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“Live Desk” Allows Platform For Anti Abortion Catholic Priest As Part Of Lobbying Effort Against Health Care Reform?

Reported by Priscilla - July 26, 2009 -

The anti-choice lobby is in full, fighting mode against health care reform because a public option for health care might include funding for abortions. Their argument is that they don’t want their tax dollars going to a medical procedure that they feel is murder. (Course they had no problem with the carnage of the Iraq war and support the death penalty; but details, details). As the mouthpiece for the Christian right, Fox News, does seem to provide a voice for the anti choice crowd with little or no counterpoint representing the majority of Americans who believe in a women’s right to an abortion. The proposed public health option of health care reform has galvanized the anti choice lobby and Fox News is certainly providing a non fair and balanced platform for them. Last week, *Megyn Kelly interviewed an anti abortion congressman about his view of proposals (only that nothing more) about abortion vis-à-vis the health care debate. On Friday, Roman Catholic priest Frank Pavone was given a softball interview in which he presented the views of the anti choice lobby. “Fair and balanced” – don’t think so.

Pavone, who endorsed Bush in 2004, is head of an order specifically created to work to make abortion illegal in the USA. Priests for Life includes the anti abortion Denver bishop Charles Chaput and is linked to the extreme right wing anti choice “Concerned Women for America.” Pavone has appeared, at anti abortion protests, with domestic terrorist Randall Terry. And it’s ironic, given the GOP’s desire for stronger protection against frivolous lawsuits against doctors, Pavone advocates putting abortion doctors out of business using malpractice litigation. So obviously this priest has a very political agenda – something that wasn’t detailed by Trace Gallagher on Fox’s “The Live Desk.”

Gallagher’s first question was revealing in the way it was framed, “a lot of people would ask why abortion is even part of this bill. Shouldn’t it be excluded altogether?” If Gallagher was a real “journalist” he would have asked why abortion wouldn’t be covered in this bill seeing that women have access to abortion with private plans. But no, he needed to toss the ball back to Pavone for more anti choice talking points as in “abortion isn’t health care.” Pavone ( a celibate male) said that there “is not disease that abortion cures” and that there is “no medical benefit” to the procedure. (Memo to the padre – a pregnant woman with a medical condition that could kill her if an abortion isn’t performed might disagree) Pavone, a primo member of the anti abortion lobby said “let’s not let the abortion lobby hijack” the bill. Gallagher asked Pavone about “the phrasing” of those (President Obama, Hillary Clinton) who use the terms reproductive health care when describing abortion. As if on cue, Pavone said “there’s no secret about the fact that” abortion is being described by this phrase. As if on cue, Gallagher said that it should be noted that the “vast majority of Americans are opposed to federally funded abortions.” Pavone said that “we can see that from the public reactions, the circles I travel.” (Yeah, fellow radical anti abortion types). He claimed that people “are outraged” (I guess the padre isn’t aware of the outrage in pro-choice circles about how the anti choicers are, once again, trying to limit a woman’s right to an abortion.) He made the specious point that “Americans don’t want” the “legitimate” debate about health care to include abortion. (Memo to Pavone: You speak for yourself and co-religionists. You don’t speak for the rest of us!) He added that the American public wants “more reasonable restrictions on abortions.”

Comment: Pavone is no political neophyte. Like Bill O’Reilly he called Dr. Tiller a baby killer and said, while not condoning the murder, “the administration is hostile to the anti-abortion movement, there are acts of violence from people who feel helpless." So he’s not just your average parish priest. If this were a “fair and balanced” presentation, Gallagher could have interviewed a pro choice clergy member (never seen on Fox, as far as I know), somebody from the administration who is involved in the policy making, or a pro choice politician. Gallagher provided absolutely no counterpoint to Pavone’s talking points – but then, that probably was the game plan. Abortion coverage is very important, for women, and deserves to be part of the debate. But the anti choice lobby, aided and abetted by Fox News, only want you to hear the anti abortion side.

Update - the Pavone interview was followed by Martha MacCallum's interview with Ohio Representative Jim Ryan who said that Catholic hospitals should be able to, under a "conscience clause," be exempt from performing abortions under any health care reform package. He added that because of conservative "pro-life" democrats, abortions won't be part of a public health option. While Ryan presented another view, it was not pro-choice. It would have been interesting if MacCallum had interviewed somebody from Planned Parenthood or NARAL about what is seen, by those in the pro-choice community, as an attempt to discriminate against women by not offering a publicly funded abortion health care plan. (Would love to see a debate between Pavone and somebody from PPFA or "Catholics for Choice!") Gallagher's segment was clearly biased towards the anti abortion side as Gallagher did not challenge Pavone and asked questions that allowed Pavone to recite anti abortion talking points.

*Note - Megyn Kelly did interview Julie Piscitelli (formerly of NARAL) about the abortion option. According to Maggie Skelton from the Women&Politics Institute it was a good discussion. Hopefully the video will be made available as I would like to see the posture of Kelly's questions. But I stand corrected that Kelly did not offer counterpoint - in the form of another segment. As with Gallagher, in the above segment, she did not challenge the congressman and seemed very sympathetic towards the "pro-life" side.