CNN Challenges Pro-Life Guest and Pro-Choice Guest From the Left

Reporting on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Tuesday, CNN's Carol Costello pelted a pro-life guest with liberal talking points while chiding the president of pro-choice NARAL for not doing enough for the pro-choice movement.

For example, Costello began her interview with pro-life ethicist Pia de Solenni by citing poll numbers favorable to abortion rights activists. In contrast, she greeted NARAL president Nancy Keenan with this bland observation: "You know, it's interesting, you wanted us to refer to your organization as Pro-Choice America. And I have read numerous articles that your organization doesn't like the term 'pro-choice' any longer."

The CNN anchor also confronted de Solenni with the controversies of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. "Do you think that kind of hurt your cause?" she pressed.

De Solenni agreed but took a subtle shot at the media: "those clips were run over and over and over and over again, and there's no way that that did not affect public opinion."

After de Solenni lamented the "unfortunate" words of Akin and Mourdock, Costello provided the opposing argument, something she didn't do with Keenan: "But the other side would say that Todd Akin's comments were actually a reminder to women of their abortion rights and how they might be taken away and that's why the poll numbers changed."

Meanwhile, Costello's interview of Keenan started out with the trivial issue of pro-choice terminology. When she brought up a Time magazine article about the pro-choice movement slowly losing ground, she framed it as evidence that Keenan could do better.

"Well you have to admit that his [Akin's] comments, his unfortunate comments, kind of fueled your movement. A movement that – you know young women – I think there was a poll out that women under 30 have no idea what Roe v. Wade is. They have no idea! Todd Akin sort of introduced that, so he sort of did the work for you."

A transcript of the segments, which aired on CNN Newsroom on January 22, is as follows:

[9:49 a.m. EST]

CAROL COSTELLO: We crunched the poll numbers, and the polls show in the last four months a slight uptick among Americans supporting abortion rights most or all of the time. Why do you think that's changed?

PIA DE SOLENNI: You know, honestly I'm not surprised to see those numbers change. Abortion has become, it's become a values issue, and the past election cycle showed us that. The Democratic Party ran with abortion as a value and people responded. I think it's something that in many ways is a given, and we see that with our funding.

I mean we – Planned Parenthood is funded more than half a billion dollars every year. I mean, it's become -- this has become part of our culture. And I think we need to do more to really focus. To my mind this is a civil rights issue of now, of today and we need to make it the civil rights issue and really talk about what's involved -- the lives that are involved.

COSTELLO: Right and I just want to make it clear to our audience. You're anti-abortion rights. That's correct, right?

DE SOLENNI: That's right, yes.

COSTELLO: Okay and just to follow-up to that first question about why those -- the poll numbers have risen and the number of people who support abortion rights. During the election, as you know, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, two men running for federal office said some unwise things perhaps, about race and abortion. Do you think that kind of hurt your cause?

DE SOLENNI: Oh, I'm sure it did and we had -- those clips were run over and over and over and over again, and there's no way that that did not affect public opinion. And it's unfortunate. I think both of those candidates have very good pro-life voting records. They – what they said was simply unfortunate. And they clearly did not know how to communicate what it is that they believe and why they believe it, and I think that it became a huge liability for them costing them both their – their races.

COSTELLO: Now the other side would say, you know, especially the comment by Todd Akin when he said this legitimate rape can protect a woman against pregnancy and somehow a woman's body can protect itself when – from a pregnancy in the course of rape and of course, that's ridiculous as you know and I know. But the other side would say that Todd Akin's comments were actually a reminder to women of their abortion rights and how they might be taken away and that's why the poll numbers changed.

(...)

[10:06 a.m. EST]

COSTELLO: You know, it's interesting, you wanted us to refer to your organization as "Pro-Choice America." And I have read numerous articles that your organization doesn't like the term "pro-choice" any longer.

NANCY KEENAN, president, NARAL pro-choice America: Well, you know, pro-choice America is what this country reflects, people in the country that don't believe that politicians belong in this decision, that it's between a woman, a doctor, and her God, and that the bureaucrats, the politicians should stay out of it. And here we are 40 years later making sure that that right and freedom is – remains for women across the country.

COSTELLO: Some abortion rights activists say that pro-choice seems to say you either choose between life and death, and that's why they don't like the term.

KEENAN: You know, a term is a term. I think the issue here is who makes the decision? Who decides? And there are some on the anti-choice side that say that government should make the decision, a politician should make the decision, and not a woman and her doctor and her family. And so the terms can be something that is debated one way or another. Fundamentally, we believe in the right and the privacy of women to make these decisions and not the politicians that either sit in the statehouse or here in Washington, D.C.

COSTELLO: A recent cover of Time magazine says 40 years ago abortion rights activists won an epic victory in Roe v. Wade. They've been losing ever since. And Joe Johns mentioned it, that slow chipping away at the decision in state legislatures across America. What's your take?

KEENAN: Well, I think the issue is not that it's legal anymore. Roe remains that abortion is legal in this country. The question becomes access. And what the other side has been effective in doing is denying women access by throwing barriers up. But when we see when the people have a chance to vote, example is in Mississippi on the personhood amendment. They said no, enough, we reject that. They rejected an outright ban in South Dakota twice. And so when the people have a chance to put that ballot in the box, they reject this kind of anti-choice activity.

Now elections matter, and you have to elect politicians that protect that right and that freedom and not the folks, quite honestly, like the Todd Akins who showed up here and don't even understand how a woman's body works, let alone him making a decision for women across this country.

COSTELLO: Well you have to admit that his comments, his unfortunate comments, kind of fueled your movement. A movement that – you know young women – I think there was a poll out that women under 30 have no idea what Roe v. Wade is. They have no idea! Todd Akin sort of introduced that, so he sort of did the work for you.

KEENAN: Not necessarily. We fought so that our daughters and our granddaughters wouldn't have to worry about this issue. But what we learned in a Todd Akin, and anti-choice politicians, is that you forever have to be vigilant. That they never stop, they don't give up until they deny women this basic freedom in this country. So, yes, younger generation, they are working in this movement. They are fighting, and the fact of the matter is we have to be vigilant and the other side is never going to give up until they take this right away from women all over this country.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014