CBS Fears Too Much Focus on Rights of Unborn in Abortion Debate

News & Politics

During an interview with Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune on Friday’s CBS Mornings, the hosts repeatedly pressed the GOP lawmaker on his pro-life positions. At one point, fill-in co-host Dana Jacobson even suggested that the abortion debate focused too much on the rights of unborn children and not enough on women.

“We’re going begin this hour with the Senate Republican Minority Whip John Thune, who joins us at the table to talk about the battle over abortion rights….He says the Democratic push to enshrine a right to an abortion into federal law goes too far and is out of step with most Americans,” co-host Gayle King proclaimed at the start of the 8:00 a.m. ET hour segment. She then quickly tried to undermine his argument: “But just last week, a CBS News poll found that 64% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.”

She turned to the Senator and asked: “…you voted against to codify Roe v. Wade. Why did you vote that way? What was your thinking?” Thune immediately fact-checked her incorrect description of the radical pro-abortion legislation: “…that vote was more than just codifying Roe, which is why they lost even people who typically support Roe vs. Wade on our side….it was more expansive, it went beyond Roe, and it was a piece of legislation I think they knew was going to fail.”

He then speculated: “I think Senator Schumer did it to satisfy a political constituency that wanted that vote, but knew it was going to fail.” Co-host Tony Dokoupil chimed in with Chuck Schumer’s Democratic talking points: “He thinks it’s going to galvanize Democrats in the midterms. Is there any concern on the Republican side that this issue could, in fact, galvanize Democrats?”

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Thune hit back: “Well, I think that they’re looking for something to distract from the economy, inflation, and the border and some of the issues that they would rather not talk about.”

Moments later, King continued to seize on misleading polling numbers: “But most Americans, it seems, support Roe v. Wade. Would you support it with some restrictions?” Thune again presented facts that the liberal media anchor was omitting:

Well, I think to your point, Gayle, if you look at the way this polls, if you – you know, Roe vs. Wade, basically the decision, the Supreme Court decision, said the states’ interest becomes compelling at the point of viability, which keeps moving back. And you know, right now 65% of Americans don’t think you ought to have abortions past the first trimester, so into the second or third trimester. 80% believe you shouldn’t have them after the second trimester.

He also pointed out that the United States is “really out of step with the world” when it comes to abortion, being “one of only seven countries in the world that allows abortions after 20 weeks, and those include, of course, North Korea and China.”

A short time later, Jacobson worried that there was too much concern for the tens of millions of unborn children who have been aborted since the Roe v. Wade ruling was issued in 1973:

…we hear so much about, as you talk about, when does life begin? There’s a lot of talk of what the rights are of be it a fetus, be it an unborn child, however you refer to that. What about the women and the families that we’re talking about and their rights, too? How do you balance that in the consideration?

In part, Thune responded: “I think that the responsibility for people who hold a pro-life position isn’t just to state that and check the box, you’ve got to actually demonstrate that you’re willing to help care for moms who are going to carry babies to – to the point of birth.”

Jacobson declared: “Or give moms a chance to have that say, potential moms to control some of what is their body also. Trust in them, and in doctors, also.” Dokoupil ominously concluded: “It’s a very big deal for a government to tell a woman she has to carry a pregnancy through to term. I think we all agree on that.”

Wrapping up the exchange, King urged Thune to tell his Republican colleagues to come on the broadcast, laughably claiming: “We’re very friendly here. We like all points of view.”

CBS’s whining about the rights of unborn children was brought to viewers by Febreze and Cadillac. You can fight back by letting these advertisers know what you think of them sponsoring such content.

Here is a full transcript of the May 13 interview:

8:02 AM ET

GAYLE KING: We’re going begin this hour with the Senate Republican Minority Whip John Thune, who joins us at the table to talk about the battle over abortion rights after that stunning –  and stunning is the word – the leak from the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade. He says the Democratic push to enshrine a right to an abortion into federal law goes too far and is out of step with most Americans. But just last week, a CBS News poll found that 64% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.

Senator John Thune, we’re happy to say, joins us at the table. We love it when you come into the studio, it’s nice to have you in person. Want to talk to you about the vote last week, you voted against to codify Roe v. Wade. Why did you vote that way? What was your thinking?

SEN. JOHN THUNE [R-SD]: Well, I’ve been – I have a history in my time in public life of being pro-life, but that vote was more than just codifying Roe, which is why they lost even people who typically support Roe vs. Wade on our side, people like Senators Collins and Murkowski. But basically it was more expansive, it went beyond Roe, and it was a piece of legislation I think they knew was going to fail. We had that vote, actually, a few weeks ago. And I think Senator Schumer did it to satisfy a political constituency that wanted that vote, but knew it was going to fail.

TONY DOKOUPIL: He thinks it’s going to galvanize Democrats in the midterms. Is there any concern on the Republican side that this issue could, in fact, galvanize Democrats?

THUNE: Well, I think that they’re looking for something to distract from the economy, inflation, and the border and some of the issues that they would rather not talk about. I think this is an issue, this is a pivot – clear pivot on their part to try and get on something that they think they can play offense with. But a lot of it’s going to come down to – and the politics around this issue is very contentious, always has been.

KING: Fraught is a good word to use.

THUNE: Fraught is a good word.

KING: On both sides.

THUNE: It is. And so how that plays politically remains to be seen because there are many places around the country obviously where you – if you’re a candidate running and you’re a pro-life candidate, that’s going to work to your political advantage.

KING: But most Americans, it seems, support Roe v. Wade. Would you support it with some restrictions?

THUNE: Well, I think to your point, Gayle, if you look at the way this polls, if you – you know, Roe vs. Wade, basically the decision, the Supreme Court decision, said the states’ interest becomes compelling at the point of viability, which keeps moving back. And you know, right now 65% of Americans don’t think you ought to have abortions past the first trimester, so into the second or third trimester. 80% believe you shouldn’t have them after the second trimester.

And we’re really out of step with the world. I mean, we’re one of only seven countries in the world that allows abortions after 20 weeks, and those include, of course, North Korea and China. Most European nations, France is at 14 weeks, Germany’s at 12 weeks. So most countries have found a political consensus around restrictions that are I guess would start much sooner in a pregnancy than –

DOKOUPIL: Is that where you are? Would you allow it?

DANA JACOBSON: I was gonna say, so why not support something that had those restrictions in those timelines that you speak of?

THUNE: I think the question for a lot of people is going to be, is it a human life and when does that – when does life begin? I think what you’re gonna see is state legislatures – because this doesn’t do away with it, it just returns it to the states.

KING: To the state level, yeah.

THUNE: Are gonna have to find political consensus, and some states are probably going to define it differently. My position has always been exceptions – rape, incest, life of the mother –  but a ban.

KING: I’m wondering if you’re still enjoying your job, and I’m asking you that because there’s a bestselling book out right now, I know you’ve heard of it, This Will Not Pass, it says you considered not running for re-election this year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Hold on just a second, Senator.” So first, are you enjoying your job? And why did you – is it true that you considered not running for re-election?

THUNE: Well, I did –

KING: Is that a good smile?

THUNE: I’ve got – well, I’ve got, you know, like you, I’ve got grandkids now running around. It was – it was a hard – hard decision. But in the end, you do things because you think it’s some place you can make a difference, and I’d like to believe public life is still a place where you can make a difference.

JACOBSON: In going back to the beginning discussion, there’s one thought – we hear so much about, as you talk about, when does life begin? There’s a lot of talk of what the rights are of be it a fetus, be it an unborn child, however you refer to that. What about the women and the families that we’re talking about and their rights, too? How do you balance that in the consideration?

THUNE: Well, I think you have to – you’ve got to be compassionate. And you know, the solution, if you’re a pro-life person, and I am, and if you believe that’s a human life, then you believe it needs to be protected. But there’s also – there is – there’s a mom and a lot of vulnerable moms, and I think that the responsibility for people who hold a pro-life position isn’t just to state that and check the box, you’ve got to actually demonstrate that you’re willing to help care for moms who are going to carry babies to – to the point of birth.

JACOBSON: Or give moms a chance to have that say, potential moms to control some of what is their body also. Trust in them, and in doctors, also.

DOKOUPIL: One of the questions is – well, go ahead.

THUNE: Well, no, I mean, I think that you’re right. And that’s why, you know, as you look at this issue, as I’ve said, you’ve got to do it in a way – I think there’s a compassionate way and understand that your impact.

Now I’m not – I’m a middle-aged white guy, I’m probably not the person who should be talking about a subject like this, but I also have a wife and two very accomplished daughters who are pro-life. And –

KING: But you’re a middle-aged white guy in a position of power to make a difference on something to millions of women.

THUNE: And I think you have to listen – you have to listen very carefully to what people are saying. But in the end, if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.

But I think and how you determine the course of action is going to be largely based upon where the political consensus is, and I think, you know, right now, this is a decision that has been made by nine unelected judges, and it’s now going to go back to the people and their elected representatives, which is, I think, where a lot of folks think issues like this should be decided.

DOKOUPIL: It’s a very big deal for a government to tell a woman she has to carry a pregnancy through to term.

KING: Yes.

DOKOUPIL: I think we all agree on that.

KING: And would you tell some of your other middle-aged white men that we like middle-aged white men here at the table. Spread the word. We’re very friendly here. We like all points of view.

JACOBSON: We like all people, right? We like everybody.

KING: We like all points of view.

DOKOUPIL: That comes very close to calling me middle-aged.

THUNE: Well, you’re not quite there yet.

DOKOUPIL: And I still claim to be youthful. Senator Thune, thank you very much.

THUNE: Thank you.

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