Cross-posted with permission from Media Matters for America.
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley let Mitt Romney off the hook over lingering questions about his position on abortion in cases of rape.
During an interview that aired Monday night on the eve of the Republican convention, Pelley asked Romney about a plank in the GOP platform that would ban abortion in all cases, with no exception for rape. Romney responded that he has “been clear” that he supports “abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother.” The CBS segment then pivoted to a discussion between Romney and Pelley about cars.
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Contrary to the perception that CBS let stand, Romney’s position on abortions in cases of rape, incest, and pregnancies that endanger a woman’s health has been anything but clear. This is in line with how other media outlets have failed to pin the Romney campaign down on his views on these issues. Media outlets have repeatedly reported that that Romney supports allowing abortions in cases of rape without examining how that lines up with what Romney has said about this issue in the past.
Underscoring the rhetorical contortions Romney has taken on this issue, his campaign has already walked back one of the statements Romney made during the interview: that he believes abortion should be legal in situations in which a pregnancy endangers the health of a pregnant woman. Romney’s campaign has said that he does not support abortion in such cases.
The lack of critical analysis the media has given to Romney’s views on abortion in cases of rape allows the Republican candidate to avoid explaining seemingly incompatible positions he has taken. While Romney has said at times that he does not support abortion bans in cases of rape, Romney has also repeatedly embraced proposed constitutional amendments that would outlaw abortions without exceptions for pregnancies that resulted from rape and incest.
Pelley, for example, did not ask Romney to square the comments he made on CBS with the position he took in 2007. Then, Romney said he supported the 2004 Republican platform on abortion, which called for a constitutional amendment and legislation outlawing abortion with no exception for rape or incest. Romney has also embraced such abortion bans during the 2012 election cycle as well. In October 2011, during a discussion of Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor, Romney told Fox News host Mike Huckabee that he would have supported “a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception.” In November 2011, Romney said that “life begins at conception.”
Pelley also did not ask any questions to follow-up Romney’s statement criticizing Democrats for making women’s reproductive rights a political issue. According to Romney: “this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts.” But, the president chooses the judges who sit on the Supreme Court. And anti-abortion activists believe that during the next four years, a president may be able to appoint members of the Supreme Court who will overturn the constitutional protection for a woman’s right to choose.
But all of that is moot if the Republican platform were enacted and the constitution were amended to outlaw abortion, it would overrule the court decisions that have held that the Constitution protects a woman’s reproductive freedom.
Which is why the media need to clear up Romney’s position on this issue.