Fox's Cameron relayed Giuliani's implausible explanation of "partial-birth" abortion flip-flop

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

On the February 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron uncritically reported Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's explanation of why he changed his position and now supports a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortions. Cameron said the former New York mayor "opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000, saying, quote, 'I would vote to preserve the option for women.' Now, he says, because the current law banning partial-birth abortion contains an exception to save the mother's life, he supports it." However, Giuliani's explanation of his change of position is not credible because both the current federal ban and several federal bans proposed in 1997 through 2000 -- including the one vetoed in 1997 by then-President Clinton -- have "an exception to save the mother's life."

Blogger and media critic Greg Sargent has also documented Giuliani's reversal on the ban and has also pointed out the life-of-the-pregnant-woman exception in the bill that Clinton vetoed.

The quote Cameron presented as showing Giuliani's previous opposition to a ban came from his February 6, 2000, appearance on NBC's Meet the Press:

TIM RUSSERT (host): A banning of late-term abortions, so-called partial-birth abortions -- you're against that?

GIULIANI: I'm against it in New York, because in New York --

RUSSERT: Well, if you were a senator, would you vote with the president or against the president?

GIULIANI: I would vote to preserve the option for women. I think that choice is a very difficult one. It's a very, very -- it's one in which people of conscience have very, very different opinions. I think the better thing for America to do is to leave that choice to the woman, because it affects her probably more than anyone else.

Russert appeared to be asking Giuliani -- who was then reportedly contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate -- whether, if elected, he would support or oppose Clinton if he were to again veto a "partial-birth" abortion ban. In October 1997, Clinton had vetoed the proposed "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997," which explicitly allowed the procedure if it was necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman when endangered by "physical disorder, illness or injury":

Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. This paragraph shall not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. This paragraph shall become effective one day after enactment.

Three separate "partial birth" abortion bans passed either the House or Senate in 1999 or 2000, but none passed both. All three (HR 3660, S.1692, and S.1692 as amended by the House) had identical life-of-the-pregnant-woman exceptions.

On June 15, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that a Nebraska ban on the procedure was unconstitutional. According to the text of the Nebraska statute presented in the court's decision, that law also had a life-of-the-pregnant-woman exception when her life is endangered by "physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury":

"No partial birth abortion shall be performed in this state, unless such procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself." Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §28--328(1) (Supp. 1999).

Likewise, the "current law banning partial-birth abortion" that Giuliani now says he supports -- the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003" -- contains the same exception as the law struck down in Stenberg:

Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself. This subsection takes effect 1 day after the enactment.

From the February 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: Is Roe [v. Wade] bad law?

GIULIANI: I think that's up to the [Supreme] Court to decide. I think that it's been precedent for a very, very long time. There are questions about the way it was decided and some of the bases for it. At this point, it's precedent. It's going to be very interesting to see what Chief Justice Roberts and what Judge -- Justice Scalia do -- Justices Scalia and Alito do with it. I think probably they're going to limit it rather than overturn it. In other words, they'll accept some of the limitations that different states have placed on it or the federal government has placed on it.

HANNITY: Partial birth?

GIULIANI: Partial-birth abortion: I think that's going to be upheld. I think that ban's going to be upheld. I think it should be. And I think, as long as there's provision for the life of the mother, then that's something that should be done.

HANNITY: There's a misconception that you supported partial-birth abortion.

GIULIANI: Yeah, well, if it doesn't have provision for the life of the mother, then I wouldn't support the legislation. If it has provision for the life of the mother, then I would support it.

From the February 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani comes to the 2008 presidential race with considerable public recognition as a result of his actions during and after 9-11. But Giuliani also comes with a fair amount of what could be called baggage, some of it particularly problematic for a Republican candidate. Chief political correspondent Carl Cameron joins me now for a closer look. Hello, Carl.

CAMERON: Hiya, Brit. Well, he is the national front-runner in the polls and though his campaign is just getting started, it's already becoming clear that Republican Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign will be, among other things, entertaining.

[begin video clip]

He gets a big smooch from wife Judith Nathan on the cover of today's New York Post. She calls him a "macho romantic." As a pro-choice Republican in the officially pro-life GOP, Giuliani's begun trying to quell conservative doubts about his social views. He opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000, saying, quote, "I would vote to preserve the option for women." Now, he says, because the current law banning partial-birth abortion contains an exception to save the mother's life, he supports it.

GIULIANI: As long as there's provision for the life of the mother, then that's something that should be done.

CAMERON: When it comes to abortion and the Supreme Court, Giuliani told Republicans in South Carolina recently that he would tap, quote, "strict constructionists," such as Bush nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, to interpret the constitution, not make new law. Still, conservatives worry that this comment from the socially liberal Giuliani, just a year and a half ago, raises concerns.

GIULIANI: Presidents, going back to the beginning of the republic, generally appoint people to the Supreme Court that they believe agree with them.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Carl Cameron
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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