MSNBC's Matthews Actually Poses Tough Questions to Left-wing Critic of Hobby Lobby Ruling

Miracles do happen. 

On his July 9 Hardball program, MSNBC's Chris Matthews actually pressed abortion-rights absolutist Stephanie Schriock about the implications of her support for Democratic legislation to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. But Matthews put the EMILY's List president on the spot by asking if her position amounted to telling religious employers that they simply have to swallow their religious scruples in order to not run afoul of the law. Bullying religious Americans over their sincere beliefs is hardly a picture one wants painted of one's self, so Schriock sought to avoid the questions and double down on talking points. Here's the relevant transcript (MP3 audio here; video embedded below page break; emphases mine):


CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:  Stephanie, if the complainants or the plaintiffs in this case, the Hobby Lobby group, I know nothing about, them, except they're recognized to have a religious foundation to their company. I'm not used to that, but that's apparently the case according to the fact-finding. They believe that abortion is caused by these forms of birth control, the IUD and the morning-after pills. That's their argument, that's their belief. Can you force people who have a real conviction like that, that this is murder, if you will, by their standards, by their definition, how do you force people to eat that, basically, and say, live with it? Is that what you're willing to say to these people? Live with it? You've got to do it for the employees? 

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK: No, this -- we've got to remember, this is about women's health care.

MATTHEWS: No, but what about the employers of the company?

SCHRIOCK: It is about birth control, and there's research and science--

MATTHEWS: They say it's abortion.

SCHRIOCK: Everyone stands up and says, this -- that is an opinion, but we've to go with science here, and that's not what this is about. And I -- let us not forget.  

MATTHEWS: Well, there's science on IUDs, by the way. Are you sure of the science that the IUD doesn't prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg?

SCHRIOCK: So much so that when you explain it, just like we did in Mississippi a few years ago, when the people of Mississippi voted down the personhood amendment, which would ban these types of birth control, the reason they did so was because it was going to ban these types of birth control. Women need access to health care, and this is a big piece of that access...

Schriock most certainly thought the science card would work on Matthews, who repeatedly bashes Republicans as "anti-science," but, surprisingly enough it seems Mr. Matthews is, in fact, versed on how IUDs prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. As my colleague Tim Graham informed me earlier this evening, no less a liberal website than Vox.com today addressed "Why science can't settle the emergency contraceptive debate." From Julia Belluz's July 9 story (emphasis mine):

Scientists and religious groups have different definitions of pregnancy

This science didn't stop the folks behind Hobby Lobby from making their case. But that's because the debate is not really about science; it's about the fundamental question of when pregnancy begins and when society should intervene to protect human life.

According to federal regulations, pregnancy starts later, after implantation when the embryo has already found a home in the lining of a woman's uterus. This view is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and the National Institutes of Health, among other science-based groups. Based on this definition, medicines like ParaGard, Ella, and Plan B were approved as contraceptives and not abortifacients. (The only drug approved to induce abortion is RU-486.)

For others, including some religious conservatives, pregnancy starts early on with conception: when the sperm fertilizes an egg. So that pre-implantation ball of cells, which has about a 20 percent chance of survival, is a nascent life. Anything that curbs its potential for growth, under this view, is considered the termination of a pregnancy.

So if you believe that pregnancy begins when egg and sperm swap genetic material—which, again, is not how the scientific establishment views this—an emergency contraceptive that possibly prevents implantation could be considered a pregnancy ended. It also means that research hasn't completely ruled out the possibility that ParaGard, the copper IUD, could cause that ending. 

For her part, Ms. Schriock herself tacitly admitted to Matthews that, yes, IUDs do terminate the lives of human beings, if you believe that life begins at conception, and not at or sometime after implantation in the uterine lining. Let's review (emphasis mine):

MATTHEWS: Well, there's science on IUDs, by the way. Are you sure of the science that the IUD doesn't prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg?

SCHRIOCK: So much so that when you explain it, just like we did in Mississippi a few years ago, when the people of Mississippi voted down the personhood amendment, which would ban these types of birth control, the reason they did so was because it was going to ban these types of birth control. Women need access to health care, and this is a big piece of that access...

So Schriock says that Mississippi voters -- hardly a rabid pro-choice cohort -- voted down a personhood amendment because of fears that such a law could ban IUDs from the market in the Magnolia State, because IUDs prevent implantation of fertilized eggs and hence end the lives of persons under a personhood law stipulating personhood begins at conception.

Of course, at issue in the Hobby Lobby ruling is not banning IUDs from the marketplace but rather exempting religious employers from having to subsidize the cost of those devices by having to cover them on the company-sponsored health plan. Employees of Hobby Lobby remain perfectly free to buy IUDs out of pocket or could get them say from a spouse's work-based insurance plan. The arts and crafts chain merely doesn't wish to be a part of subsidizing the device.

Schriock and company love to cloud the issue with alarmist rhetoric and surely find MSNBC a safe platform for amplifying their talking points to a receptive audience.

On Wednesday's Hardball, however, Ms. Schriock received a measure of push-back, and that from a rather surprising source on a generally-friendly network.

It also bears mentioning that Matthews actually balanced out the panel with Nathan Diamond, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, who opposes efforts to overturn the Hobby Lobby ruling. A point-counterpoint segment should be par for the course on cable TV, but this is MSNBC we're talking about, so it's actually a departure from standard operating procedure.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters