Newsweek's Goldberg Sees Pro-Life House Vote As 'Wacky,' 'Embryo Is Not a Human Being'

Appearing as a guest on Tuesday's All In show on MSNBC, Newsweek senior writer Michelle Goldberg -- also of The Daily Beast -- observed that the House Republican push for a vote to ban abortion seems "wacky and counterproductive," and later asserted that "Most people intuitively know that an embryo is not a human being."

When host Chris Hayes raised the issue by asking why House Republicans were pushing for a vote, she responded:

I think there are two different things. I mean, first of all, you know, there are a huge number of Republican officeholders who got into office specifically because they want to ban abortion. That's their raison d'etre, so it shouldn't be surprising that that`s what they're doing, even if the politics of it seems wacky and counterproductive to us.

A bit later, she found that the pro-life movement's push for a "personhood amendment" to be "intuitively ridiculous." Goldberg:

The other piece of this is that there's actually, I think, a kind of growing pragmatism in the anti-abortion movement. They're moving away from these personhood amendments, which are patently absurd and kind of strike people, strike most people as intuitively ridiculous. ...

Late-term abortion is actually a better issue for them, right? Most people intuitively know that an embryo is not a human being, but most people also intuitively know that at 20 weeks or 22 weeks or 24 weeks, the fetus has some sort of value, even if not value that trumps the interests of the mother.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday, June 18, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

CHRIS HAYES: Michelle, you have covered the anti-abortion movement in this country, grassroots levels, done a lot of incredible reporting. What, explain to me, through that prism, why the Republican party is doing this. I am genuinely confused.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK: I think there are two different things. I mean, first of all, you know, there are a huge number of Republican officeholders who got into office specifically because they want to ban abortion. That's their raison d'etre, so it shouldn't be surprising that that`s what they're doing, even if the politics of it seems wacky and counterproductive to us.

HAYES: They ran on it, they promised this, and they believe in it, and so that is what they're doing.

GOLDBERG: Right, and their base is demanding it. Their base is demanding some sort of action in response to the Kermit Gosnell trial. The other piece of this is that there's actually, I think, a kind of growing pragmatism in the anti-abortion movement. They're moving away from these personhood amendments, which are patently absurd and kind of strike people, strike most people as intuitively ridiculous.

HAYES: And the Waterloo for that, of course, is when it lost in Mississippi, of all places. It couldn't win in Mississippi.

GOLDBERG: Right. Late-term abortion is actually a better issue for them, right? Most people intuitively know that an embryo is not a human being, but most people also intuitively know that at 20 weeks or 22 weeks or 24 weeks, the fetus has some sort of value, even if not value that trumps the interests of the mother.

And so this is an issue that is really uncomfortable and painful for a lot of people. And also in the aftermath of the 2007 case, Gonzalez V. Carhart, that allowed for a lot of new restrictions on abortion. It was the partial birth abortion case. There's a belief that the Supreme Court might be open to fundamentally reconsidering Roe versus Wade.

HAYES: Right, and that's the interesting strategic play here is let's get this before this court because we actually think, Terry, that we think that this court, if we can get a full frontal challenge to Roe v. Wade, if we get it in front of this court by provoking them this way, that we might get the answer that we want.

(TERRY O'NEILL, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN)

HAYES: And I should also note that the federal courts have already struck down the Arizona version of this bill as unconstitutional. But, Terry, there's another aspect to this which is actually this approach has been remarkably successful in the states. You have 11 states that have passed similar unconstitutional bans. In eight of those states, those unconstitutional bans, bans that we understand as unconstitutional are in effect because they have not been challenged. Isn't that right?

(O'NEILL)

HAYES: Right. And the fascinating thing about that, right, is that that kind of Democratic accountability for the status quo, that kind of Democratic support for the status quo is absent in the political calculations of this House Republican Caucus, right?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think yes and no because the polling is actually a little more complicated on later abortions, you know? So people are confused about these issues. Or not even confused. They're ambivalent. They're strongly pro-choice. They support Roe v. Wade. They're also uncomfortable with abortions-

HAYES: Third trimester.

GOLDBERG: End of the second and beginning of the third trimester. So the plan here is to essentially try to replace the viability standard.

HAYES: And start marching it backwards in time.

GOLDBERG: And start marching it backwards and use the idea of fetal pain as a kind of new substitute scientific standard which will allow them, again, to kind of push the limits back further and further and also to, you know, further make people uncomfortable with abortion.