Andrea Mitchell Hammers Pro-Lifer, Gives Roe v. Wade Attorney Softball Interview

As MSNBC marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Andrea Mitchell continued the MSNBC tradition of praising the abortion rights movement and harassing the pro-life movement.  On her January 22 program, Mitchell treated Sarah Weddington, the attorney in Roe v. Wade to a cream puff of an interview, while Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, was grilled.

Dannenfelser was the first pro-life guest on MSNBC's programming on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of Roe. By contrast, by the 1 p.m. Eastern hour, pro-choice advocates had appeared on various MSNBC programs, all to sympathetic interviewers. Among these guests were Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, current NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan and former NARAL chief Kate Michelman.  [See video after jump.  MP3 audio here.]

For her part, Mitchell offered an embarrassingly softball interview with Ms. Weddington, first by hyping a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that:

Shows that there is a majority support for the first time, since we've been polling this issue since 1989, a majority in favor of abortion rights in most cases, and also you've got seven in ten against Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Mitchell continued her pro-abortion interview by asking Ms. Weddington, “What are the next challenges, because as we've been pointing out and as [NBC justice correspondent] Pete Williams just pointed out, state by state there are roll-backs.” 

Contrasting this was Ms. Mitchell’s interview with Ms. Dannenfelser, which from the beginning was very contentious.  This interview comes less than two weeks after Ms. Mitchell challenged pro-lifer Juleanna Glover that she was anti-abortion, not pro-life. Mitchell’s first question was to shape the discussion in pro-abortion terms:

You saw our polling where public opinion is very much moving in a different direction, so what is the strategy, political strategy, and legal strategy of your movement?

When Ms. Dannenfelser challenged the authenticity of the new NBC News poll by mentioning Gallup polling showing that pro-life is the new norm.  Mitchell -- who is infamous for her thinly-disguised activism for breast cancer grant monies to abortion provider Planned Parenthood -- immediately challenged Dannenfelser’s claims:

Well the Gallup numbers were from 2010, and it's when people are asked about being pro-life or anti-life? It's a different terminology, and it's not as credible as our own polling in terms of the professional standards of polling. 

The MSNBC approach to handling the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion is clear: given an open platform to abortion rights advocates but savage the one pro-life dissenter that they dare to bring on air.

 

See relevant transcripts below.


MSNBC

Andrea Mitchell Reports

January 22, 2013

1:38 p.m. EST

ANDREA MITCHELL: And on January 22, 1973, when the court handed down its decision in Roe v Wade, this case had been argued to Chief Justice Burger and the other justices by a young Texas attorney named Sarah Weddington.

WARREN BURGER: You may proceed whenever you're ready.

SARAH WEDDINGTON: We are not here to advocate abortion. We do not ask this court to rule that abortion is good. We are here to advocate that the decision as to whether or not a particular woman will continue to carry or will terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by that individual. That, in fact, she has a constitutional right to make that decision for herself.

MITCHELL: And joining me now is Sarah Weddington, who went on to serve as a Special Assistant to President Jimmy Carter, as well as the first woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives. Very good to see you again. Well, this, of course, 40 years later, your thoughts? I understand you still have a signed copy of that decision from the justices from 1973.

WEDDINGTON: Absolutely.

MITCHELL: Tell us about what's happened over these years to you and to the law.

WEDDINGTON: I think that it's kind of like an up and down roller coaster because on the one hand roe versus wade is still the law, and it's strongly still the law. When you asked a while ago what's happened to the supreme court, one of the things I thought we should have said was when I argued it, it was nine men and today there are at least three women on it. One is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is very strongly in favor of Roe. But just as your correspondent was indicating, now all of the issue is but will abortion be available because at the states there are so many restrictions being passed. The other thing that's happening is a lot of women are beginning to really pay attention, whereas so many women are so young they cannot remember before Roe versus Wade, but, for example, today I'm in Portland. We'll have 1,000 women, some men with them, here for our lunch to celebrate Roe versus Wade. A lot more contributions, a lot more intensity about their determination that we not go backwards.

MITCHELL: In fact, the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, which is just out now, on this subject shows that there is a majority support for the first time, since we've been polling this issue since 1989, a majority in favor of abortion rights in most cases, and also you've got seven in ten against Roe v. Wade being overturned.

WEDDINGTON: Yes. And, see, I think those numbers are so important, and I noticed before I was on the program that you were talking about the fact that if you look at the vote in the next -- in the last presidential election, there were so many women who voted for Obama, and that was true of Hispanics, of black, of just all ages. Women said, no, we're not going to have a president who is opposed to our making our own decisions. That was critical in this election.

MITCHELL: Sarah Weddington, what are the next challenges, because as we've been pointing out and as Pete Williams just pointed out, state by state there are roll-backs. I know that Planned Parenthood has been very active trying to protect access to abortion rights and to contraceptive rights and to family planning. Are you facing a real uphill fight there because of the Republican governors and the legislatures who feel very, very differently?

WEDDINGTON: Yes, and I come from a state, Texas, where that's very true. So we're really looking at a variety of things. How do we get more younger people to be involved? I have a button I wear. I it's a coat hanger with a/across it. I was on an airplane, and the flight attendant, a young woman, kept looking at that button, and she would go around and come back, look again, and finally she said to me what do you have against coat hangers? I had to explain that to us that meant no more illegal abortion, no more coat hanger abortion. We've got to reach out and educate a younger generation. Second, that younger generation really knows how to use social media. I don't. I don't have a Facebook. I don't have a Twitter. So we've got to get more of them involved because they're really better at organizing a younger group than those of us who are somewhat older are. And I think the other thing is bringing back in women of my generation who do remember what it was like. Part of the case started because women who were graduate students at the University of Texas were upset because at the University of Texas health center you could not get contraception unless you certified you were within six weeks of marriage, so there were a lot of unplanned pregnancies, and then they were asking information about where could they go for abortion, and these women who were doing counseling were trying to tell them where -- illegal places, but keep them out of the bad illegal places. It's why the medical community has always been so supportive of abortion being legal.

MITCHELL: Sarah, thank you very much on this anniversary, 40 years later. Meanwhile, opponents of abortion gathered on Capitol Hill today are still working very hard to overturn Roe v. Wade.

DIANE BLACK: On this 40th anniversary of Roe versus Wade we remember the 55 million babies who have been aborted. We must press on. With hope that one day we will live in a country where each and every life born and unborn is respected, valued, and given the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams.

MITCHELL: And joining me now here is Marjorie Dannenfelser, who is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the leading voices in the anti-abortion rights movement. Thank you very much for joining us.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER: Thanks for having me.

MITCHELL: You saw our polling where public opinion is very much moving in a different direction, so what is the strategy, political strategy, and legal strategy of your movement?

DANNENFELSER: Well, your poll is a snippet after the election, and it is a sign post in time. However, the trend line and Gallup has shown this over many years is that what they call pro-life is the new norm. These are Gallup numbers.

MITCHELL: Well the Gallup numbers were from 2010, and it's when people are asked about being pro-life or anti-life? It's a different terminology, and it's not as credible as our own polling in terms of the professional standards of polling.

DANNENFELSER: Well first of all I would say that the Gallup poll has been going on for years and years and years. It's a benchmark, and the trend has been more and more people, young people, calling themselves pro-life over pro-choice opposing more abortions than they support. The same is true of women and the same is true of even the Sarah Weddington generation that she's speaking of. Now, in your poll, I noticed, and I have to correct Pete on two points. One is in your poll it represents what he suggested was the case was that somehow roe only touched the first trimester. Roe was very clear it's up until viability. Those are the trimesters. That's why it was set up like that. Casey was also very clear. It said no restrictions up until the point of viability. And after that Roe said only if it was to protect the life and health of the mother. Now, in roe the woman at stake, the woman who was being represented now is very strongly pro-life.

MITCHELL: She's had a very strong change of heart.

DANNENFELSER: She has. And young people are going to be marching in the streets at the biggest march for life that has occurred in many, many years, and it is because of one thing. It is the civil rights movement of their generation. They see another human being, and that has been a change from I think the older generation to now. They’ve seen sonograms and they look at that and they don’t say blob of tissue. Before it was a philosophical argument, now they’re looking at another human being saying there are two people to be thinking about here. How do we love and protect them both and bring them both into the world, and that is very attractive. That love is very attractive to young people, and they see that as very inspiring.

MITCHELL: Do you feel that the technology which does show with sonograms and other new methods you can see what the fetus looks like at a far earlier stage. Does that redefine viability as far as you're concerned and does that help you both politically and legally?

DANNENFELSER: Regardless of legal terms, yes, I think it does. However, I think hearts and minds, again, that's why hearts and minds have changed. They've seen fetal surgery. They've seen pictures very early on. Women see their own children and put it up on their screen saver and say they don't say that's a choice. They say that is my unborn child. Now that is a fundamental problem and a fundamental disconnect that the pro-choice movement has to grapple with because now it is -- now there are two people to deal with, so they got the whole ball of wax when Roe came down and obliterated every pro-life protection that there was. Now to get to common ground, which is what we're arguing about on a state level and on the federal level, 60%, 70%, 80% of people are all for late trimester bans. They're all for parental notification. They’re for stopping taxpayer funding of abortion. Because why? Should we be culpable in something that we think is the taking of another human life? I don't think so. And that's actually the trend. That's what we've seen. Regardless of a bruising election that we just went through that I think was -- we are going to recover from because we have leaders like we just saw stepping up to take the case.

MITCHELL: Well, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much for being here.

DANNENFELSER: Thank you for having me.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.