Catching up on an item from last weekend, Friday’s World News on ABC, Saturday’s Good Morning America on ABC, Saturday’s CBS Evening News, and Saturday’s NBC Nightly News all highlighted California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s defense of partial birth abortion as a procedure she had herself gone through as she berated New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith for describing the horrific nature of the procedure during a debate over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The sympathetic treatment of Speier's outrage over having to hear the technique's description contrasts with media eagerness to describe rough interrogation techniques used on detainees in the War on Terrorism during the Bush administration.
These same shows devoted little to no time to showing Smith’s description of the controversial abortion technique or his reading from the book, Unplanned, by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who famously turned against abortion after observing the ultrasound of an abortion as it was carried out. Rep. Smith had given a speech on the House floor that was over eight minutes long.
Ironically, it was about a year ago that Canada’s National Post ran an article which argued that countries like Ireland and Poland where abortion is generally illegal have lower rates of maternal and infant mortality, premature birth and cerebral palsy than other countries where abortion is generally legal, suggesting that having an abortion increases the chances of health problems later on.
ABC’s Good Morning America and the same network’s World News each devoted an entire report to Rep. Speier’s attack on Rep. Smith, with World News even leading its show with the story on Friday. On Saturday’s Good Morning America, substantially more time was given to soundbites of Speier, one of which featured her complaining that abortion opponents had spoken with "venom and vitriol."
On Friday’s World News, correspondent Jonathan Karl did at least use a soundbite of Smith describing some of the grisly details of partial birth abortion, but, on GMA, correspondent John Hendren only vaguely relayed to viewers that "Congressman Chris Smith went on to describe, in graphic detail, a type of abortion done in the second trimester."
On World News, Karl also recounted the recent sting that caught Planned Parenthood employees advising what they were led to believe were a pimp and underage prostitute.
An opposing point of view on abortion not shown by the networks was recounted last year in the February 5, 2010, article, "Lessons on ‘reproductive health’ from Europe," in which the National Post’s Ian Gentles wrote:
Poland, for example, banned abortion 20 years ago. Despite being a poor country, it has since succeeded in greatly improving the health of both its women and children. Maternal mortality has plunged by more than 40 per cent, infant mortality by 25 per cent, and the extreme preterm (meaning under 28 weeks gestation) birth rate has dropped by over 20 per cent. A woman who has one or more induced abortions significantly increases her risk of later giving birth to a preterm baby. Preterm babies have an increased likelihood of being born with cerebral palsy.
He soon continued:
It is interesting that the only other European country where abortion is illegal, Ireland, also boasts very low maternal mortality. Poland and Ireland both enjoy lower maternal mortality than the world's richest country, the U.S., where abortion is completely legal. By contrast, Poland's neighbours, Russia and Hungary, where abortion is also legal, have among the highest maternal mortality in the world. Reliable information from Third World countries on this subject is hard to come by. However, recent evidence from El Salvador shows that since that country banned abortion in the 1990s there has been a sharp drop in maternal mortality.
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of Friday's World News on ABC, Saturday's Good Morning America on ABC, Saturday's CBS Evening News, and Saturday's NBC Nightly News:
#From the Friday, February 18, World News on ABC:
DAVID MUIR: Good evening. We begin with a dramatic and unexpected moment on Capitol Hill. And as far as we could tell today, something that’s never happened in Congress before. It unfolded overnight while most of us were asleep. But for lawmakers in that House chamber, there was stunned silence. It came during the funding fight over Planned Parenthood. A Congresswoman surprising her colleagues and herself when she revealed something deeply personal. Tonight here, the debate that followed and the vote late today. Here’s Jon Karl.
JONATHAN KARL: The House was debating funding for Planned Parenthood when Congresswoman Jackie Speier rose to speak.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): You know, I had really planned to speak about something else, but the gentleman from New Jersey has just put my stomach in knots because I’m one of those women he spoke about just now.
KARL: She was responding to Republican Chris Smith, who had just graphically described a type of abortion done during the second trimester.
REP. CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): The doctor goes in with forceps, and this device, and literally hacks that baby to death. Planned Parenthood itself says it takes 10 to 20 minutes to literally dismember that child.
SPEIER: The procedure that you just talked about was a procedure that I endured. I lost a baby, but for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.
KARL: As she finished, the chamber was in stunned silence. Then-
SPEIER: I yield back.
KARL: Applause. For the new Republican Congress, Planned Parenthood is a prime target. Especially after recent videos released by an anti-abortion rights group, including one showing a Planned Parenthood employee answering questions by someone requesting information for a 14-year-old prostitute.
UNIDENTIFIED PLANNED PARENTHOOD EMPLOYEE: If they’re 14 and under, just send them right there if they need an abortion. Okay?
KARL: Planned Parenthood does get more than $300 million a year in taxpayer money for things like family planning, cancer screening, and other reproductive health programs. But under long-standing federal law, none of it can be used for abortion. Republicans want the group completely cut off.
ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Why on earth are we giving $363 million in taxpayer funds every year to Planned Parenthood?
KARL: After telling her story, Speier responded to what she called a vendetta against Planned Parenthood.
SPEIER: Planned Parenthood has a right to provide services for family planning. Planned Parenthood has a right to offer abortions. Last time I checked, abortions were legal in this country. Now, you may not like Planned Parenthood. So be it.
KARL: Speier’s emotional speech did not affect the outcome. The measure cutting off all funds for Planned Parenthood did pass the House. The battle now goes to the Senate, which is far less likely to go along with that. As for Speier herself, she told us just a few moments ago that not only did she not intend to talk about it at the time but before that speech she had only told a handful of people in her life about what had happened to her.
MUIR: A rare and perhaps unprecedented moment on Capitol Hill. Jon Karl starting us off tonight. Jon, thank you.
#From the Saturday, February 19, Good Morning America on ABC:
DAN HARRIS: Let’s go back now to Capitol Hill, where the fight over the budget in the House took a surprising and very personal turn when a Congresswoman made an emotional revelation, opening up about her own abortion procedure. John Hendry, John Hendren, rather, has that story from Washington. John, good morning to you.
JOHN HENDREN: Good morning to you, Dan. This was the kind of pained, personal story you don’t hear on Capitol Hill. Jackie Speier says she never meant to tell it. When she was done, members of Congress were in tears. It was one of those abortion debates that changes few minds. House Republicans wanted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): So it is not healthy for children, and we know for a fact it is not healthy for women, either.
HENDREN: Congressman Chris Smith went on to describe, in graphic detail, a type of abortion done in the second trimester. That is when something truly unusual happened on the House floor.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I’m one of those women he spoke about just now.
HENDREN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier rose and told her own story, about the time a doctor said her baby had fallen from the uterus and could not survive. It had to be removed.
SPEIER: I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly, or done without any thought, is preposterous.
HENDREN: When she finished, there was a hushed silence.
SPEIER: I yield back.
HENDREN: Then, applause.
SPEIER: As I looked at all the gentlemen sitting and standing there, how dare they speak with the venom and vitriol about something that is so painful, so personal.
HENDREN: Pregnancy is a painful topic for Speier. She has two children, but between them a miscarriage, and then after another pregnancy, that fateful procedure, so she adopted. The birth mother took the child back. When she was finally pregnant again with her daughter, three months in, Speier’s husband was killed in a car accident. How many people had you ever talked to about this in your life?
SPEIER: A handful.
HENDREN: That speech on the House floor was the first time her children heard the full story.
Speier didn’t win that debate. The House voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, in a vote that’s likely to be overturned in the Senate or vetoed by the President, but for her that speech was a defining moment. Bianna.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA: That is true, indeed, to make the decision to come out, John. We appreciate that.
#From the Saturday, February 19, CBS Evening News :
BILL PLANTE: House Republicans voted, among other things, to deny the money required to carry out the provisions of the new health care law, to defund or roll back regulations for environmental enforcement, and to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the subject of an emotional exchange. New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, arguing against the funding, quoted from the description of a procedure he called "extermination."
REP. CHRIS SMITH And then the little body crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my very eyes.
PLANTE: Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, responded with an angry revelation.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I’m one of those women he spoke about just now.
PLANTE: Speiers said that she had the same procedure, and not by choice.
SPEIER: I lost a baby, but for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.
#From the Saturday, February 19, NBC Nightly News :
MIKE VIQUEIRA: The bill also blocks funding for the President’s signature effort, the health care bill he signed into law last spring. And it would zero out support for Planned Parenthood. That proposal led to the week’s most startling exchange. On the House floor, abortion opponent Chris Smith read a graphic account of the procedure-
REP. CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): A doctor goes in with forceps-
VIQUEIRA: -leading Democrat Jackie Speier to throw out the speech she planned to give-
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I had a procedure at 17 weeks.
VIQUEIRA: -and tell her own story.
SPEIER: I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.