VIDEO: The Gibson Interview: Palin on Roe v. Wade

Scott Swenson

Charlie Gibson asks the predictable questions and gets the predictable answers on abortion. But what's the reality beyond the talking points?

In part two of ABC’s interview with Gov. Sarah Palin, Charlie Gibson asked about a range of social issues, including Roe v. Wade. Because of the way ABC edited the interview differently for its evening news program, hour-long prime-time special on Palin, and late night news programs, different lines were cut, but the transcript below offers the most complete accounting of the interview as it pertains to Roe v. Wade

Gibson: Roe v. Wade, do you think it should be reversed? 

Palin: I think it should and I think states should be able to decide that issue.

Gibson: It’s a critical issue for so many women.

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Palin: It is.

Gibson: You believe women should not have that choice?

Palin: It is a very critical and very sensitive and a personal issue also for so many women and men across this nation. I am pro-life. I do respect other people’s opinion on this also and I think that a culture of life is best for America. What I want to do when elected Vice-President with John McCain, hopefully be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue because I know we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America and great support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace to allow that culture of life. That’s my personal opinion on this Charlie.

Gibson: John McCain would allow abortion in the case of rape and incest, you believe in it only in the case of when the life of the mother is in danger.

Palin: That is my personal opinion.

Gibson: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

Palin: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed, if the life of the mother is in danger, please understand me on this, I do understand McCain’s position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing view. The problem is there are too many abortions and women are hurt and I just believe it is time we evolve the debate even, into more long-term solutions for the issue we’re talking about.

It seems odd to respect other people’s "opinions" on the issue of Roe, but not respect their "choices."  Repealing Roe v. Wade will not stop abortion, only make criminals of women who seek them. Women will be hurt most by not being able to make the best private medical decision for themselves and their families. On the issue of adoption, while everyone can agree it is one important choice, it is a far better talking point, for politicians in both parties, than it is an actual reality in the lives of most women with unintended pregnancies. According to Guttmacher’s Cory Richards,

Politicians from both parties frequently promote tax credits and
other incentives to ease the way for adoptive parents to demonstrate
that they want to "do something" about abortion. Facilitating
adoptions, especially of hard-to-place children, deserves our strong
support. But it does nothing to affect the abortion rate. To assert
that it does is either ill-informed or simply cynical, and it should

Meanwhile, we know that very few women actually place their infants
for adoption. In the United States, fewer than 14,000 newborns were
voluntarily relinquished in 2003 (the latest year for which an estimate
is available), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. That proportion — just under 1% of all the children born to
never-married women — has remained constant for almost two decades.
It’s down considerably from the early 1970s, but even in those days,
more than nine in 10 unmarried women who gave birth kept their babies.


As good as the adoption talking point is, the other tried and true talking point for anti-choicers is all about "states’ rights".  Here is the reality.

Twenty-three states would automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned, and according to Donna Crane of NARAL Pro-Choice America, "the reversal of Roe would clear the way for a Congress currently dominated by anti-choice politicians to ban abortion and thus override any state laws guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose."

The social conservative mantra of "states’ rights" only matters if the states are doing what the social conservatives want them to.  Recall that Oregon twice passed it’s Death with Dignity Law (94 and 97), only to see social conservatives attempt to overturn that state law twice in Congress, and twice in the federal courts.  The most conservative Justices on the Supreme Court; Scalia, Roberts and Alito — the three most often associated with "strict constructionism" or " not legislating from the bench" — especially to overturn an issue reserved to the states, were in the minority of the 6-3 Gonzales v. Oregon decision upholding the rights that Oregon citizens voted themselves. The conservatives voted against states’ rights when they didn’t agree with what the state had done.

Social conservatives will not be satisfied returning the issue to the states. They will tie up Congress with votes to ban abortion just as they have for the past 30 years. Social conservatives will wage war in every state legislature continuing their ever more extreme brand of violence and uncompromising politics, using this issue to divide the nation and impose their religio-political agenda for another generation, rather than try to bring us together around an education and prevention agenda, like the Prevention First Act that many progressives support.  If you think the nation is divided now, just wait to see what the extremists in the anti-choice movement will do to pass abortion bans in every state.

As nice as the "working together" talking point might sound, the fact is John McCain has had plenty of opportunity to work to reduce unintended pregnancies in his 26 years in Washington. 

Instead he has voted 22 times against birth control and family planning. Two examples:

  • McCain voted to eliminate the
    entire Title X family-planning program that provides low-income women
    with birth control and cancer screenings [Weicker motion to table Helms
    amendment to FY’89 Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill,
    H.R.4783, 7/25/88; motion to invoke cloture on Family Planning
    Amendments Act, S.110, 9/26/90.].


  • McCain also voted against requiring insurance plans to cover prescription contraception. [Clinton/Reid amendment to FY’06 Budget Resolution, S.Con.Res.18, 3/17/05.]

The mainstream media can’t seem to get past questions about when life begins, and the most basic restatement of a candidate’s beliefs about whether or how women should have the right to make their own private medical decisions. So the candidates, in both parties, get away with pat answers and soundbites that don’t begin to reflect the realities of sexual and reproductive health that women face everyday.

It’s time we hold the media and candidates in both parties accountable and force them to discuss the realities of sexual and reproductive health, not just their carefully crafted talking points as they try to broaden their appeal.


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