CBS Gives Late-Term Abortion Doctor Softball Forum to Justify His 'Cause'

Friday’s CBS Evening News devoted a full story, filed by correspondent Jim Axelrod, to late-term abortion Doctor LeRoy Carhart – who stepped in to succeed Dr. George Tiller, known for performing many partial birth abortions, after his murder last spring – during which Carhart was given several soundbites to justify his work. At one point gushing that "Until I can find someone else to care for women, they still need somebody to care for them," he later asserted: "I totally believe in this cause every bit as much as I did believe every morning when I got up in the military that I was doing the right thing. And if dying for this cause is what I have to do, then that`s what I will do."

But CBS’s Axelrod never used the term "partial birth abortion," or described the horrific procedure involved in some abortions. And, after anchor Katie Couric described Carhart’s work as "controversial" as she introduced the report, she also conveyed a more positive connotation as she referred to his and Dr. Tiller's activities as a "cause," as did Carhart himself. Couric:

Few issues divide Americans more than abortion. It`s a conflict that`s erupted in deadly violence. Last spring, Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors who provided late-term abortions, was murdered in Kansas. Tiller`s clinic is now closed, but his cause has been taken up by a former colleague. Tonight, national correspondent Jim Axelrod has an inside look at his controversial practice outside Omaha.

At one point, as Axelrod used a clip of himself talking with a pro-life protester outside Carhart’s clinic, instead of relaying to viewers that "most" strong critics do not "condone violence" against abortion doctors, Axelrod instead used the more odd choice of words that "not all" such critics "condone violence," as if perhaps most do believe in violence: "While not all of his strongest critics condone violence, Carhart is nothing short of evil to them."

Axelrod introduced his report by recounting the precautions Carhart must take to avoid being attacked both as he drives to work and after he arrives. Describing Carhart as someone who "believes in his work and doesn`t hide what goes on inside this building," the CBS correspondent passed on Carhart’s contentions that the abortions he performs either involve fetal health problems or mental health problems by the women: "Carhart says about half the abortions he performs between the 22nd and 28th week are due to fetal health issues. Half, the mother`s mental health. After the 28th week, it`s 90 percent fetal health."

Axelrod soon recounted the case of one woman who is "aborting because she put her last baby up for adoption and had a nervous breakdown. She`s waited so long this time, she says, because she didn`t have the money."

Carhart justified the abortion of her child: "Which I think is probably a rational choice on her part. ... I mean, she went through it, she already knows the amount of trauma that she went through with the last child."

While Axelrod was not shown in any clip directly confronting Carhart with any arguments against abortion, when the CBS correspondent did devote a clip to an abortion opponent who was protesting outside Carhart’s clinic, Axelrod first brought up religious belief – instead of a more solid physical argument – as he asked the man if Carhart was "going to hell," and then asserted that "it`s the law of the land that he`s allowed to do what he`s doing." On the bright side, he did at least set up the pro-life protester to argue that just because something is legal that does not mean that it’s right, or that it should remain legal:

JIM AXELROD, TALKING TO PROTESTER: Is Dr. Carhart going to hell?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: I don`t know. It doesn`t look good.

AXELROD: While not all of his strongest critics condone violence, Carhart is nothing short of evil to them.

AXELROD, TALKING TO PROTESTER It`s the law of the land that he`s allowed to do what he`s doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: It was the law of the land in Germany to corral Jews and gas them. It was the law of the land to make black people slaves.

Axelrod then ended his report with a strong soundbite from Dr. Carhart:

AXELROD: The lines are clearly drawn, and LeRoy Carhart stopped trying to change his critics` minds a long time ago.

CARHART: I totally believe in this cause every bit as much as I did believe every morning when I got up in the military that I was doing the right thing. And if dying for this cause is what I have to do, then that`s what I will do.

AXELROD: In fact, the only thing that will change for now is the route Dr. Carhart takes to work.

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Friday, December 4, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Few issues divide Americans more than abortion. It`s a conflict that`s erupted in deadly violence. Last spring, Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors who provided late-term abortions, was murdered in Kansas. Tiller`s clinic is now closed. But his cause has been taken up by a former colleague. Tonight, national correspondent Jim Axelrod has an inside look at his controversial practice outside Omaha.

JIM AXELROD: Not every doctor takes a different route to work each day.

DR. LEROY CARHART: Anything that`s habit forming is deadly.

AXELROD: Nor has a metal detector and bulletproof glass at his office.

CARHART: People out there want to kill us.

AXELROD: But not every doctor is LeRoy Carhart, a 68-year-old former Air Force surgeon who performs up to 3,500 abortions a year-

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PROTESTER: A child should never be separated from its mother!

AXELROD: -while activists protest at his clinic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PROTESTER PRAYING: Have mercy.CARHART: Until I can find someone else to care for women, they still need somebody to care for them.

AXELROD: That LeRoy Carhart believes in his work and doesn`t hide what goes on inside this building here in Nebraska is pretty plain to see. You also might find it a bit surprising given what happened to his close friend and colleague earlier this year. When George Tiller was shot at his church last May, he was America`s best-known provider of late-term abortions, those ending pregnancies after 22 weeks, a point when the fetus might survive outside the womb. For more than a decade, Carhart spent a week each month assisting at Tiller`s clinic.

CARHART: When he approached me to come work with him, he said, you know, "Both of us are very vulnerable targets, and I feel the need to have somebody else to carry on what I`m doing."

AXELROD: After Tiller`s death, Carhart started doing late-term abortions at his own clinic, on average one every 10 days. Carhart says about half the abortions he performs between the 22nd and 28th week are due to fetal health issues. Half, the mother`s mental health. After the 28th week, it`s 90 percent fetal health.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.

AXELROD: Women like Sue, an unmarried 28-year-old mother of three come from around the country. Sue`s somewhere between 21 and 23 weeks pregnant. She`s aborting because she put her last baby up for adoption and had a nervous breakdown. She`s waited so long this time, she says, because she didn`t have the money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, this is the easier decision for me. And that may sound selfish to people, but I`m having a lot of complications that aren`t good for my health.

CARHART: Which I think is probably a rational choice on her part.

AXELROD: A rational choice?

CARHART: Yes. I mean, she went through it, she already knows the amount of trauma that she went through with the last child.AXELROD: So you wouldn`t have any problem performing an abortion on her?

CARHART: No. Certainly not at 21 weeks.

AXELROD: Is Dr. Carhart going to hell?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: I don`t know. It doesn`t look good.

AXELROD: While not all of his strongest critics condone violence, Carhart is nothing short of evil to them.

AXELROD, TALKING TO UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER It`s the law of the land that he`s allowed to do what he`s doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: It was the law of the land in Germany to corral Jews and gas them. It was the law of the land to make black people slaves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PROTESTER: No choice!

AXELROD: The lines are clearly drawn, and LeRoy Carhart stopped trying to change his critics` minds a long time ago.

CARHART: I totally believe in this cause every bit as much as I did believe every morning when I got up in the military that I was doing the right thing. And if dying for this cause is what I have to do, then that`s what I will do.

AXELROD: In fact, the only thing that will change for now is the route Dr. Carhart takes to work. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, Bellevue, Nebraska.