Sunday, January 08, 2006

Abortion, Front and Center

I used to turn on NBC’s Meet The Press because I thought it was a good, hard-hitting show that asked tough questions of people of varying political stripes. Since that is no longer the case, I guess you can say that I still turn it on every Sunday purely out of instinct.

Imagine my total shock when I witnessed an actual debate between two diametrically opposed guests, with tough questions from Tim Russert to boot.

This week’s edition of Meet The Press boasted a remarkably frank discussion, on the eve of Samuel Alito’s judicial confirmation hearings, about the issue of abortion, perspectives on Roe v. Wade, and the political future of the issue, between Kate O’Beirne (frequent National Review contributor and author of the new book, Women Who Make the World Worse) and Kate Michelman (former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America).

Cheers to Kate O’Beirne, who pulled no punches in putting forth her opposition to abortion and why she thinks the Democrat Party has taken so many hits on the issue since Roe was decided in 1973. Among her gems was the way O’Beirne noted that American feminism has lost “millions” of adherents since its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s because groups like the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America have continued to insist that support for abortion be the central plank in any true feminist’s agenda. O’Beirne noted that it has been Democrats’ unquestioning embrace of Roe that has hurt their electoral chances in recent years, and that Republicans have exploited that embrace to their advantage, at least for now. O’Beirne looked comfortable and confident the whole time, and I thought she did a decent job of framing the debate (although, in the interest of full disclosure, I agree with her perspective on the subject).

Michelman, by contrast, looked angry and uncomfortable the whole time, as O’Beirne and Russert actually forced her to address some of her own conflicting comments. Michelman put forward the view (which has been debated at length here at TPS in previous posts) that one can be both “anti-abortion” and “pro-choice” at the same time, noting that one’s support of the concept of abortion did not necessarily mean they were rooting for abortions to happen. Michelman also said that she did not object to the Democrat Party supporting pro-life candidates, but awkwardly danced around her official opposition to pro-life candidates, including Bob Casey, Jr., current pro-life Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania (and son of former Pennsylvania governor and pro-life Democrat, the late Bob Casey – whom many of you will remember was prevented from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he had the audacity to oppose abortion and not march in lockstep with party).

Michelman also (surprise, surprise) objected to Samuel Alito being confirmed to the Supreme Court, arguing primarily that it was inappropriate for someone who did not favor abortion to replace the Court’s perennial politician, Sandra Day O’Connor. She went further, objecting to Alito because, in her view, his appointment would only “consolidate the Scalia-Thomas philosophy on the Court, and that is not a good thing for the future of women.”

This was a great exchange, but please, do not take my word for it. Anyone who is interested in seeing this bout on Meet The Press but missed this round of Sunday morning shows can either check their local listings for re-airings on MSNBC or go to NBC’s website, where you can now download archived Meet The Press episodes via “Netcast” or “Podcast” after 1:00 p.m. EST.

(Note: I avoided quotations except where I was able to get precise quotes, but the above account is for the most part a paraphrasing of what happened. If any of you detect any errors, substantive or stylistic, please let me know and I will make appropriate corrections.)

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