On his MSNBC show The Daily Rundown, Chuck Todd interviewed Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, a narrowly tailored PAC for female pro-abortion Democrats. Todd began with a typical tutorial on how Democrats are substantially ahead of Republicans in the polls among women in some midterm elections.
But after asking if the Hobby Lobby decision was energizing her supporters and opening a "gender gap," Todd took an interesting turn away from the usual MSNBC pattern on abortion advocates (see Andrea Mitchell helping advertise with Cecile Richards for the norm.) He asked Schriock if she was encouraging the candidates they endorsed in the South to de-emphasize abortion:
TODD: There was a report this morning, and I've seen some evidence of it myself watching on the campaign trail, it seems as if the abortion issue isn't a campaign issue for many of your candidates, particularly in some of these southern states where abortion is perhaps abortion rights is a little more on the pro-life side than the pro-choice side, particularly West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky. Are you encouraging your candidates to talk more about contraception than on the issue of abortion rights itself?
SCHRIOCK: We always encourage our candidates to talk about the issues that really are the center of the interests of women voters. That is economic opportunity and access to health care. Our Democratic women candidates and Democrats in general are standing on the side of women. You're seeing that in the growing gender gap.
Translation: Yes, you can skip the talk of abortion. Just vote for it when you win. Schriock added the Republicans are so “extreme that we can talk about issues that really, really matter to women. Equal pay, minimum wage, access to health care.” Todd kept at it.
TODD: And I notice you don't say abortion rights in there. Do you feel like -- do you feel like it's faded as an issue that you're talking about? Or that it's just politically too divisive and potentially gets in the way of talking about the other issues that you want to talk about?
SCHRIOCK: Folks know that our candidates are going to back up women on these issues. They absolutely are. But we see this in polling over and over again. The Republicans would love to talk about these social issues, but what's driving this election and this gender gap are economic issues. And things like access to birth control, which is -- which is, by the way, an economic issue for women and families in this country.
Then Todd pressed Schriock about bans on abortion at 20 weeks. Schriock tried to insist Emily’s List doesn’t really have a “legislative agenda,” which certainly does not mean they don’t have an opinion. For example on their website, they praise California legislator Julia Brownley: “When it comes to protecting women’s health and reproductive choice Julia has already proven her mettle, voting against a draconian bill criminalizing abortions performed after 20 weeks.”
TODD: There's been some push about banning abortion after 20 weeks. That this has been some of the latest attempts by some conservatives in various states. Support for bans on abortion after 20 weeks has actually got majority approval. Do you guys have a legislative campaign about that? What do you say to folks that say, ‘well, that sounds reasonable enough.’ Legal for the first 20 weeks, ban it after 20 weeks?
SCHRIOCK: Well, Emily's List focus is solely electoral. We are about electing pro-choice Democratic women who are going to lead the way on a whole series of issues and we actually do not have a legislative agenda, we don't lobby as Emily's List. What we're seeing in the country though right now is disturbing. Legislature after legislature are really rolling back access to reproductive health care in extreme ways.
TODD: So you would encourage your candidates to be against anything that banned after 20 weeks?
SCHRIOCK: Well, I think what we would really be talking about is what is providing women choices at this moment? We've got states right now where there are no clinics left. I mean, so we have a much larger problem here with some of the movement that the Republicans have made. I mean some states have talked six weeks, some states have talked 12 weeks. I mean this is a really dangerous time for us because women need full choices for economic opportunity.
Todd wasn't so tough that he specifically mentioned it was a Democrat-led legislature in West Virginia that passed a 20-week bill.
PS: MSNBC briefly showed a visual of Beth Reinhard’s July 13 report for The Wall Street Journal on the Emily’s List endorsees staying quiet on abortion:
None of Emily's List's statewide candidates in Southern states refer to abortion in their TV ads or in the issues section of their websites, including Wendy Davis, the Texas lawmaker whose filibuster of antiabortion legislation catapulted her into a gubernatorial campaign.
"These Democrats are using these issues to fill their campaign coffers…then remain fairly quiet on the very issues Emily's List stands for back home," said Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Emily's List said it has raised and spent $9.4 million this election cycle, $4.3 million of which has gone to seven women in Southern states: the four Senate candidates, Ms. Davis and two House candidates, Gwen Graham in northern Florida and Alma Adams of North Carolina.
Emily's List endorses only candidates who support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing most abortions. Whether they publicly discuss the issue is another matter.