AP, Newsday uncritically report Giuliani assertion that 2003 and 1997 abortion ban exceptions were substantively different

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

An April 25 Newsday article uncritically reported that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) "insisted his recent support for the Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on" the abortion procedure that critics call partial-birth abortion "was consistent with his past opposition because the law changed in 2003 to include more scientific language about protecting the life of the mother." Similarly, an April 25 Associated Press article uncritically reported that Giuliani said there was no "inconsistency" between "his long-standing support of abortion rights and his affirmation last week of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a ban on what critics call partial-birth abortion," adding that Giuliani "said he opposed" such a ban "when it was discussed during the Clinton administration because he didn't feel it made an exception when a mother's life was in danger." The AP noted that "Giuliani supported" President Bill Clinton when Clinton vetoed a ban of the procedure. However, neither article noted that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997 that Clinton vetoed also included a similar "exception when a mother's life was in danger" or challenged Giuliani's reported assertion that the 2003 ban "include[d] more scientific language about protecting the life of the mother."

The 1997 abortion ban that Giuliani opposed included the following exception:

This paragraph shall not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. This paragraph shall become effective one day after enactment.

The 2003 abortion ban upheld by the Supreme Court included an exception that differed in two ways. It added the word "physical" before "illness" and "injury," presumably to ensure that mental illness and mental injury were not included in the exception -- in other words, it made explicit that the exception was narrower than might otherwise be construed -- and it specified that the exception covered "a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself":

This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself. This subsection takes effect 1 day after the enactment.

Additionally, the Nebraska ban struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000 contained an exception identical to the 2003 federal ban:

No partial birth abortion shall be performed in this state, unless such procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

The articles did not report that Giuliani gave any evidence for his argument that the exception in the 2003 law was "more scientific" or provided any greater protection for the life of a pregnant woman, nor did the Supreme Court rely on the difference between the exception in the 2003 law and previous bills in this time upholding the ban.

From the April 25 Associated Press article:

Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani defended his positions on a late-term abortion procedure and gun control Tuesday as he faced skeptical GOP voters who questioned his sincerity.

"I don't think there's an inconsistency," the former New York City mayor said of his long-standing support of abortion rights and his affirmation last week of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a ban on what critics call partial-birth abortion, a measure he opposed in the past.

[...]

On the late-term abortion procedure, Giuliani said he opposed it when it was discussed during Clinton's presidency because he didn't feel it made an exception when a mother's life was in jeopardy. Clinton twice vetoed bans on the procedure, arguing that they didn't adequately protect the health of the mother. Giuliani supported the vetoes.

Last week, after the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, Giuliani said it "does not alter the Second Amendment" and emphasized state-by-state gun control measures, which contrasted with his past enthusiasm for a federal mandate to register handgun owners.

A tense moment came when Marty Capodice, 64, a registered independent of Hopkinton, N.H., questioned Giuliani about what he called the Bush administration's violations of civil rights in the name of national security.

From the April 25 Newsday article:

In Henniker [New Hampshire], Giuliani faced questions from fellow Republicans about whether he is, in essence, Republican enough to win his party's nomination in light of his positions on gun control and late-term abortion. Giuliani has shifted his stances on both issues in hopes of currying favor with conservatives who help pick the nominee.

On the procedure known to its opponents as partial-birth abortion, Giuliani insisted his recent support for the Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on it was consistent with his past opposition because the law changed in 2003 to include more scientific language about protecting the life of the mother.

The most dramatic exchange came when Marty Capodice, 64, of Hopkinton, N.H., a former Republican now registered as an independent, said he believes the Bush administration has undercut "just about every personal right" in the pursuit of al-Qaida.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
Associated Press, Newsday
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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