As usual, ABC, CBS, and NBC ignored Friday’s March for Life protest. (Even the Associated Press skipped over the tens of thousands marching.) But the PBS NewsHour at least offered a brief from news anchor Hari Sreenivasan:
Thousands rallied in Washington in the annual March For Life. It was the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. The anti-abortion crowd rallied at the White House, and then moved on to the Supreme Court. A handful of abortion rights supporters were also present.
NPR covered the trial on the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller on Friday night (as well as Friday morning), but had no March for Life mention. On the afternoon talk show Tell Me More, host Michel Martin interviewed Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life. But the pro-life movement was harshly smeared by late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart in an interview that led off that same show:
MARTIN: And when you say protests, what are you talking about? I mean, Dr. Tiller, for example, before he was murdered was -- had been shot before. When you say protest, what do you mean? What are some of the things that you experienced in the course of your work?
Dr. CARHART: It's not protesting. It's actually bullying. And it's the extreme bullying that we know and wouldn't even tolerate with high school children or grade school children. You know, yelling at patients, calling, telling them they are murdering their babies, blocking, actually physically blocking the patients from getting out of their cars. It's blocking the clinic's doors, so patients can't enter. They protest at the schools where the provider's children go and yell to all the students that John's daddy is a baby killer or a child killer. I mean, it's just extremism, it's religious terrorism.
What’s amazing about this tirade – suggesting that he faces no protesters, just bullies, when they’re nonviolent and he’s terminating "pregnancies" – is that Martin doesn’t find anything skeptical to say about Carhart calling his opponents religious terrorists. She just moves on, sticking to a sympathetic personal line:
MARTIN: Your kids are grown now?
CARHART: Yeah, my children are 39 and 41.
MARTIN: Do they experience any consequence of your work?
CARHART: To an extent, my daughter has a fair amount of problems with it, but she actually works with me now in the clinic. If there's something and she's in town, she'll help out. I mean, our whole family is involved in keeping abortions available for women.
MARTIN: And when you say keeping abortions available for women, what are you talking about? Are you talking about the first trimester abortions that I think most Americans seem to believe should be available, at least, in most circumstances? Or are you talking about abortions that take place after the first trimester in which the number of doctors who perform it is actually very, very few?
Carhart makes the usual arguments that 99 percent of abortions are done before the 20th week, and that absolutely every abortion after that is necessary: "Every one of these is where there was a severe impact on the mother's mental health or physical health or there was an actual fetal deformity that would not allow that child to survive."
Once again, Martin doesn’t have an ounce of skepticism, but sticks were the personal, courageous-provider line:
MARTIN: I think a lot of people would want to know why you stick with it. This is really hard, I mean, there are lots of other ways to practice medicine that are not as taxing on you physically and emotionally. And I just like to ask why do you think you stick with it?
She also ended with the routine "Do you fear for your safety?" question. Martin asked one question from the pro-life perspective, which unleashed another tirade about the pro-life protesters from Carhart, suggesting they’re exactly like the Taliban:
MARTIN: There are those who say that abortion is like -- is to this century what slavery was to the previous. It is the moral tragedy of our time. And that at an advanced wealthy country like the United States ought to have better ways to address crisis pregnancy, ought to have better ways to care for women other than aborting children. This is the argument. And I'd like to ask you how do you think about that? What can you say?
CARHART: In a perfect world, I believe there could be a reason for no abortions. But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. And unfortunately, these same people that protest abortions are also against all of the things that would help reduce the frequency of abortions, including early education about sex, early education about the use of birth control, availability of birth control, availability of school education about intercourse and about sex.
Dr. [Warren] Hern, a very good friend of mine also says that the difference between our anti-choice extremists and the Taliban is a thousand miles. And he is exactly right. The anti-choice movement in America has drawn a very narrow picture of what they want the world to have. And they just make it impossible for anybody else or they want to make it impossible for anybody else to have their views.
Martin’s more pointed questions to Serrin Foster were firmly from the left:
– You, of course, understand the perspective that the ability to control one's reproductive choices is central for - the perspective that, the idea that if women can't control their ability to have children, the timing, the circumstances, then they really don't have any ultimate control over their lives because biologically and culturally, the primary responsible for child rearing still seems to fall mainly on women. How do you respond to that argument?
– What about the overall social safety net argument? There are those who argue particularly in the area of people who now choose abortion when they find that they have a profoundly disabled fetus, for example, that the issue is I'm not going to get any help once this child is born. So what about the issue of a comprehensive safety net, particularly for people who, well, don't have the resources, perhaps, to take care of a profoundly disabled child? What about that?
NPR's Martin demonstrated balance in her booking but not in her questioning. Carhart's late-term "work" is uniquely controversial, and his rhetoric is harsh. But Martin sounded more like a fan-club president than a skeptical questioner.