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Voters' Attitudes Changing on Abortion?; Birth Control For Nuns?

Aired January 22, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, one of the country's most explosive flashpoints--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The real war today is actually a war on motherhood.

ANNOUNCER: -- with no room for compromise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot allow the opponents of life to continually weaken the moral fabric of our country.

ANNOUNCER: Is the country changing? On the left, Sally Kohn. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Lila Rose, the president of Live Action. What's changing in the national debate and with voters' attitudes? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


SALLY KOHN, GUEST CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Sally Kohn on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, guests with very different views on the value of life.

Today in Washington, we saw thousands of people in a minus 4 wind chill standing to protest babies being killed. In their view, it's a moral issue that is literally life and death.

We've been having these marches since the Supreme Court decided Roe versus Wade 41 years ago. But here's what's different. New technologies now enable us to see that an unborn baby is a baby, not just a lot of tissue, and we now understand that unborn babies feel pain.

Faced with this technology, killing babies becomes harder and harder to defend, which is why 64 percent of Americans now oppose any abortion in the second trimester, and 80 percent oppose third- trimester abortions. And that's why the debate is changing.

KOHN: But, you know, here's the other issue you're missing in that introduction, Newt, which is this isn't about personal views on abortion. I respect your views. The difference is, my views don't infringe on your views. Whereas your position literally restricts my choices and my rights.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro- Choice America. And Lila Rose, president of Live Action, an anti- abortion group.

Lila, just last year, 22 states enacted stricter abortion laws and we're seeing because of those laws in places like Texas, more and more women are choosing to self-abort. They're turning to self-abort as a resort, because there is no more access to safe and legal abortion in the state or limited.

Don't you feel that your positions, your extreme positions are just forcing women toward these more dangerous options?

LILA ROSE, PRESIDENT, LIVE ACTION: I think that we should dare to have a better view for America and our women by saying we shouldn't believe and have to think that women need abortion and that we have to kill our children to achieve the dreams and the careers and the families that we want. I think we can do better than that as a society. I think women deserve better.

I think we should fight at the community level for programs that are positive that help women if they're single mothers. We should improve the foster care system. We should improve the adoption system so that we can welcome children to this country instead of seeing them as a threat and killing them by the thousands each day.

KOHN: That's all valid. Can you answer that question, though, specifically which is for the women who still do choose abortion, restricting their option just leads them to more dangerous choices--

ROSE: Why are they -- why are they in that position? Why are they in the position to feel like abortion is their only option? Could it be because boss didn't want to promote them? Because a boyfriend was going to leave them, a university professor said, "We're not going to be flexible with our class schedule"?

Let's look at the reasons, and let's address those reasons. But let's not turn to killing, dismembering, poisoning. Let's not turn to killing our littlest Americans as a solution to these problems.

GINGRICH: Ilyse, let me ask you, you know, if you read the rationale of Roe versus Wade, it was based on a particular moment in time about viability of the baby and as a whole elaborate argument about that.

The fact is, with new technologies and with new scientific breakthroughs, something like 80 to 90 percent of all babies survive after 26 weeks. Shouldn't we look seriously at how, if Roe versus Wade were being decided today, it would set a much later date and say that clearly, this is not -- this is no longer questionable: an abortion, anytime, anywhere.

But it would say, you know, there is a cut-off because after that date, the baby clearly is viable and is a baby? ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Well, absolutely the vast majority -- vast majority of women who decide not to carry a pregnancy to term do so very, very early in their pregnancy. And in fact, the very far minority that get later, very complicated situations. Tests that come out terribly, either for the prospects of the life of the mother or the child that cannot be tested earlier.

Very, very complicated decisions, which is why when Americans hear how complicated those situations are, that they are among the most complicated medically, they believe that the choice should remain between a woman and her doctor, and not with politicians who are not the experts.

GINGRICH: So let me ask you this. Would you then accept that, after the first 26 weeks, a medical panel, say, of three doctors, would say, yes, this is a medically necessary case? Because candidly, what happened when we first looked at this was, if it's only one doctor and the doctor is an abortion doctor, the doctor always found a medical excuse.

HOGUE: What we already have is a situation where Roe says, up until the point of viability, this is a choice that the woman can make. Beyond the point of viability, this is a choice that requires a medical expert to determine what the potential risks and outcomes are.

And doctors actually impose restrictions all the time. We have case after case of doctors saying that this does not meet their own personal test. And that's exactly what the role of the doctor is.

ROSE: I think an important question would be -- and I would ask this of NARAL -- is why is it that every single abortion regulation, limitation, restriction, anything, even the ones that most Americans agree with, for example a ban on sex-selective abortion, why would you lobby against that? Why would you be opposed to that?

HOGUE: Most abortions are medical decisions that the majority of Americans vastly agree should be left between a woman and her doctor. The kinds of restrictions that have been imposed on the other side are manufactured restrictions to limit and narrow and narrow and narrow women's choices till they're forced into desperate situations exactly like what Sally is talking about.

And in fact, where you and I agree, Lila, which is awesome, is that we should actually push for the kinds of opportunities and economic equality that allow women the broadest range of choices. And what we see is the politicians who vote to restrict abortion all the time disproportionately vote against -- in fact, the ACA, which provided prenatal and maternal care for women and equal pay and the kinds of things you're talking about that I agree with women need to make informed choices.

KOHN: So I want to pick up on where you're going, Lila, and where you went, Newt (ph). Because there's a way in which folks who were opposed to abortion tried to portray some focus on later-term abortions to kind of paint this extreme picture of what Ilyse said, or a majority, vast majority, over 90 percent of abortions are earlier in the pregnancy.

But let's talk about extremism for a second. Lila, I read -- heard that you said that women who are raped should be forced to carry their pregnancies to term. I think we have a clip we're going to roll.


ROSE: They're going to say, "Wow, that was a redemptive part of this suffering. That was something that helped to redeem it." But abortion adds more violence to that violent act of rape.


KOHN: Are you really telling women that they should be forced by the government to carry their rapists' babies?

ROSE: This is the way that I would answer that, Sally. When a woman is raped, that's a horrible injustice against her. The rapist should be held to the fullest extent of the law, liable for that, culpable for that. The woman needs healing and the support of her community.

But an abortion doesn't un-rape a woman. An abortion just adds more violence on top of that first violence that she endured.

And you look at the stories of someone like Rebecca Kiestling (ph), a woman who was conceived in rape, and she said, "Should I have received the death penalty for the crimes of my father?"

I mean, if your father did something bad in his life, should you receive the crime -- should you receive the penalty for his crime? That's not fair.

I mean, I think all of this comes down to this question: What is the life in the womb? What is the life in the womb? Is it a human life? Is it a life? Science says it's a life.

KOHN: You are saying specifically--

ROSE: We should recognize the human rights of this whole group of people that we've denied rights for. And so we're dismembering them. We're poisoning them. We're ripping them apart.

You mentioned, Sally, late-term abortion. I want to address that real quick. Late-term abortion is horrific. But all abortion is horrific, even in the first trimester. Keep in mind, heart is beating at 3 1/2 weeks.

KOHN: We're not going to get into that right now. I want to go back--

ROSE: Why not? It's important to talk about.

KOHN: You are saying -- you are saying, in effect, the rapist should have more rights than the woman to--

ROSE: Absolutely not. The rapist -- the rapist isn't allowed to kill that child either. The rapist shouldn't -- isn't allowed to kill anybody. No one's allowed to kill anybody.

HOGUE: We live in a country where Lila Rose could decide that she would choose to carry her rapist's pregnancy to term, but her version of morality doesn't actually dictate what I can choose to do in that moment. And that's what religious liberty is about. It's about you getting to choose what would be right for you in that circumstance, but I don't get to tell you what to do, and you don't get to tell me.

ROSE: But I agree with you until the point where your rights end where another person's rights begin. And there is another life in the womb. When you conceive, you now have a person inside of you. This is a beautiful thing, but--

HOGUE: That is what you believe. That is not what--


ROSE: Science proves it. When you conceive, there is a unique, distinct human being that needs time and nourishment to grow.


KOHN: It's getting interesting. I want to add something to this conversation. If conservatives are really concerned about reducing abortions, I have three commonsense policies they should support but won't. I'll tell you what they are next.


KOHN: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Ilyse Hogue and Lila Rose.

Today, for the 41st year in a row, abortion remains constitutional, a fact that continues to frustrate the right wing. But here's what frustrates me.

Conservatives always say they want fewer abortions. Progressives agree. We can all agree on that. So there's a whole laundry list of things that we know reduce the need for abortions in America. Let's start with sex education and contraception. And what about raising the minimum wage? Among other things, that would allow women to afford to raise children.

So if conservatives really want to reduce the number of abortions in America, why are they opposing these policies that should be at the top of their agenda?

GINGRICH: One of the things I love about liberalism is that--

KOHN: Glad there's something.

GINGRICH: Whatever -- whatever is happening, you reach out to one of the five or six -- I'm surprised you didn't throw in, you know, global warming. I mean, there will be five or six other things we could work on, all of which would help. I just love that. That was very nicely done and weird. KOHN: But he didn't argue. So he must think I'm right.

ROSE: I'd like to say something.

KOHN: Lila, please go ahead.

ROSE: I think it's been really fascinating to me and insulting, actually, to see all of this political discussion about women reduced to birth control, and not just any birth control but mostly hormone drugs, synthetic hormones that are pumped in women's bodies.

There's the Yaz lawsuit happening right now, one of the most famous birth control pills of the last few years. Bayer corporation, that now 10,000 women have said how it's hurt them. There's even "Vanity Fair" exposing the NuvaRing, which was promoted by Planned Parenthood.

No one is talking about the risks to women of these drugs. Even the World Health Organization called them a Group 1 carcinogen. I mean, that's the kind of thing that women deserve to know, right up there with the dangers of abortion. And it's not being talked about.

And instead we're being told, "Just take this pill. It will reduce your fertility, and then you can be sexually available, do whatever and that will solve your problems." I don't think that's a good solution for women.

HOGUE: I think it's really interesting. I'm with you, Sally. Shockingly, right? That I hear from Lila and people like Lila that their ultimate intent is to actually decrease the number of abortions, and yet we're blocking all of the things that we know actually do allow women to make informed choices on the front end and prevent unintended pregnancies.

The countries that actually have the most access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, putting the information and knowledge and control in the hands of women actually have the lowest abortion rates. And we also know that 99 percent of American women at some time in their life use some form of contraception.

That's why we're trying to get it better and better all the time. And contraception has changed just like every other pharmaceutical in the country. That has both helped her but also have risks, it's changing for the better.

So, it is a woman's choice to be able to do that. But people like Lila actually block that because their view is that there is only one way to be a woman in this society, and they would like to use legislation to impose that morality on the rest of us.

ROSE: I think that legislation, the rule of law, is to protect human rights. So, when we're talking about that aspect, when we're talking about life in the womb, we have to recognize that those are people, too, and they have rights, too. I mean, we can't maybe see them --

KOHN: Lila, how can you -- ROSE: -- or they can't talk to us at this table. But they're victims by the thousands each day. So, we need to recognize their human rights.

The question about what's empowering to women, that's the discussion we can have. But it's never empowering to a woman to kill a child.


HOGUE: One thing we know -- this is where I see the split between people who say I personally believe abortion is immoral. And I would not do it but I don't want to impose that on anyone else. I believe it should be legal.

The reason -- one reason for that is because we know and it's proven all over the world that when abortion is illegal, the number of abortions don't go down but the number of women dying go up. And what you are saying is that women's rights don't matter, women's health doesn't matter, women's mortality doesn't matter, it has no place in this conversation.

And I find that to be very far outside of the mainstream of most people's experience.

ROSE: Ilyse, the founder of your organization NARAL, Bernard Nathanson, said the numbers that a lot of the pro-abortion activists at the time of Roe came up with about all these back alley abortions were hugely out of the water exaggerated. And he even said, "We lied." He straight up said, "We fabricated numbers."

So, I think that we first have to address this idea that hundreds of thousands of women just want to always have abortions no matter what. No, it's legal, it's paid for by the government and we're being told by society that this is the solution to our problems.


HOGUE: Study after study shows --

ROSE: Ireland, no abortion, some of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, lower than the United States and they have no abortion laws.

HOGUE: Ireland has terrible tragedy that created enormous rights.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you --

ROSE: And abortion wouldn't solve that problem.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question. You keep talking about the right to choose. The fact is that the left is so committed to its world view that the Obama administration currently is in the middle of a lawsuit with a group that you could hardly imagine -- this is -- you couldn't make this up.

But just take a picture, you know, the fact is that the Little Sisters of the Poor are currently in a fight with the federal government over eliminating their religious liberty as they define it. So, you've been -- wait a second -- you've been aggressively here saying, we have religious liberty, we have the right to -- these folks who said flatly, requiring them to do what the Obama administration wants is a direct violation of their beliefs and they simply want the government to let them alone.

HOGUE: The Little Sisters of the Poor do amazing work. I think everybody around this table agrees with that. And, in fact, what they need to do is sign a form that --


HOGUE: -- affirms their opposition to contraception --


HOGUE: Affirms their opposition to contraception. Let me tell you what happens after that, none of their employees get contraception, then they can go back to doing their work. What that's not true for -- what that's not true for, is the tens of thousands of employees of Hobby Lobby and the dozens of --

GINGRICH: I want to stay -- I want to stay on this case because it is central to the future of the United States. This is a religious organization engaging and helping poor people who are both Catholic --

HOGUE: Nobody's arguing that, absolutely.

GINGRICH: OK, and what they have said clearly is they aren't going to sign this form because their interpretation of it is a violation of their religious beliefs.

Now, why does the government have to be totalitarian and say, oh, no, not even -- not even a group of nuns can do this, we're going to impose on everyone what we want. And we're going to interpret for you what you're allowed to believe?

HOGUE: Have you seen the form? The form literally says, we are a litigious organization who oppose contraception --


GINGRICH: The form is a lie. The form is a lie.

ROSE: We need to add two important things to this debate. First of all, the fact that the contraceptive mandate is not just about birth control. It's also about abortifacient drugs, like Plan B, that can kill a child in the earliest -- in the early trimester.

The second thing is I still haven't heard a response about Yaz drugs or about NuvaRing and about how it's wrecking women's bodies by putting synthetic hormones on them that men, by the way, don't want to take, right? There's no synthetic hormone drug for men for birth control. Women are the ones pumping our bodies with fake progestins, all of these things. What about that? Do you think that's good for women? I think that that -- I'd like to hear an answer to that one, because that's the big promotion.


KOHN: -- jumping the shark, too. You know, I don't think we're going to get into a medical debate about various contraceptive options. What is interesting to me, I think you know this, Newt, is the Little Sisters case, they have to sign the form. End of story.

This isn't about trying to unravel the contraceptive mandate. And this is about -- what I don't understand is if we want to prevent abortions, why is the right simultaneously going after access to contraception. Why? You don't have to use them.

ROSE: I don't know how the government which is forcing groups like Little Sisters, like pro lifers, women to pay for drugs that are killing human life, indirectly, directly.

HOGUE: None of the Little Sisters --


ROSE: Or drugs that are damaging to women's bodies. The World Health Organization --


HOGUE: Let me ask you a question. So my dad's on blood pressure drugs. It actually has side effects. It also gives him a better quality of life.

He's chosen that. He knows the side effects. We know the side effects of birth control. Why can't we make that same choice?

ROSE: And why --

HOGUE: Are you suggesting that insurance shouldn't cover blood pressure drugs because it has side effects? Or --

ROSE: I'm saying --

HOGUE: -- is the preventatives?

ROSE: I'm suggesting that our fertility is not a sickness, that we need to medicate and that causes all of these side effects, strokes, deaths. That's why 10,000 women. I'm on Facebook. I'm in the class of 25-year-old woman. So, I'm seeing ads regularly, join the Yaz lawsuit to fight against this Bayer Pharmaceutical Company for what they've done to women all over America.

Why don't we know more about the risks as women?

HOGUE: I think this is a great point. The World Health Organization -- ROSE: I don't hear NARAL --

HOGUE: World Health Organization around the world, this is important --


GINGRICH: Stay here.

Next, the final question for both of our guests. We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Does a candidate's position on abortion impact your vote? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire.

We'll have the results after the break.


GINGRICH: We're back with Ilyse Hogue and Lila Rose.

Now, it's time for the final question.

Let me ask you, I'm just curious, because in many ways you seem reasonable.


GINGRICH: No. So, here's my question -- are there any legal restrictions on abortion in the ninth month, the eighth month? Are there any legal restrictions that you can support?

HOGUE: Absolutely. I mean, abortion is restricted post Roe all the time, but what I do believe is medical --

GINGRICH: So, tell us --

HOGUE: But I'm not a medical professional. I believe that the law as it exists actually supports the expert's making the determination about when those restrictions need to be put in place.

GINGRICH: Would you permit three doctors on a panel instead of just the abortion doctor?

HOGUE: There's no such thing as just an abortion doctor. Doctors perform a variety of services including a full suite of reproductive health. And many, many states do require more than one opinion.

And, you know, I think that is absolutely up to the states but that restrictions are imposed all the time by the people that they should be the medical professionals in consultation with the individual case.

ROSE: What about sex selective abortion of girls? Would that be prohibited?

KOHN: We could to a whole other show on the mythology of that one. Lila, let me ask you. You're a conservative. Conservatives say they are -- they want smaller government. How do you defend the dramatic expansion of government power to control women's bodies and their choices?

ROSE: I think that women's bodies and their choices shouldn't be controlled by the government, but my choices, again, end when another person's choices begin. We have to stop talking about a woman who's pregnant as if she's only a woman who's pregnant and there's no other life inside her. We have to wake up to the world of science and reason. What biology teaches us is this is an individual, unique human life, all the chromosomes. It just needs time and nourishment to grow.

That's what the truth is out there. So, I think we need to wake up to that and then we can start building positive policy for everybody.

GINGRICH: I want to thank Ilyse Hogue and Lila Rose. We definitely have to have you both back. Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in our "Fireback" question.

Does a candidate's position of abortion impact your vote? Right now, 66 percent of you say yes, 34 percent say no.

The debate continues online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

KOHN: From the left, I'm Sally Kohn.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.