The Media Rarely Ask Democrats to Qualify Their Support for Abortion

Dem Debate Participants Alex Wong Getty
Alex Wong/Getty

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was asked Tuesday about the humanity of her own children prior to birth. Her awkward answer points to a problem in how the media covers the issue. Because Democrats are so rarely asked to qualify their support for abortion, they don’t have good answers to even the most obvious questions.

Case in point: This Tuesday, Brittany Hughes of the Media Research Center approached Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the CNN Democratic debate and asked what she believed about the humanity of her own children before birth. Here is the exchange:

MRC TV: You have three children, correct?

Wasserman Schultz: I do.

MRC TV: How old are they?

Wasserman Schultz: I have twin 16-year-olds and a 12-year-old.

MRC TV: In your opinion, were they human beings before they were born?

Wasserman Schultz: You know, I believe that every woman has the right to make their own reproductive choices.

MRC TV: But what did you believe about your children?

Wasserman Schultz: That I had the right to make my own reproductive choices, which I was glad to have and which I was proud to have.

MRC TV: So were they human beings? Just yes or no.

Wasserman Schultz: They’re human beings today, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to make my own reproductive choices, as—a right that every woman has and should maintain.

Wasserman Schultz resorted to repeating the same line about “reproductive choices,” by which she means abortion. Her answer isn’t even as nuanced as existing law, which sets a limits on abortion between 20 and 24 weeks in most states.

A more thoughtful, but still pro-choice, answer might go something like this: I believe my children were human beings some time before birth; however, I don’t believe that’s the case for a fetus at 10-12 weeks, the time when the majority of legal abortions take place. Is that so hard?

To be fair, the fact that Wasserman Schulz couldn’t give a better answer is not entirely her fault. The fact that Democrats very rarely get asked these sorts of questions, at least by anyone in the mainstream media, means they often don’t have a well-thought-out answer.

That’s why President Obama had to dodge the question when he was asked it in 2008. It’s also why Nancy Pelosi, when asked what the difference was between what Kermit Gosnell did and late-term abortion, couldn’t answer the question.

Meanwhile, Republican candidates are frequently asked to qualify their support for the pro-life position at length. Two months ago, GOP candidate Marco Rubio was grilled on his abortion views by CNN’s Chris Cuomo for 7 minutes on live television. At one point, Cuomo argued, “Don’t you think, if you want to be a leader of the future, that’s a question that deserves an answer that is definitive beyond your faith–when does life begin?” Has Cuomo spent similar time (or any time) pushing Democrats to answer this question? The answer appears to be no.

This pattern of interrogating Republicans while giving Democrats a pass continued during the two most recent debates, both hosted by CNN. Katie Yoder of MRC notes that CNN devoted more than 10 minutes to abortion and Planned Parenthood-related questions during the GOP debate in September. One of the most remarked upon moments of the entire night was Carly Fiorina’s challenge to Hillary Clinton to watch a series of undercover videos about Planned Parenthood.

So with the issue constantly in the news and the gauntlet thrown down by Fiorina, how many minutes did CNN devote to it in the Democratic debate this week? The answer is zero. Not a single question was asked. No Democrat was asked any difficult question about their support for abortion.

There are plenty of tough questions that could be asked of pro-choice Democrats if the media was so inclined. This list includes questions about support for gender selection, race and abortion, the morality of abortion, and yes, when human life begins. If the media decided to stop playing favorites, they’ll probably find most Democrats don’t have good answers to most of these questions.


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