NBC's Mitchell Denounces Pro-Life Legislation, Hopes for 'Blow-Back' Against GOP

Leading a panel discussion on her Tuesday 1 p.m. ET hour show on MSNBC, host Andrea Mitchell ranted against Republican efforts to enact pro-life legislation at the state level: "Texas isn't the only state where Roe v. Wade is being challenged....We've seen in Ohio, John Kasich and company sneaked it in to a budget bill....Wisconsin, there's an injunction against enforcement of what the legislature there did under Scott Walker." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Minutes later, Mitchell encouraged her fellow abortion advocates to use the issue to attack the GOP in 2014: "...if the pro-choice community frames this in a certain way, the blow-back could be against Republicans...in the mid-term elections, if women feel that their rights to control their own bodies are being controlled by men, by male legislatures who are without votes, without debate, sneaking this into budget bills, as happened in Ohio."

Mitchell's guests, The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty and Cook Political Report's Amy Walter, engaged in a political strategy session on how abortion activists could frame the debate in their favor. Tumulty declared: "...the more the debate is about the fetus – which is what this twenty-week ban is – the more the anti-abortion side wins. But the more it is about the woman and her access to abortion and her ability to make this decision herself, the more that the abortion rights advocates win."

Mitchell interjected: "Forced sonograms, twenty-week termination – I mean preventing abortions at 20 weeks, when Roe v. Wade has twenty-two weeks. I mean, this has been the law of the land for decades."

Walter proclaimed: "I think it's in the packaging, and that's where Karen's exactly right. It's how you present the case. So I think where Democrats were very successful in making the case against Mitt Romney, and against some other Republicans who were pushing similar legislation, they went at it as too extreme. No exceptions for rape and incest or the health of the woman."

Mitchell again chimed in: "Forced requirements for transvaginal sonograms."

Walter replied: "That looks just mean spirited and I think there was a backlash to that. But if it is focused simply on the fact that this is a fetus, as opposed to this is about the common sense – you know, the ability for common sense to prevail when it comes to exceptions, that's when I think that the other side is able to win out."

Tumulty observed: "...whether the abortion rights side gets to define it as just, you know, they're trying to shut down all clinics. I think that's going to determine how this plays out politically."

At the top of the segment, Mitchell lamented: "The Texas abortion showdown now resumes in the state legislature today despite Wendy Davis' historic filibuster." After the discussion with Tumulty and Walter, she teased: "And as we continue to follow the anti-abortion vote in the state of Texas and the legislature, tomorrow I'll be talking to the woman on the front lines of that fight for reproductive rights in the Lone Star State. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis will be joining us live on the program tomorrow."


Here is a transcript of the July 9 exchange:

1:21PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: The Texas abortion showdown now resumes in the state legislature today despite Wendy Davis' historic filibuster. Texas isn't the only state where Roe v. Wade is being challenged. Joining me now to talk about all of this and more, the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty and Amy Walter, national editor at the Cook Political Report.

Well, here we have Texas, Rick Perry, announcing that he is not going to run again for governor, so he's obviously thinking about 2016, and he is just having this showdown in Texas. Wendy Davis is going to be here tomorrow, by the way, to talk about all of this. But right now the House is voting on it. Karen, this is not the only state. We've seen in Ohio, John Kasich and company sneaked it in to a budget bill. In North Carolina. How many other states? Wisconsin, there's an injunction against enforcement of what the legislature there did under Scott Walker.

KAREN TUMULTY: That's right. And you know, what's always been interesting about the abortion debate – which seems to be all over the place and in the news now – is that how people feel about the whole issue hasn't changed in decades. And most people are very sort of deeply ambivalent and conditional in how they feel about abortion. And the more the debate is about the fetus – which is what this twenty-week ban is – the more the anti-abortion side wins. But the more it is about the woman and her access to abortion and her ability to make this decision herself, the more that the abortion rights advocates win.

MITCHELL: Forced sonograms, twenty-week termination – I mean preventing abortions at 20 weeks, when Roe v. Wade has twenty-two weeks. I mean, this has been the law of the land for decades.

AMY WALTER: Right, but to Karen's point though, it is still, I think, about the fetus and viability. I mean, the argument that you're getting a lot of folks on the pro-life making – pro-life side making is, "Look, twenty-two weeks made sense in 1973. Now we have incredible advancement in terms of our ability for premature babies to live outside the womb."

But I think it's in the packaging, and that's where Karen's exactly right. It's how you present the case. So I think where Democrats were very successful in making the case against Mitt Romney, and against some other Republicans who were pushing similar legislation, they went at it as too extreme. No exceptions for rape and incest or the health of the woman.

MITCHELL: Forced requirements for transvaginal sonograms.

WALTER: Forced requirements for – exactly. That looks just mean spirited and I think there was a backlash to that. But if it is focused simply on the fact that this is a fetus, as opposed to this is about the common sense – you know, the ability for common sense to prevail when it comes to exceptions, that's when I think that the other side is able to win out.

MITCHELL: Of course the real impact could be if the – if the pro-choice community frames this in a certain way, the blow-back could be against Republicans, as we've been talking about on immigration and other issues, against Republicans in the mid-term elections, if women feel that their rights to control their own bodies are being controlled by men, by male legislatures who are without votes, without debate, sneaking this into budget bills, as happened in Ohio.

TUMULTY: And in this Texas bill, I think the most interesting provision is the one that requires abortion clinics to sort of meet the same standards as hospitals. You know, whether the anti-abortion side succeeds in defining that question as being about a woman's health, especially after this horrific trial we've seen in Philadelphia, or whether the abortion rights side gets to define it as just, you know, they're trying to shut down all clinics. I think that's going to determine how this plays out politically.

MITCHELL: Especially in a case like Texas, where so many people – it has one of the largest communities of people who rely on Planned Parenthood and other public health options because of the lack of reproductive clinics that are available.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC