Matthews said, "I don't hear Democrats talk ... about the need to reduce the number of abortions," but they do, often, and on his showJune 16, 2008 2:28 PM EDT ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE
On the June 12 edition of his MSNBC show, Chris Matthews asserted, "I don't hear Democrats talk ... about the need to reduce the number of abortions." He continued: "They talk about the rights issue, the constitutional question of Roe v. Wade, but you don't hear them talking a lot about the need for education, for much fewer, maybe enormously fewer, unwanted pregnancies, which is the reason people get abortions." In fact, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) -- have all said that the United States should work to reduce the number of abortions through education and access to contraception.
Matthews made his comment after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said: "I think women and men have the same concern about where this country is going and struggling from paycheck to paycheck. When it comes to more basic issues, issues of privacy, certainly it means a lot to all of us. And it means a lot to women in this country. I think Barack Obama's position on the issue of choice is one that most Americans agree with. He wants to try to downplay and discourage the number of abortions in this country, to have more family planning, to avoid unplanned pregnancies."
At a Compassion Forum at Messiah College on April 13, Obama said, "[W]e can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion," and, "I think that we can reduce abortions and I think we should make sure that adoption is an option for people out there." Obama's campaign addresses the issue on its website also; under the headline, "Preventing Unwanted Pregnancy," it reads: "Barack Obama is an original co-sponsor of legislation to expand access to contraception, health information and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies."
As Media Matters for America documented when U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Gloria Borger described Clinton's assertion that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" as a "transparent" effort to recover the so-called "values vote," Clinton has long expressed that position. Additionally, in a March 6, 2005, address, Clinton asserted:
CLINTON: Practically speaking, making it harder for women to get information, counseling and family planning services is a counterproductive policy. It does nothing to reduce abortion; in fact, it does just the opposite. Without access to contraception and family planning services, there will be more unwanted pregnancies. And without access to adequate medical care, many women will die undergoing unsafe abortions.
There is no reason why governments cannot help educate women and assist them with their health care needs. It is the most effective way both to reduce abortions and improve the health and well-being of women and their families.
In a speech to the New York State Family Planning Providers in January 2005, Clinton also pointed to the need for "comprehensive education and accurate information" in order to try to "reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions." Additionally, during a forum for presidential candidates on the June 4 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Clinton was asked if she "could see [her]self, with millions of voters in the pro-life camp, creating a common ground with the goal ultimately in mind of reducing the decisions for abortions to zero." She responded: "Yes. Yes. And that is what I have tried to both talk about and reach out about over the last many years, going back, really, at least 15 years, in talking about abortion being safe, legal, and rare. And by rare, I mean rare." Further, at the Messiah College Compassion Forum, Clinton asserted, "I think abortion should remain legal -- but it needs to be safe and rare."
Ensure real and age-appropriate sex education in public schools, including education on abstinence and contraception.
Make contraceptives more available.
Increase funding for federal family planning programs (Title X).
Create a national media campaign to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
On the October 5, 2005, edition of Hardball, Dean said to Matthews, "I think we ought to have the smallest number of abortions as possible." Dean continued: "You know, abortions have gone up since George Bush has been president. I think we ought to reduce abortions to the smallest number possible. But I don't think you do it by taking away the right of women to make up their own mind about the way their lives are going to be shaped."
On the December 29, 2004, edition of Hardball, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said to guest host and NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell: "Well, I think what we've got to look for is common ground on abortion as a party. And there is common ground between pro-life Democrats and Democrats who are pro-choice. And the common ground is, we all want to see the number of abortions reduced. And there are plenty of ways to do that, with sex education, sex education on the preventative side, with making prevention tools available for young people, by speeding up the process of adoption, by making adoption easier in this country."
On the January 2, 2003, edition of Hardball, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Kate Michelman, a supporter of Sen. John Edwards' 2008 presidential primary campaign who later endorsed Obama, said to guest host Mike Barnicle: "What I would say to the president is that perhaps what he should concentrate on is creating a nation where we focus on making abortion less necessary, not illegal, not more difficult, but less necessary by expanding access to family planning, by including funding for comprehensive sexuality education, not just abstinence only." She added: "[T]hat's what I would say to the president, that you could do a lot by respecting the right of women, while at the same time encouraging a nation to reduce the need for abortion."
From the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about women voters in the suburbs. Obviously, abortion rights is a big issue. A lot of those women were very big for Hillary Clinton, emotionally gung-ho about the chances of a first woman president. They're still getting used to the fact that that probably won't happen for a while now. How do you talk to them, if you're Barack Obama? Their feelings, as well as their political minds, are hurt.
DURBIN: Well, they talked about the economic issues. And I think women and men have the same concern about where this country is going and struggling from paycheck to paycheck. When it comes to more basic issues, issues of privacy, certainly it means a lot to all of us. And it means a lot to women in this country.
I think Barack Obama's position on the issue of choice is one that most Americans agree with. He wants to try to downplay and discourage the number of abortions in this country, to have more family planning, to avoid unplanned pregnancies.
DURBIN: And I think when you look at John McCain's position, you'll find a more extreme position on this issue.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I don't hear Democrats talk like you just did, Senator, about the need to reduce the number of abortions. They talk about the rights issue, the constitutional question of Roe v. Wade, but you don't hear them talking a lot about the need for education, for much fewer, maybe enormously fewer, unwanted pregnancies, which is the reason people get abortions. They don't want a pregnancy. How do Democrats begin to change their tune on that?
DURBIN: Well, it isn't a matter of changing their tune. For many of us, that has been the bottom line. We respect a woman's right to choose, but we also believe that an abortion is not something to be celebrated. We want to reduce the numbers.
We do that through education, through family planning. That's where we ran into resistance from a lot of people like John McCain and a lot of people on the conservative side, who are against abortion but also against the ways to reduce the number of abortions. You can't have it both ways.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think anybody who doesn't want to stop the number of unwanted pregnancies is on the wrong side of that issue. Anyway, we should have fewer abortions, and the way to do that is to create fewer circumstances.