For the second day in a row, National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition misrepresented Virginia Governor-elect Timothy M. Kaine's position on abortion. On November 10, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson falsely described Kaine -- who supports legal access to abortion -- as "pro-life." On November 11, NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty drew a false dichotomy between Kaine's position on abortion and that of the Democratic Party. Bradley labeled Kaine "an unusual candidate," claiming that "he opposes abortion in a party that supports it." In fact, while Kaine has expressed opposition to abortion as a matter of personal faith, he made it clear during his campaign that he supports legal access to abortion and highlighted the issue as one distinguishing him and his Republican opponent, former Virginia attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore.
Bradley went a step beyond Liasson, asserting that Kaine's position on abortion was the opposite of his party's position. Bradley's and Liasson's mischaracterization has the effect of advancing the notion, promoted by Republicans, that Kaine won because he ran on a "strategy sharply at odds with the approach of leading national Democrats." That assertion -- which is The Washington Post's paraphrase of RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's characterization -- may or may not be true as a general matter, but what is not true is that Kaine's position on abortion is the opposite of his party's. The Democratic Party supports access to legal abortions; Kaine supports access to legal abortions. While Democrats may differ over the degree to which they think that abortion should be regulated, they belong to the party that supports abortion rights, while the GOP opposes them.
As Kaine demonstrates, one can simultaneously oppose abortion and support legal access to abortion procedures. By mischaracterizing Kaine's position, Liasson and Bradley falsely suggest that the two are irreconcilable. In fact, Kaine's articulation of his views of abortion echoes that of other prominent Democrats. As president, Bill Clinton famously declared that abortions should be "safe, legal, and rare." Speaking before NARAL Pro-Choice America on January 22, 1999, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) said: "I have met thousands and thousands of pro-choice men and women. I have never met anyone who is pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion."
From the November 11 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:
HAGERTY: Kaine was an unusual candidate. He opposes the death penalty in a state that favors it, and he opposes abortion in a party that supports it.