basically prohibit women from accessing abortion care, you are seeing, in essence, that that care is not available to them, and so oftentimes they have to go to another state.
JAN CRAWFORD: The Supreme Court has made very clear that it is not going to overturn Roe versus Wade, so what that means is you're seeing efforts in the states to kind of just push the envelope to see how far they can take it, short of restricting abortion outright.
COURIC: But in Congress, Republican leaders say they have no plans to go further than HR 3, at least for now.
JACKSON: A congressional aide told me that it doesn't matter if the Senate passes what the House passes. The Republicans go on the record showing the American people what they stand for.
CORDES: Here's how sensitive this issue is on Capitol Hill: Randy Neugebauer, a Republican from Texas, was so angry last year that another anti-abortion rights member had made a small compromise with the White House over abortion rights in the health care bill that he actually shouted the words "baby killer."
REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R-TX): Baby killer!
CORDES: This was a huge breach of decorum.
REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI): Those who are shouting out are out of order.
CORDES: And it just shows how tempers flare when it comes to abortion. It's really one of those third rails of politics.
COURIC: The House will debate House Resolution 3 in the weeks ahead. If it passes, Democrats in the Senate are expected to try to table the legislation indefinitely.