With Donald Trump's abortion comments to MSNBC's Chris Matthews being the week's top news story, it was a central theme of the Sunday talk shows as two hosts took different approaches with ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos choosing to take a page from Matthews in setting a pro-abortion trap for Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich.
As Stephanopoulos unsuccessfully attempted to have Kasich pull a Trump by arguing women and doctors should be criminally charged for abortions, NBC's Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd questioned Hillary Clinton about if/when an unborn child has constitutional rights.
Todd's fair questioning of Clinton was reminiscent of two weeks ago when he hit Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on judicial appointments with both being in the manner that the show's late moderator Tim Russert consistently would do.
Todd told Clinton that she's been "pretty tough on Donald Trump" but he was curious if she could give a "your straightforward position on the issue of abortion."
Not surprisingly, the pro-abortion Clinton proclaimed that "women have a constitutional right to make these most intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor." She ran into a hardball when Todd fired this follow-up: "When, or if, does an unborn child have constitutional rights?"
Clinton instantly took the bait and responded with little hesitation that such rights do not exist and "[t]he unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights" before going into the abortion playbook to deceptively emphasize that the procedure almost exclusively has to do with protecting the life of the mother.
When Todd wondered if it would be "fair" for her "to say that women don't always have a full right to choose," Clinton brushed it off in touting Roe v. Wade as "the law" and her devout support for the case's outcome and defended third trimester abortions by again playing up the life and health of the mother.
Before Todd moved the interview along, Clinton compared the pro-life movement's policies to conditions in authoritarian countries:
I have seen what happens when governments make these decisions, whether it was forced sterilization, forced abortion in China, or force childbearing in communist Romania, so I don't think that we should be allowing the government to make decisions that really properly belong to the individual.
Shifting gears to ABC, former Clinton administration official Stephanopoulos used his interview with Kasich to lay out a series of landmines for the pro-life Governor in a similar way that Matthews did for Trump. Kasich initially opined that he hopes Roe v. Wade is overturned, Stephanopoulos pushed back: "But you said there are legitimate and constitutional restrictions that could be put on abortion. What are they?"
Kasich responded by again laying out his position in what he hoped was the last question about it:
I am opposed to abortion in except the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. I hope Roe v. Wade will be repealed and --- and then it'll be turned to the states and the states will have to figure out exactly what the restrictions ought to be, period, end of story.
Nonetheless, Stephanopoulos continued pestering by invoking whether or not women should be punished criminally since pro-lifers "believe that abortion is taking of an innocent life."
Kasich emphatically stated that it will "be up to the states to figure out what they want to do and, you know, obviously, when we've seen these comments that have come out earlier this week, it's the first time I've seen the pro-life and the pro-choice people come together to say, you know, that we'll have to basically work this out."
Blowing through the stop sign, Stephanopoulos proved not to be a fair arbiter and asked it twice more (with Kasich affirming that he wouldn't because "it's difficult on her to begin with") before he spent two of the final three questions of this portion baiting Kasich into pushing for abortion doctors to be punished under an abortion ban.
The relevant portion of the transcript from NBC's Meet the Press on April 3 can be found below.
NBC's Meet the Press
April 3, 2016
10:36 a.m. Eastern
CHUCK TODD: You know, also this week you were pretty tough on Donald Trump on one of his positions on abortion. He had five different positions that we've counted up this week on abortion. I want to ask you, what is yours? Give me your straightforward position on the issue of abortion.
CLINTON: My position is in line with Roe v. Wade, that women have a constitutional right to make these most intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor and that it is something that really goes to the core of privacy and I want to maintain that constitutional protection under Roe v. Wade. As you know, there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions. After a certain point in time, I think the life, the health of the mother are clear and those should be included even as one moves on in pregnancy ---
TODD: When or if ---
CLINTON: --- so I've had the same position for many years.
TODD: When, or if, does an unborn child have constitutional rights?
CLINTON: Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists. The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support. It doesn't mean that you don't do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations, but it does not include sacrificing the woman's right to make decisions and I think that's an important distinction, that under Roe v. Wade we've had enshrined under our Constitution.
TODD: You had said you think there is room for some restrictions, so is it fair to say that women don't always have a full right to choose
CLINTON: Well, under Roe v. Wade that is the law And as I said, I support the reasoning and the outcome in Roe v. Wade. So in the third trimester of pregnancy, there is room for looking at the life and the health of the mother. Now, most people, not all Republicans, not all conservatives even agree with the life of the mother, but most do. Where the distinction comes in is the health of the mother and when you have candidates running for president who say that there should be no exceptions, not for rape, not for incest, not for health, then I think you've gotten pretty extreme and my view has always been this is a choice. It is not a mandate. You know, I have traveled all over the world. I have seen what happens when governments make these decisions, whether it was forced sterilization, forced abortion in China, or force childbearing in communist Romania, so I don't think that we should be allowing the government to make decisions that really properly belong to the individual.
The relevant portion of the transcript from ABC's This Week on April 3 can be found below.
ABC's This Week
April 3, 2016
10:07 a.m. Eastern
REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (Ohio): Well, George, I hope they --- they do repeal Roe v. Wade and then, you know, it will be up to the states to decide how --- how they want to proceed. It'll be up to them to figure out what they want to do and that's precisely what we would do.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said there are legitimate and constitutional restrictions that could be put on abortion. What are they?
KASICH: Well, George, I don't --- you know, when you say constitutional restrictions or whatever ---
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are your words.
KASICH: --- the only thing I would tell you is I've been --- yeah, well, I don't --- I don't know when I said it or why I said that in particular. It's probably out of context, but, look, I am opposed to abortion in except the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. I hope Roe v. Wade will be repealed and --- and then it'll be turned to the states and the states will have to figure out exactly what the restrictions ought to be, period, end of story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So but if --- if you believe that abortion is taking of an innocent life, how would you enforce a ban on that activity?
KASICH: Well, that'll be up to the states to figure out what they want to do and, you know, obviously, when we've seen these comments that have come out earlier this week, it's the first time I've seen the pro-life and the pro-choice people come together to say, you know, that we'll have to basically work this out and trying to punish a woman would not be the appropriate way to behave and I think it's going to take people, in a reasonable way, working through it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why isn't it appropriate? If you believe that abortion is the taking of innocent life, why shouldn't a woman who makes the choice to take that life face some kind of punishment or sanctions?
KASICH: Because I think it's difficult on her to begin with, that's the way I feel about it, George and that's the end of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it follows that it is a woman is making the choice to take a life?
KASICH: Look, I've said what I have to say about the subject, George. You know how I have behaved both as a legislator and as a governor, and I would like to have those exceptions. I would like to leave it to those exceptions and it'll be up to the states to decide how they want to handle this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe doctors who perform abortions should be punished?
KASICH: We're going to leave this up to the states to work this out the way they want to, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're not going to take any position on doctors facing punishment?
KASICH: Right now --- let me just put to you, this way I'm not. Today I'm not. I've just told you how I feel about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if you're still governor of Ohio, what would you seek to do,
KASICH: Work with the legislature to figure out is a good consensus to do. In Ohio, we have made sure that we have transfer agreements. These are things that we've done and I've been very careful about making sure that we don't pass something that's going to cause a constitutional conflict, which is I think what you were referring to so that the restrictions that we put in place are going to be fine and I think we've behaved there and conducted ourselves appropriately.