NY Times again ignored Giuliani's shifting position on abortion ban


In an April 19 New York Times article on the political impact of the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, staff writer Robin Toner reported that Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani "said the court 'reached the correct conclusion.' " But while the article noted that Giuliani is "a longtime supporter of abortion rights," it did not mention that, in 2000 when running for a Senate seat from New York, Giuliani agreed with President Clinton's veto of similar legislation, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997, saying that had he been in the Senate when it was considering the bill, he would have "vote[d] to preserve the option for women." By contrast, in related April 19 articles, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday all noted the apparent contradiction in Giuliani's statements.

As Media Matters for America noted, an April 18 post on The New York Times' political weblog, The Caucus, also printed Giuliani's statement applauding the court's decision but omitted his prior opposition to the ban.

The April 19 New York Times article reported that the Supreme Court's decision pushes abortion rights issues "squarely into the 2008 presidential election" and later noted Giuliani's approval of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the ban:

Both sides in the abortion struggle predicted that the Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday would escalate the drive for new abortion restrictions in state legislatures and push the issue of abortion rights -- and the Supreme Court -- squarely into the 2008 presidential election.


Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican former mayor of New York and a longtime supporter of abortion rights, said the court "reached the correct conclusion."

As Media Matters has noted, 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 his apparent reversal from his position articulated in 2000 against the ban. Giuliani attempted to reconcile his two positions by stating that he supports the current ban because it contains a "provision for the life of the mother." But as Media Matters detailed, 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.

Yet, just as the April 18 post on The Caucus did not mention this apparent conflict, the April 19 Times article also omitted any reference to Giuliani's shifting position and his attempted reconciliation, which rests on the false premise that the ban he previously opposed and the current ban differ on the issue he cited.

By contrast, other print outlets reported Giuliani's seemingly contradictory statements. For example, the Los Angeles Times published an entire article highlighting the contrast:

The Supreme Court decision Wednesday upholding a ban on a controversial abortion procedure heightens the issue's visibility in the 2008 presidential race and spotlights a shift in position by Republican candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The former New York mayor and other top Republicans vying for the White House welcomed the ruling while leading Democratic contenders said they deplored it.

Giuliani, the only major GOP candidate who supports abortion rights, has tried for months to mollify conservative critics.

On Wednesday, he praised the court for upholding the ban on the midterm procedure. "The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial-birth abortion," Giuliani said in a statement. "I agree with it."

His praise for the ruling contrasts his position while seeking reelection as mayor in 1997. On an abortion rights group's questionnaire, he circled "yes" next to the question of whether he would oppose "legislation that would make criminals of doctors who perform intact D&X abortions" -- the technical term for what critics call "partial-birth" abortions.

In an article highlighting the ramifications of the court's decision on the 2008 presidential election campaign, The Washington Post mentioned Giuliani's conflicting statements:

For Republicans, the ruling helped to obscure the varied records on abortion held by the party's presidential contenders.

"The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it," former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who supports abortion rights.

When he ran for the Senate in 2000, Giuliani expressed support for President Bill Clinton's veto of a similar ban that included an exception for cases in which the life of the pregnant woman was in danger. Giuliani has since expressed support for the 2003 ban, which included an exception to protect the life of a pregnant woman.

New York's Newsday also reported Giuliani's support for the court's decision, further noting that Giuliani has previously "spoken in favor of allowing some so-called partial birth abortion procedures to be allowed under the law."

While the April 19 New York Times article omitted this fact, the newspaper has previously published an article focusing solely on the change in Giuliani's position on certain abortion issues. In a February 10 article headlined "Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently to Right," the Times reported:

On the issue of a disputed abortion procedure called "partial-birth abortion" by opponents, he told Mr. Hannity that a ban signed into law by President Bush in 2003, which the Supreme Court is reviewing, should be upheld. And on the issue of parental notification -- whether to require minors to obtain permission from either a parent or a judge before an abortion -- he said, "I think you have to have a judicial bypass," meaning a provision that would allow a minor to seek court permission from a judge in lieu of a parent.

"If you do, you can have parental notification," he said.

Both appear to be shifts away from statements he made while he was mayor and during his brief campaign for United States senator in 2000. Asked by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in 2000 if he supported President Bill Clinton's veto of a law that would have banned the disputed abortion procedure, Mr. Giuliani said, "I would vote to preserve the option for women." He added, "I think the better thing for America to do is to leave that choice to the woman, because it affects her probably more than anyone else."

And on a 1997 candidate questionnaire from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of New York, which Mr. Giuliani completed and signed, he marked "yes" to the question: Would you oppose legislation "requiring a minor to obtain permission from a parent or from a court before obtaining an abortion."

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
The New York Times
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.