Democratic Candidates Finally Asked About Abortion, Networks Yawn

Despite Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton being asked about abortion for the first time during a town hall on Fox News Monday night, on Tuesday morning, none of the network morning shows bothered to highlight the hardline positions of both Democratic candidates on the issue.

During the hour-long forum with both contenders, Special Report anchor Bret Baier challenged them on whether they would favor any restrictions on abortion. With Sanders, he pressed: “Senator, can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be okay with abortion being illegal?” Sanders replied: “It’s not a question of me being okay....I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.”

Baier followed up: “I guess the genesis of the question is that, you know, there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that's something to look at. You’re saying no?” Sanders rejected any limitation: “I'm very strongly pro-choice, that is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.”

Talking to Clinton minutes later, Baier queried: “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before its born or do you think that there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”

Clinton declared:

Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family, in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It's not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained. So I think we’ve got to continue – we’ve got to continue to stand up for a woman's right to make these decisions and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.

Baier reiterated: “Just to be clear, without any exceptions?” Clinton seemed to slightly soften her position: “No, I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother....And so, I think it is – under Roe v. Wade – it is appropriate to say in these circumstances, so long as there's an exception for the life and the health of the mother.”

Tell the Truth 2016

Following the town hall, Baier told fellow FNC host Greta Van Susteren: “I tried to ask some questions that hadn't been asked before. Obviously the abortion topic hadn't come up in any debate or town hall.” In a Republican debate on February 6, Marco Rubio called out the media for not asking the Democrats a “single question” about abortion despite being “extremists” on the issue.

On Tuesday, only CBS This Morning gave any significant air time to the town hall event, but avoided the abortion topic. However, co-host Gayle King did highlight Baier demanding answers about Clinton’s e-mail scandal:

KING: Both candidates answered questions last night at a televised town hall in Detroit. Clinton was asked about the private e-mail server she used while she was secretary of state.

BRET BAIER: At the time you and your staff deleted nearly 32,000 e-mails, about half of the total volume, were you aware that the server was going to be sought as evidence by federal authorities?

HILLARY CLINTON: No, but let me clarify this because, you know, there's much misinformation going around here and let me just start with the basic facts. I have said it wasn't the best choice to use a personal e-mail, it was a mistake, however, I am not alone in that. Many people in the government, past and current, have on occasion or as a practice done the same. Nothing I sent was marked classified or that I received was marked classified.

ABC’s Good Morning America only offered mere seconds on Clinton being asked if she would consider Sanders as a running mate in the general election.

NBC’s Today completely skipped any coverage of the Democratic race on Tuesday.

Here are Baier’s exchanges with Sanders and Clinton on abortion:

6:20 PM ET

(...)

BRET BAIER: Another health-care-type question. Senator, can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be okay with abortion being illegal?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It’s not a question of me being okay. Thank you for the question, Bret. I happen to believe – and let me be very clear, I know not everybody here will agree with me – I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

I think – I believe, and I understand there are honest people, I mean, I have a lot of friends, some supporters, and some disagree with me. They hold a different point of view, and I respect that. But that is my view.

And I'll tell you something which I don't like in this debate. There are a whole lot of people out there who tell me the government is terrible, government is awful, get government off our backs. My Republican friends want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education. But somehow, on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body. I think that’s wrong.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

BAIER: I guess the genesis of the question is that, you know, there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that's something to look at. You’re saying no?

SANDERS: I'm very strongly pro-choice, that is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.

(...)

6:37 PM

BAIER: I want to ask you about a question I asked Senator Sanders. Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before its born or do you think that there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, again, let me put this in context. It's an important question. Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a decision that would shut down a lot of the options for women in Texas, and there have been other legislatures that have taken similar steps to try to restrict a woman's right to obtain a abortion. Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family, in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It's not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained.

[APPLAUSE]

So I think we’ve got to continue – we’ve got to continue to stand up for a woman's right to make these decisions and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

BAIER: Just to be clear, without any exceptions?

CLINTON: No, I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother. I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, Bret, they sometimes arise in the most complex difficult medical situations.

BAIER: Fetal malformities and such?

CLINTON: And threats to the woman's health.

BAIER: Sure.

CLINTON: And so, I think it is – under Roe v. Wade – it is appropriate to say in these circumstances, so long as there's an exception for the life and the health of the mother.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC