Nets Hype Kansas Abortion ‘Backlash,’ Pro-Lifers Being ‘Flat-Footed’

The three main broadcast networks spent Thursday morning hyping the defeat of a pro-life Kansas ballot measure as “blowback” for the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, left conservatives “flat-footed,” and has the potential to motivate Democrats to vote in November.

CBS Mornings was the worst offender. Host David Begnaud introduced a report by Steven Portnoy by hyping, “The backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision to throw Roe v. Wade has taken on new shapes. One day after Kansas voters rejected a measure to remove abortion rights from the state’s constitution, President Biden announced a new executive order to assist abortion seekers.”

As part of his recorded report, Portnoy declared, “The loss has left conservatives flat-footed.”

Portnoy also played up the idea that the Kansas vote proves Republicans are in trouble, “he defeat of the proposed constitutional amendment which was aimed at undoing the effects of a state Supreme Court decision girding abortion rights shows not only how the issue has galvanized Democrats, but how it could also threaten Republicans.”

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To try to prove his point, Portnoy showed counties that voted for Donald Trump also voted against the amendment. For CBS, this shows abortion is popular, as University of Kansas political science Prof. Patrick Miller explained, “To those of us who watch politics, that abortion is not as polarizing as really we think… On this one issue when they were allowed the opportunity to vote on abortion they did so, and they expressed their preference.”

Kansas voted to leave things the way they are; it did not vote to embrace the Democratic line of no restrictions. If pro-lifers had put forth a more specific question, the results could’ve been very different.

Still, Portnoy then highlighted the four states that will have abortion-related ballot measures in November. One of those is Montana, where “Republicans have proposed an amendment requiring care for any infants that might survive attempted abortions.”

Surely, that cannot be considered controversial. No doubt the media will still try.

Meanwhile, over at Good Morning America on ABC, White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, also hyped the vote’s ability to motivate Democrats:

Look, you know this, Kansas is a deeply red state. Voters sent a clear message there to defend abortion rights, even in some of the most conservative-leaning counties and this was a surprise. This measure was defeated so Democrats right now, they’re really hoping that this issue galvanizes their base especially when it comes to the coveted vote of suburban women, they’re using this as part of this broader messaging campaign to paint Republicans as extremists on social issues.   

Democrats calling Republicans extremists is not exactly new, but unlike Begnaud, Vega did throw some cold water on Biden’s executive order, “frankly, when it comes to this EO they have offered very few details on how this will end up working or how, frankly, the government is going to be able to pay for this one.”

Over at NBC’s Today, senior correspondent Hallie Jackson also played up the idea that what happened in Kansas will happen elsewhere:

All of it coming as Democrats are celebrating and hoping to capitalize on momentum in the midterms around access to abortion after a stunner on of a win in Kansas for abortion rights advocates in Kansas where voters chose to protect abortion access. President Biden signing an executive order to try and make it easier for women seeking abortions to travel between states, applauding the Kansas 
vote and what it could mean come November.

Kansas is a complicated state. It is dark red, yet three of its last five governors have been Democrats. It appears media is learning the wrong lessons from Kansas which likely means they will be wondering why abortion didn’t save them in November.

CBS Mornings was sponsored by Progressive, GMA was sponsored by Ancestry, and Today was sponsored by Kohl’s.

Here are transcripts for the August 4 shows:

CBS Mornings

8/4/2022

7:11 AM ET

DAVID BEGNAUD: The backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision to throw Roe v. Wade has taken on new shapes. One day after Kansas voters rejected a measure to remove abortion rights from the state’s constitution, President Biden announced a new executive order to assist abortion seekers. Steven Portnoy of CBS News Radio looks at the potential for major ripple effects in the midterms and beyond. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re going to get through this difficult period – 

STEVEN PORTNOY: The loss has left conservatives flat-footed. 

ROGER MARSHALL: This is absolutely a surprise and I have no explanation, and – and again, it was just a gut punch. 

PORTNOY: More than 900,000 Kansans cast ballots Tuesday, a stunning turnout for an early August primary. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, how are you? 

PORTNOY: The defeat of the proposed constitutional amendment which was aimed at undoing the effects of a state Supreme Court decision girding abortion rights shows not only how the issue has galvanized Democrats, but how it could also threaten Republicans.

Take a look at Leavenworth County. In 2020, 59% of voters there chose former President Trump. The same percentage voted no on Tuesday. And in Sedgwick County, the state’s second most populous, 54% voted for Donald Trump, 58% voted against the amendment. 

PATRICK MILLER: To those of us who watch politics, that abortion is not as polarizing as really we think. 

PORTNOY: Patrick Miller is a political science professor at the University of Kansas. 

MILLER: On this one issue when they were allowed the opportunity to vote on abortion they did so, and they expressed their preference. 

PORTNOY: The latest CBS news poll shows women under 50 see abortion as their top issue heading into the midterms. And most Democrats say their party isn’t doing enough to protect abortion access. This fall voters in Vermont and California will be asked whether they support codifying abortion rights in their states’ constitutions. Kentucky voters will weigh an amendment similar to the one just defeated in Kansas. And in Montana, Republicans have proposed an amendment requiring care for any infants that might survive attempted abortions. 

On Wednesday, president Biden said the Kansas result proves abortion opponents have misjudged voters’ anger. 

JOE BIDEN: They don’t have a clue about the power of American women. Last night in Congress– in Kansas they found out. 

***

ABC Good Morning America

8/4/2022

7:04 AM ET

CECILIA VEGA: Hey George, good morning to you. So, president Biden and frankly the rest of his party, they are really looking at Kansas hoping that this is a sign of what’s to come in just 96 days when voters head to the ballot box for these midterms. 

Look, you know this, Kansas is a deeply red state. Voters sent a clear message there to defend abortion rights, even in some of the most conservative-leaning counties and this was a surprise. This measure was defeated so Democrats right now, they’re really hoping that this issue galvanizes their base especially when it comes to the coveted vote of suburban women, they’re using this as part of this broader messaging campaign to paint Republicans as extremists on social issues but Republicans, they are clear on this one. 

They say the midterms are going to end up being about a referendum on the president and the economy, abortion really the reality is take a look at this only on the ballot in four other states this year, so it really remains to be seen whether this is going to become a defining issue that gets voters to the polls so, president, you mentioned there, he signed that EO yesterday aiming to help low-income women who live in states where the procedure to travel to other states.

He is really, George, trying to show that his administration is out front on this but, frankly, when it comes to this EO they have offered very few details on how this will end up working or how, frankly, the government is going to be able to pay for this one. 

***

NBC Today

8/4/2022

7:09 AM ET

HALLIE JACKSON: All of it coming as Democrats are celebrating and hoping to capitalize on momentum in the midterms around access to abortion after a stunner on of a win in Kansas for abortion rights advocates in Kansas where voters chose to protect abortion access. President Biden signing an executive order to try and make it easier for women seeking abortions to travel between states, applauding the Kansas vote and what it could mean come November. 

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