Reports by NY Times, others on Giuliani reaction to abortion decision did not mention apparent flip-flop

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

Several reports immediately following the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 noted Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's statement applauding the decision, but did not note the apparent inconsistency between his April 18 statement and the position he took in 2000 against the "partial-birth abortion" ban passed by Congress in 1997. Reports by Fox News and the Associated Press and posts on the political weblogs of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal all noted Giuliani's statement praising the court's decision while omitting reference to his previously expressed opposition to the ban.

Giuliani stated on April 18: "The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it." But in 2000, Giuliani said he agreed with President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997, saying then -- in response to a question about whether if he, as a senator, would have "vote[d] with the president or against the president" -- that he would have "vote[d] to preserve the option for women." On the February 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, when Giuliani expressed support for the current law banning "partial-birth abortion," co-host Sean Hannity pressed him about the apparent reversal. Giuliani attempted to reconcile his two positions by stating that he supports such bans only when they contain a "provision for the life of the mother." But as Media Matters noted, several federal bills banning "partial-birth abortion" proposed from 1997 through 2000 -- including the one Clinton vetoed in 1997 -- also provided "an exception to save a mother's life who is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury." So, while the presence of a life-of-the-woman exception was previously not enough to win Giuliani's support for a ban, such an exception is apparently now sufficient.

As media critic and blogger Greg Sargent wrote: "[I]t's worth noting yet again that Rudy's current opposition to late term abortion is a new addition to his repertoire. ...We'll see if these inconvenient facts make it into any of the press coverage carrying his statement." These facts were omitted from several April 18 reports that included Giuliani's statement after the decision.

  • In an entry on the New York Times weblog The Caucus, Sarah Wheaton told readers to "[n]otice the differences between comments by Senator John McCain, a Republican who has said he opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican who has said he is personally anti-abortion but believes women should have the right to receive one." Later in the post, The Caucus reprinted Giuliani's statement without further explanation.
  • A Fox News article stated simply that, like 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also said he agreed with the decision."
  • An Associated Press article reported that Giuliani has said he "favors abortion rights" and "support[s] public funding of some abortions." But while the article suggested that his April 18 statement and his pledge to appoint judges like those in the majority in the "partial-birth abortion" ban decision might be in tension with his professed pro-choice views, it did not note that he appears to have reversed himself on the specific question of a "partial-birth abortion" ban:

In a statement issued by his campaign, [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ] said, "It is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life."

The admonition seemed aimed at former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, other leading contenders for the GOP nomination.

Giuliani favors abortion rights and has drawn criticism for supporting public funding of some abortions. But he says he would appoint justices very similar to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, President Bush's appointees. Both were part of the majority in Wednesday's ruling.

Giuliani said in a statement that he approves of the high court's action.

"The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it," he said.

  • An entry on The Wall Street Journal blog Washington Wire stated: "We took [McCain's statement] as a swipe at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has said he supports abortion rights but has also said he would appoint 'strict constructionist' jurists, like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Giuliani didn't exactly expand on his views, issuing a terse statement: 'The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it.' "
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