The following is a transcript of my radar from Monday’s edition of “Rising” on Hill TV.
Populists on the left and right find common ground on many issues, economic and cultural. Abortion is not one of those issues. But opponents of the powerful political and media establishment should care about elite distortion of the debate.
There’s a serious discussion on the right about the legal and practical wisdom of Texas’s new abortion law. Every honest person left and right can at least agree it’s a dramatic piece of legislation with high-stakes consequences. Depending on your perspective that’s either tragic or wonderful.
Why, to the right, should it be wonderful? I’m not here to debate the wisdom of the bill, which may indeed be replicated soon by other states. But outside, perhaps, Fox News, there is almost no representation of the anti-abortion perspective in major media. That means this entire conversation is completely distorted.
A 2020 survey found that eight in 10 journalists who said they lean towards one party or ideology — which was 78 percent of them — identified as liberal or Democrats. The same survey found sampled journalists were “far to the left of the average Twitter user and even to the left of prominent liberal politicians like former president Barack Obama.” The vast majority of Democrats, of course, support abortion rights, as Gallup found in recent years.
Even all the way back in 1990, David Shaw of the LA Times noted “Most major newspapers support abortion rights on their editorial pages, and two major media studies have shown that 80% to 90% of U.S. journalists personally favor abortion rights.”
We know from the bulk of legacy media coverage that journalists are liberal on abortion. Some on the left actually dispute this, arguing that media’s insistence on including both sides of the debate in coverage gives abortion opponents undue moral equivalence.
The public is not broadly pro-life. The right should understand that. According to Gallup, only 32 percent of Americans support overturning Roe. A full 58 percent oppose it. That said, according to Gallup, Americans who believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances are easily outnumbered by those who believe it should be legal only under certain circumstances. Actually, as of 2021, the percentage of Americans who identify as pro-choice and pro-life differs by only two points, 49 to 47 respectively. That includes 43 percent of women.
So why is this important? Because, as with many issues, it means our national debate pits the liberal perspective against a straw man, rendering the whole discussion completely unproductive.
Chris Cuomo demonstrated this well recently. It almost feels unfair to pick on Cuomo at this point given how he’s so thoroughly beclouded himself. But he’s employed as an “anchor” at one of the country’s largest news networks, which oversees one of the most-visited websites in the world.
As people digested the news out of Texas, Cuomo tweeted a quote from professor Carliss Chatman that asked whether opponents of abortion would back starting child support, citizenship, and life insurance for unborn babies — implying they would not because they are hypocrites. Cuomo purports to follow this issue closely, as is his job. He once claimed the pro-life movement was more about “faith and feelings than facts,” which would be fine if he didn’t claim to be neutral.
Nevertheless, if he actually understood the pro-life position, he would know that Chatman’s attempted counterpoint isn’t a dunk at all. It’s something most pro-life people would get behind. That’s exactly why child care proposals like Sen. Mitt Romney’s start during pregnancy.
If you don’t talk about these issues with the 47 percent of the country that considers itself pro-life, you end up operating off a stereotype that caricatures the pro-life movement as “feeling”-based fundamentalists who haven’t fully thought through their position. That’s how the debate is then represented by the political establishment. Pro-life activists are as skeptical of the GOP elite as progressives are of the DNC. As I said on this show after the Texas law was signed, I bet it made a whole lot of people at the RNC very, very nervous.
College graduates and people whose households earn over $100,000 a year are much, much more likely to identify as pro-choice than people with some or no college education in lower household income brackets. Those old white Republican men Democrats like to imagine as villains from the Handmaid’s Tale? A whole lot of them would be pretty unhappy if Roe were overturned because they’re much more concerned about the politics than the policy. Why do you think Republicans in Congress rarely prioritize pro-life causes when they’re in control?
My political philosophy is basically that Big Business and Big Government are inherently corrupt and power-hungry and need reasonable checks. I’m a cultural conservative Christian. I used to be much more libertarian on abortion, especially up until about 12 weeks. Even so, I’m so opposed to government controlling women’s bodies that I believe prostitution should be legal. As I learned more about abortion, my perspective changed. I think life begins at conception and the Fifth Amendment, then, legally and morally protects that life. You don’t have to agree with me at all. I know most of you watching probably don’t.
But the bad-faith partisan caricature of abortion opponents as fundamentalist rubes and cynical sexists is not broadly true and is therefore not helpful. People are not uniformly pro-life because they’re religious zealots eager to control women’s bodies. It’s often pro-abortion men who coerce women into aborting their babies against their will who try to control the female body. One of them is CNN’s chief legal analyst.
But the political establishment and the media do not accurately represent this debate, which splits the country almost perfectly in half. People are pro-life because they believe the baby is alive and should not be killed. That is the proper starting point for the pro-life side of the debate. As conversation over new state laws and legal challenges to Roe heats up in the coming months, we’d all do well to recognize that.