PBS Drools Over Dem Success on Abortion Issue: ‘Could You Ever Vote Republican Again?’

The PBS NewsHour on Monday attempted to bolster the struggling Biden re-election campaign by focusing on a purported Democratic issue, abortion — or as PBS labels it, “reproductive health care” — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. It’s a partisan tactic they’ve tried several times before both on weekdays and the weekend edition.

Monday’s story featured the program’s most biased reporter, political correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez, complete with labeling bias. Besides the euphemistic references to “reproductive health care” and the “right to choose” a “procedure,” the reporter used the term “conservative” twice, but no liberal or even “progressive” ones.

Sharkus told PBS she doesn’t “specifically identify as Democrat or Republican,” but if you can’t ever imagine voting for Republicans again, you sound like a Democrat. 

Shanay Watson-Whittaker of Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America) combined belief in God with the “right to choose” abortion. Slotkin has been endorsed by this abortion lobbying group, and boasts a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record. But neither Slotkin nor the abortion lobby are apparently “liberal” or “leftist.”

Even the conservative in the story sounded liberal on the issue, not wanting to make it a federal issue.

When asked by the reporter to pin down a time frame during the pregnancy, Finley was amenable to a ban after 20 weeks, far past the first trimester of pregnancy.

There were a couple of a Trump soundbites as well, so it wasn’t completely one-sided. After soundbites from two other pro-abortion voters, Barron-Lopez huddled up again with Rep. Slotkin and gave her the last word, sounding the “wakeup call for Democrats” against the party’s previous “complacency” on the issue.

PBS NewsHour

5/13/24

7:24:01 p.m. (ET)

Amna Nawaz: Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, Republicans have banned abortion in 14 states and restricted it in more. But, when given the chance, voters have overwhelmingly supported ballot initiatives to protect access to the procedure.

This election year, abortion will again be a defining issue.

Laura Barron-Lopez reports from the battleground of Michigan, where Democrats plan to keep reproductive health care front and center.

Annie Sharkus, Michigan Voter: You got it? Great job.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Raised in a deeply religious and conservative household, Annie Sharkus stayed out of politics, until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Annie Sharkus: I gathered signatures. We organized, like, a rally. I gave a speech at one, started going to, like, coffee hours and things like that with our local politicians, just getting more involved, because I didn’t want my kids to look back at this point in time and say, like, OK, well, what did you do, and I couldn’t tell them that I did nothing.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Now abortion access is protected in Michigan, but voters are still thinking about it.

Even though it’s not on the ballot in Michigan this time around, do you still think that it is a top issue for a lot of voters?

Annie Sharkus: Even if we’re not worried about it in our state in particular, yes, it’s definitely something that people are using to gauge how they’re voting.

Laura Barron-Lopez: The stay-at-home mom of two, who lives in the suburbs of Detroit, isn’t excited to vote for Joe Biden. But Annie thinks he will ultimately make access to abortion safer.

Annie Sharkus: With voting for Joe Biden, it is hard, because I’m not a single-issue voter. I don’t specifically identify as Democrat or Republican. While I will vote for him, I wish that there was another option.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Do you think that you could ever vote Republican again?

Annie Sharkus: I don’t think that I would with the current direction that the Republican Party is going. I am so far from identifying with what they want to happen that I don’t see it ever happening.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin wants to keep women like Annie squarely in the Democratic column. Her message to voters, abortion will always be on the ballot.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI): The other side has made this a central issue for them for 50 years. Their actions speak louder than words. And their actions are currently, like, as we speak, trying to threaten a woman’s right to choose, and people see that.

Laura Barron-Lopez: When voters turned out for abortion rights in Michigan in 2022, it was a victory for Democrats. In 2024, they’re trying to replicate that success here and in states across the country.

Slotkin, now running for the U.S. Senate, is one of many downballot Democratic candidates trying to maintain urgency.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin: We have to understand that most people see this as a kitchen table issue. A decision about whether to have a child or not is the most profound kitchen table issue that we have. It’s not separate from inflation. It’s not separate from the economy.

It’s like your whole family trajectory and whether you are going to be able to afford that life.

Laura Barron-Lopez: What happened in Michigan became a blueprint for how to organize around abortion effectively. Ohio followed suit in 2023. Now the right to an abortion will be on the ballot this November in three states, including Florida, which currently bans any kind of termination after six weeks of pregnancy.

And similar initiatives could end up on the ballot in up to nine other states this year, including the battlegrounds of Arizona and Nevada.

Shanay Watson-Whittaker, Reproductive Freedom for All: What happened in 2022 wasn’t an anomaly.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Back in Michigan, state activists like Shanay Watson-Whittaker, who works for the nonprofit Reproductive Freedom for All, were instrumental in mobilizing voters in 2022. Two years later, she’s sharing that strategy.

Shanay Watson-Whittaker: Michigan, for a lot of folks, has been like a North Star. We specifically and intentionally had conversations with Black clergy, with clergy from other denominations, sat them down and talked about reproductive freedom.

What people forget are that clergy are humans. They have experienced loss — miscarriage loss. They have had abortions. We believe in God and we believe in Jesus. And,at the same time, we believe that government should not interfere with a woman’s right to choose.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Meanwhile, Republicans who cheered the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe are struggling to find their footing.

In March, the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, spoke favorably of a national 15-week abortion ban.

Donald Trump, Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate: People are really — even hard-liners are agreeing, seems to be — 15 weeks seems to be a number that people are agreeing at.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Then, last month, he flip-flopped, saying states could decide for themselves.

Donald Trump: The states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land, in this case, the law of the state.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Still, some top Republicans in Congress support the national 15-week ban and measures that would make it a crime to transport minors across state lines for an abortion without parental consent.

Donald Trump: Thank you, Wisconsin.

Laura Barron-Lopez: More recently, Trump told “TIME” magazine he’d allow states to both monitor pregnancies and prosecute those who violate abortion bans.

Nolan Finley, Opinion Editor, The Detroit News: Republicans keep handing Democrats this issue every election cycle. It never seems to be out of the political picture.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Nolan Finley is the conservative opinion editor at The Detroit News.

What exactly would you like to see either the presidential nominee, Donald Trump, lay out or other Republicans across the board in terms of the specific policy towards abortion?

Nolan Finley: Well, I would like them to stay away from a federal policy. I think that’s what’s the point of the Dobbs ruling. But I think the Nikki Haley solution of let’s all sit down and find out where we can agree in terms of a point in the pregnancy where were going to say you have had time to make your choice.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Whether it’s six, 15 weeks?

Nolan Finley: Fifteen, maybe 20, wherever — somewhere in that range where people can settle and say, this is fair. This allows people time to make their decision. This allows you to deal with rape and incest, et cetera, but it also prevents something I think most people would be opposed to, and that is abortion in the last month or so of pregnancy.

Laura Barron-Lopez: For voters we spoke to in Lansing, they’re heeding calls that abortion is an issue to turn out for in November.

Matt Allswede, Michigan Voter: Michigan voters, they recognize that this is an issue that goes beyond the borders of the state of Michigan.

Susan Anderson, Michigan Voter: I think we have all found out that we cannot rest on our laurels, that we must come out and vote for the right people.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Ultimately, Roe was a wakeup call for Democrats like Congresswoman Slotkin, one that she says exposed their party’s complacency.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin: I think we let ourselves get comfortable, that we didn’t believe the other side when they said, we’re coming for Roe v. Wade and we want to overturn it. We saw all that happening, but we just had a failure of imagination.

What I want to do is say publicly to the whole country that we have a 10-year plan to get back to a federal right to an abortion. We’re not going to let it just be a state issue. We’re actually going to organize and mobilize to do the thing we didn’t do for 50 years, which is pass a piece of federal legislation to codify Roe.

Laura Barron-Lopez: The results in November could determine if Slotkin’s plans takes 10 years or another 50. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Laura Barron-Lopez in Michigan.

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