MSNBC's Idea of 'Church Side' of Abortion Debate: Catholics for Choice

The Lean Forward network took a half-hearted stab at being fair and balanced on Tuesday. During the 11 a.m. hour, Thomas Roberts invited on two women to discuss the vote to ban abortions after 20 weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Representing the obvious pro-abortion side was frequent MSNBC contributor Irin Carmon.

Representing what Roberts called “the church side” was Sara Hutchinson of, wait for it... Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice lobby group. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]


Carmon -- a visiting fellow at Yale Law's Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice -- went first and offered up her usual pro-abortion perspective. She complained that “the anti-choice side has been organizing in the churches” and accused them of using a “divide-and-conquer strategy.”

Turning to Hutchinson, Roberts said, “Okay, so let's talk to the church side.” Only there was no "church side" to be had. There was only an insurgent Catholic going against the church hierarchy.

In fact, Hutchinson even admitted at one point that the church powers-that-be were not on her side: “[W]e've heard from Catholics on the ground there in Albuquerque. They are not happy that the Knights of Columbus, that their local Catholic hierarchy have been pushing this ban.

So Hutchinson represents socially rogue Catholics, not the Church, and certainly not faithful conservative lay Catholics like the Knights of Columbus. But she held steadfast to her belief that Christians in Albuquerque were actually on her side in this matter:
 

"[W]e know that the folks on the ground there in Albuquerque, the Catholics, Methodists, others of faith are really not supportive of this ban and they don't believe that it's what is good for Albuquerque or for the state itself."
 

Roberts seemed to be on Hutchinson’s side as well, as evidenced by this question he asked her:

"[W]hat is the progress that you're seeing from Catholics on this, especially given the direction that we're seeing with the new progressive attitude that's coming out of Vatican City and Pope Francis?"
 

More abortions equals progress for the folks at MSNBC.

It would not have been hard to find a pro-lifer to debate this issue with Carmon. A local Catholic priest or Knight of Columbus would have worked just fine. But MSNBC seems uninterested in the pro-life viewpoint.

Below is a transcript of the segment:


THOMAS ROBERTS: History is being made in Albuquerque, New Mexico today where a new strategy in the fight against abortion rights is being decided at the local level for the first time. Residents are heading to the polls today to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance, which claims a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks after conception. It's a trend that pro-life activists have been successful in accomplishing in 13 states across the country. Irin Carmon is a national reporter at MSNBC.com and Sara Hutchison is a domestic program director at Catholics for Choice. Ladies, it’s good to have you here and Irin, let me start with you. Because early voting ended on Friday. This is an area that you just got back from going to personally and driving around with the truth truck, if I remember correctly.

IRIN CARMON: Indeed, I was with the truth truck.

ROBERTS: So explain what you feel or what you understand that the voting is shaping up to look like.

CARMON: Thomas, this is going to be a very close vote by all polling, both internal and public. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy. What they're hoping to do is to focus on later abortions which are rare and difficult and which end up, you know, polling poorly. And they hope that they can turn people out. They’ve been – the anti-choice side has been organizing in the churches. If they’re able to turn folks out there through absentee voting and today, then they may be able to pull it off, but there has been a concerted effort against them.

ROBERTS: Okay, so let's talk to the church side. And Sarah, this certainly was an emotional and a graphic campaign, as Irin is talking about here. National groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in advertising-wise. We have President Obama’s fundraising arm, Organizing for Action, jumping in, pumping in a lot of cash as well. Is it possible that this could become a trend for other cities across the country?

SARA HUTCHINSON: Well, I think that Albuquerque and New Mexico are both unique in the way that their laws are set up so that this was not necessarily a strategy that would work anywhere else, but we know that the folks on the ground there in Albuquerque, the Catholics, Methodists, others of faith are really not supportive of this ban and they don't believe that it's what is good for Albuquerque or for the state itself.



ROBERTS: All right, but you're saying unique to that geography, that area. Irin, according to the CDC, only about 1.3 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks. So why has Albuquerque become such a flash point in the national debate?

CARMON: There's a clinic there where there are two women who had worked with Dr. Tiller, the doctor in Wichita, Kansas who was assassinated by an anti-choice extremist, and they moved to New Mexico because the laws there are relatively friendly to women's reproductive rights. As a result, the moment that they started setting up practice there and women came from all around the world, two activists from Wichita who had gone there to protest Dr. Tiller came to protest in Albuquerque, figured out that the city ordinances allowed them to put something like this on the ballot, and went from there.

ROBERTS: Okay. So it will have to remain to be seen if other cities are susceptible to this. And Sara, real quickly, what is the progress that you're seeing from Catholics on this, especially given the direction that we're seeing with the new progressive attitude that's coming out of Vatican City and Pope Francis?

HUTCHINSON: Yeah, we've heard from Catholics on the ground there in Albuquerque. They are not happy that the Knights of Columbus, that their local Catholic hierarchy have been pushing this ban. They don't want to hear about these kinds of issues in the homily, during mass, at their ministries. They want to be able to vote their consciences and they are going to vote their consciences to vote against this ban today.

ROBERTS: MSNBC’s Irin Carmon and Catholics for Choice’s Sarah Hutchison. Ladies, thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.