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Interview With European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen; Fallout Grows Following Overturning of Roe v. Wade; Interview with Evangelical Minister and The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute President Reverend Rob Schenck. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 27, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
PROTESTER: My body!
PROTESTERS: My choice!
PROTESTER: My body!
PROTESTERS: My choice!
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The post-Roe era begins. Battle lines are drawn over the most draconian reversal ever of American women's rights. I ask the
doctor who ran the last abortion clinic in Missouri, what now?
And lessons from Catholic Ireland, how they legalized abortion in 2018. I'm joined by activist Ailbhe Smyth.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Democracies, when they work together, provide the single best path to deliver results for our
people and people all over the world.
AMANPOUR: The one woman standing amongst world leaders at the G7 summit. I ask European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about crunch time
for the West in Russia's war on Ukraine.
REV. ROBERT SCHENCK, EVANGELICAL MINISTER: And I try to do all that I can to repair the damage I did over a 30-year period.
AMANPOUR: He once led a militant anti-abortion group. Now Reverend Rob Schenck says that he lives with regret. And he speaks to Michel Martin
about his evolution.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Two Americas, that is the new reality taking shape across the pond. The Supreme Court's decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion
on Friday has already triggered bans in at least 10 states, with several more expected to follow soon.
Others though, like California, Washington, Oregon, they have vowed to protect women's health and their rights. Demonstrators on both sides have
taken to the streets, but one thing is clear. The court is at odds with public opinion.
According to a CBS News and YouGov poll conducted after Friday's ruling, 59 percent of American adults disapprove of overturning Roe vs. Wade.
My first guest tonight believes that he has performed the last abortion in the state of Missouri. That was hours before Friday's ruling. For years,
Dr. David Eisenberg's Planned Parenthood clinic has been the only one offering that service in that state. No longer.
And Dr. Eisenberg joins me now from St. Louis.
Welcome back to the program.
DR. DAVID EISENBERG, OBSTETRICIAN-GYNECOLOGIST: Thank you. Appreciate it.
AMANPOUR: So just let me ask you, as a person, as a doctor who's obviously so concerned about this and about women's health and their rights, what was
Friday like for you, the hour before, the hour after the ruling?
EISENBERG: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my experience here and the experience of many health care providers here in the United States
about how hard it has been.
You asked me to speak to what it was like on Friday. So, Friday, it really epitomizes the challenges that we will face now, in this new post-Roe
reality, which honestly is not all that different than the world in which I have been working for the last three years since we last spoke, because of
how regulated abortion has become in the state of Missouri, that it has -- the hoops people have had to jump through have gotten so narrow that it's
almost impossible for people to get the care that they need.
I took care of a woman on Friday at our medical center who was born with a lifelong condition, one that will always pose medical problems for her, but
specifically in pregnancy. She is a young woman who lives in a rural area who drove four hours to see me six weeks ago to comply with these narrowing
set of guidelines to be able to get basic health care like abortion.
She had to do the state-mandated in person consent, and then come back 72 hours later. But given how complex the circumstances of her life are, how
far away she is, how few resources she has, including things as simple as not even having a photo identification card and a credit card to be able to
register for a hotel room to stay in, it took her six weeks to get back to see me.
She was scheduled for her procedure on Friday afternoon. But we were concerned, based on what we had heard from folks who watched the Supreme
Court, that the decision would be announced Friday morning. And so we worked feverishly on Thursday afternoon all the way up until Friday morning
to move her case to be the first procedure of the morning in our hospital to make sure that she would not be pregnant by the time the Supreme Court
announced their decision, because we were concerned that we might not be able to take care of her.
While she had medical problems that make a pregnancy a potential threat to her life or her health, thankfully, she was doing OK, and she wasn't
experiencing a medical emergency, as is narrowly defined in the state law in Missouri.
And those are the kinds of folks I will only be able to provide abortion care to moving forward, not someone such as this young lady who,
thankfully, was doing OK despite her lifelong medical challenges. I'm going to have to wait until people are really sick before we can help them.
And that's really scary.
AMANPOUR: So, Doctor, not to put too fine a point on this, really sick, or even on the brink of death.
I mean, do you believe that what's happened now -- and, of course, your state has a trigger law. It's one of the first that triggered the law. And,
as you say, you're no longer going to be able to practice, except for in these narrow circumstances.
What do you expect to see in people's homes, in clinics in terms of deaths and maternal mortality now?
EISENBERG: Thank you.
I mean, I'm really concerned, because what I know to be true is, pregnancy is a part of the human condition. And sometimes pregnancies don't work out
well. And whether the circumstances are like this young lady, who needed to choose to end her pregnancy to protect her health and her life, or someone
who's just not ready to have another child and cannot deal with the circumstances they find themselves in, that ending that pregnancy is the
right choice for them, their life and their family.
And it is not the interest of the government. And what I know to be true is that, when people do not have access to this basic, safest type of medical
intervention that you can provide, is that people are going to suffer.
My colleagues and I recently did an analysis looking at the maternal mortality rates in the United States over a little more than 20-year
period. And we grouped our states, based on states like Missouri that are highly restrictive for abortion access, vs. states like Illinois, right
across the river, that are much more protective of abortion access, vs. states that are kind of somewhere in the middle, neutral.
And states with the most restrictive access have seen not only the highest increase, but the most rapid rise in maternal mortality in our country. And
states that have made abortion more protected and more accessible have seen a reduction in maternal mortality.
And what I know to be true is that, by eliminating access to abortion care, we do not eliminate abortion. What we do is increase the likelihood that
those pregnancies will end in bad outcomes for mom, baby, the family they come from and all the bigger picture.
If we want to improve the health and well-being of moms and babies, we would provide universal access to contraceptive care and family planning
services, universal sex ed, comprehensive insurance in a universal system, and universal pre-K, and all these other kinds of family-friendly policies.
But that is not what is going to result from this Supreme Court decision, unfortunately.
And you just mentioned contraception. As you know, Clarence Thomas decided to have an addendum to the opinion, in which he basically stated that
issues like contraception, same-sex sex, same-sex marriage, all those issues that apparently were adjudicated around the same privacy domain as
Roe vs. Wade are all at risk right now.
Now, he's the only one saying it, but nobody believes that that won't come to pass, or at least they will try to do that. What do you think?
EISENBERG: I am a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and a specialist in complex family planning with a master's in public health who
approaches the world of medicine, the world of public health and my community through an evidence-based lens.
And what I know to be true is, when we embrace science and evidence, we can improve the health and well-being of our communities and our families. When
we improve access to equitable, just, fair systems, we can advance the liberal views of most people, that each person can find what's best for
And I hope that's where we go.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, let me just ask you, frankly, what is going to happen to women like the woman you talked about if she hadn't been able to be cared
for by you on Friday morning? What will happen now?
There seems to be a huge gray area as to whether these women will be able to travel across state lines. Yours is neighboring Illinois, which does
provide this right to women. Whether they will be able to receive so-called abortion pills, the medication that can come in the mail, and the like
without being prosecuted.
Do you foresee that that is next on the agenda?
EISENBERG: I think what we're going to see is an increasing level of disparity about the circumstances in which someone is born into.
The geography where they live, their financial resources, whether they're a person of color or indigenous are going to continue to, unfortunately,
define the fact that they have less access to care, less access to the equitable systems that we need to help them advance their lives and their
And they will suffer the most. And that's what we saw in our analysis of maternal mortality rates when abortion care is restricted. People of color,
indigenous people, and people with less financial resources suffered the most. And this is going to be the future reality.
People who can access this kind of basic health care by traveling will continue to do so. People who can't will suffer, and we will be here to
help take care of them when they arrive. But it would be best if we didn't let it come to that. And maybe this is the spark that we need to ignite the
fire to change things, the way that we saw in places like Ireland.
And I know your next guest is going to speak to the kinds of stories that I'm going to be seen hopefully are a cautionary tale to prevent really
horrible outcomes, and maybe be the political will that our country will need to change things towards a more just and equitable society.
AMANPOUR: Well, I just want to read what actually did happen to that poor woman Savita in 2012 in Ireland;.
She was forbidden from having an abortion because of the law then. And she died as a result, because of all sorts of horrible medical complications
that we will hear more about and what you have been alluding to.
Now, look, you're a doctor, and you're doing everything you can to uphold your Hippocratic oath and help women. But I want to ask you this. Put on
your politician's hat or your social hat and understand that this is going to be now a political battle.
We know that there's a very small minority of Americans actually who believe in a blanket federal ban, or no abortions any time, anyplace for
any reason. Likewise, there is a very small group of Americans who believe in unrestricted access to abortion, anyplace, any time. The center is much,
much more where people are.
And we know that the vast majority of American abortions happen within or at the first trimester. Do you think it's a question of weeks that's going
to be the determination of how this plays out, I mean now across the United States, or do you think, in any event, half the country will ban forever
EISENBERG: I'm a physician. And, like I said, I'm not a politician.
But I will say that efforts like the Women's Health Protection Act, which is a piece of federal legislation that I know passed out of the House of
Representatives, but couldn't overcome the filibuster in the Senate, is the kind of legislation that I hope we find the ability to get enacted to
overcome this Supreme Court decision.
And I can tell you, I saw this happen in the spring of 2019 here in the state of Missouri as we were passing a new law that included that trigger
ban you refer to that made abortion illegal in the state, except for those medical emergencies.
EISENBERG: That went into effect at the same time that the Illinois legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act that codified into Illinois
state law that the person who's pregnant is best to decide what to do about their body and their pregnancy for them and their family.
And that's the kind of protection that I think we need at the federal level. And that's going to require a lot of hard work to elect people who
believe that women are co-equal. People who can become pregnant should decide what is best for them, their body, their family and their future.
And until that time, we cannot stop working.
EISENBERG: And when we pass, that is just the beginning. That's the floor.
We then need to expand those social safety net services that I was discussing that embrace the family.
AMANPOUR: OK. Indeed.
And now we are going to expand.
Dr. Eisenberg, thank you so much for talking to us from your unique U.S. perspective, as this massive, massive rollback of American women's rights
has taken place.
We now go to Ireland. And we're going to talk about the U.S. joining a very short list of Western countries, like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Poland, in
reversing a women's right.
Now, Ireland famously legalized the procedure only recently, and that came after a 2018 referendum, when voters chose overwhelmingly to repeal what's
called the Eighth Amendment. That had given the life of an unborn fetus the same value as that of the pregnant woman.
Abortion rights campaigners marched in Dublin this weekend, fearful of how fundamental rights can actually be lost.
Amongst them was Ailbhe Smyth, a central figure in the repeal campaign. And she's joining me now.
Welcome. Welcome to our program, Ailbhe Smyth.
You just heard Dr. David Eisenberg. And we were actually talking about what might happen in the United States to people there, to women there, such as
what happened to the central figure in Ireland's abortion campaign, Savita.
Remind us what happened and how that led to legalizing abortion in Ireland.
AILBHE SMYTH, WOMEN'S RIGHT ACTIVIST: Well, first of all, Christiane, let me say that I agree absolutely with everything that Dr. Eisenberg was
saying, and that this is a very, very disturbing, worrying and no doubt for women and girls all around the U.S. very frightening prospect.
What happened to Savita Halappanavar was that, when she presented to the maternity hospital at about the 14th week of her pregnancy, she was told
that she was -- that it basically was going to be a spontaneous miscarriage.
However, she became rather on well, and she and her partner requested an abortion, as she would have been able to get out she'd been in her home
country of India. And, unfortunately, that was -- very sadly, that was refused to her in the Irish hospital because the -- there was -- a fetal
heartbeat was detected.
And on that basis, for that reason, an abortion could not be carried out. So, in fact, the U.S. has already familiar with those heartbeat --
heartbeat laws. That was what happened to Savita Halappanavar. And, in fact, she contracted sepsis and died within a week after that.
I mean, it was a completely unnecessary death. If she had had the termination of her pregnancy when she requested it, if she had had that
abortion, there is every reason to expect that she would -- that she would be with us still today.
So I think that what the U.S. is looking at with this dreadful turnaround of Roe vs. Wade is a situation that we were in before 2018, where women did
die, where women did suffer and where, over and above the deaths and the suffering, that there was, every day, anguish and worry and distress
actually following women and girls in their lives everywhere, because abortion, it's not that common, but it is not that rare either.
And just as Dr. Eisenberg was saying, that pregnancy is a part of the human condition for women and those people who can become pregnant, abortion is
part of and must be part of reproductive and maternal health care, because contraception goes wrong, human beings make mistakes.
And, very importantly, you do not stop abortion happening by banning it.
SMYTH: You do not stop it.
Ailbhe, you're absolutely right. And, of course, the figures show that and that it's a question of now illegal, back-alley dangerous abortions when
things like that happen.
And I just wanted, in that regard, to put up a graphic of the cover of the "Liberation" newspaper in France, which showed the flag of the United
States, the stars are in terms of -- they look like coat hangers, metal coat hangers. Well, apparently, we don't have it, but, nonetheless, you get
They called it black Friday. The stripes are red blood. The -- there's women dead all -- I mean, it's really very graphic, but that does match
So I want to ask you then. This tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, how did that then lead to the campaign and the overturning of this and the
legalization of abortion? And I said Catholic Ireland. I mean, I'm using shorthand for a religious country or a country in which many people
So tell us how your country was able to come to a different law?
SMYTH: Well, we had been seeking to overturn that ban against abortion, which happened for us in 1983.
And it was (INAUDIBLE) passing a law which was already in place since the 19th century. And we had therefore been campaigning for a very long time
and had several referendums 1983, 1992, again in 2002.
But then, when the death of Savita Halappanavar happened, there was really an outpouring of outrage and sorrow, sadness at the death of this young
And it just was very clearly a moment when we could and should and absolutely had to take action in Ireland and to seize the initiative and to
say, we -- those of us who believe that abortion must be part of maternal health care and must be in the panoply of human rights, it's absolutely
crucial, that this is now the time for us to demand that the government call a referendum to ask the people for the people's view, do you or do you
not want to have abortion as a right in Ireland?
So, our situation, in that sense, it was a bit different from...
SMYTH: ... situation in the U.S.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, again, a popular referendum, and the vote was overwhelming, 66 percent to 34 percent. Your referendum passed by a huge --
So let me now put a question to you that I asked Dr. Eisenberg. Now he's the doctor, right? But you're the campaigner, and you do politics as well.
So I want to ask you about the restrictions and the so-called weeks, because most people in the world do not believe in blanket bans, nor do
they believe in unrestricted access.
So yours is still -- I believe yours is up to about 12 weeks, the first trimester.
AMANPOUR: Many European countries, it's at 12 or 14 weeks. The U.K. is a bit of an exception at 24 weeks.
But do you believe that -- and you know a lot about the U.S. You have campaigned around many of those issues. Do you believe that it'll come down
to determining a different number of weeks in the United States, in other words, 12, 14, 15, like in most of Europe?
SMYTH: Well, it made do, but I think that that would be a pity, because I think that what we need to do in the first instance is to accept the
reality, the existence of abortion, and to say that it is a reality in the lives of women and pregnant people, and that that needs to be recognized,
as it is recognized by medical professionals, so many, so very many of them, whether that's in the U.S., or Europe or elsewhere.
And recognizing that reality means that you immediately put abortion onto the terrain of health, maternal health care, reproductive health care. And,
in a sense, you're moving it away from legislation, and you're actually saying that abortion is something which should be decided by a woman,
probably in consultation with her -- with the medical professionals.
But that's where the decisions need to be made, because legislators are no good at legislating for medical decisions. And it doesn't make any sense.
For example, our 12 weeks in Ireland, there are many women who can miss that, but who should be -- who should. And why this arbitrary 12 weeks?
So I think wherever you place the line, there is going to be a degree of arbitrariness. And I think that we are -- we will be much better -- and we
argued for this very strongly. We are much better to try to place abortion within that framework of medical and health care, rather than saying that
this is something that we have to do, this meticulous arithmetic about weeks, which doesn't work with pregnancies, because pregnancies are not to
They are not to the hour. They are not to the minute. There has to be more flexibility. And we're already encountering that in Ireland, where women
SMYTH: ... should be able to have an abortion can't access it because they just miss it by half-a-day.
Thank you so much, Ailbhe Smyth.
Now, here in Europe, actually, world leaders are gathering. President Biden has met with his fellow leaders today at the G7 summit in Germany. Leading
the agenda, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Europe's reliance on Moscow for oil and gas.
Ahead of this week's NATO summit, the secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance will increase its battle groups in the eastern flank to
well over 300,000.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has so far managed to maintain a remarkable degree of unanimity amongst the 27 E.U. member
states, responding forcefully to Russia's actions.
And we have been speaking from the summit about, what more must the E.U. do?
AMANPOUR: President Ursula von der Leyen, welcome to the program.
You're sitting there with all the leaders, can you tell me genuinely, from the bottom of your heart, that there is no fatigue amongst the West, that
there's no concerns about this path that you're all embarked on? Do you still have the energy and the will to do what it takes to help Ukraine win?
VON DER LEYEN: Absolutely. As long as it takes, we will support Ukraine, because Ukraine is not only fighting for itself, the integrity and
sovereignty of the country, but it is fighting for all democracies.
It will make a difference that we prevail and that this is a strategic failure for Putin, the aggressor. And all the autocrats of this world will
watch very closely. Therefore, it is so important that democracies stand up, and makes very clear that he has crossed a line, Putin has crossed a
line, and we just stand by Ukraine to support them in this atrocious war.
AMANPOUR: So, given that that is the case, how do you explain then that the chancellor of Germany, the host of this G7 summit, has only just sent,
only just sent this past week the first shipment of heavy weapons to Ukraine, having pledged them for a long time?
France is also dragging its heels on heavy weapons. And these Ukrainians and all the military analysts around them have said this is what they have
needed, not last week, not tomorrow, but three months ago. Why is it taking so long?
VON DER LEYEN: My perspective -- perception is a different one, because, talking directly also with President Zelenskyy and with the leaders, there
is an enormous support and willingness to provide the necessary arms over time.
And not only. That is crucial and vital now, but also the financial support. I can only speak for the European Union, but we have invested
since the beginning of the war six billion euros already. And the other next nine billion of macrofinancial assistance is coming now.
And there's strong support in the arms delivery, but there are also open doors and open hearts for the 7.5 million refugees that came to the
European Union. So, wherever we can, we support Ukraine. They are enormously brave. They are fighting, as I said, for us.
And this is actually also a reason why we gave them now candidate status for the European Union. So, you see there is a full backing on all fields
that you can imagine towards Ukraine to help them really prevail in this war.
AMANPOUR: I -- literally, I hear you. I have watched it. I see it. I know that there's support.
So can you explain to me then why Russia is winning the battle for the east and is now controlling 20 percent of Ukrainian territory and the Ukrainians
have had to pull back from key areas in the Luhansk and Donetsk region? How are you going to reverse that?
VON DER LEYEN: So, first of all, we have seen that Russia completely miscalculated its attack.
I think they wanted to take Kyiv in a few days. And we know now, looking back, this was a complete failure. Then they changed their approach when
they realized that they cannot win this war anymore, and that they cannot take on this country. They changed their approach, and went more to the
south, indeed, and to the east.
And it's amazing to see how brave and strong the Ukrainian army is withstanding this full-blown attack. And military experts tell us that the
movements of Russia are much slower, less than expected. So, Russia is running into more and more trouble, also what recruiting is concerned, what
replenishment is concerned, what the delivery from the back of the country is concerned.
I would not at all bet on Russia, on the contrary. And there's one very important point. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. They are
motivated. And the Russian troops have no clue what they are fighting for, because they do not -- do not see any sense in this war.
And, therefore, there is a big difference between both armed forces.
I understand what you're saying and you're absolutely right about motivation. But Russia is performing in the East like it did in Syria. And
in the end, in Syria, it won and its people won. So, I'm just trying to figure out how you're going to reverse this. And furthermore, how are you
going to keep European unity? As you know, the Hungarians are already saying, we should stop sanctions. We should sue for peace. We can't have
this for carrying on any longer because it'll drag the whole continent into a recession.
I mean, basically, they're accusing many members of the E.U. of wanting to take on Putin while putting the continent into a crisis. So, what do you
say to the Hungarians?
LEYEN: So, what counts is the result. And we have unleashed six packages of heavy sanctions against Russia in record time. And indeed, it is not
easy for our member states because they have to pay a certain price. But this is nothing compared to the sacrifice and we will never be able to make
up to the enormous sacrifice of the Ukrainians. So, we're willing to take that burden.
And there is unity in all the actions we have taken. Of course, we have discussions internally because you have to figure out every single day what
the next important step is. But if I look at the result of these more than four months now of war going on, Putin never, ever expected the
determination, the resolve and the unity of the European Union.
AMANPOUR: And indeed, as you mentioned, Russia has defaulted on its foreign debt. It happened today and it's the first time since 1918. So,
there are, obviously, pain for Russia as well. And yet, it continues.
So, I want to ask you about what you are going to -- or you think will come out of the summit. I know it's the G7 Summit but you're there, obviously
there. Leaders are discussing price caps on Russian gas and oil. What do you expect to come out in this regard?
LEYEN: Yes. So, first of all, this overarching line, we support Ukraine as long as it takes. That's the one part. But indeed, we have agreed to
explore the oil cap. What is the reasoning behind it? We see that we are winding down in Europe, the Russian oil down to 10 percent until the end of
the year. So, we are getting rid of 90 percent. But there is the risk that Russia is taking this soil and -- there is a lot of pressure on the oil
market, brings this oil to the global market and even cashes in more. And therefore, we are discussing an oil cap generally for Russian oil to make
sure that we find a cap at a level where there is still an incentive for Russia to produce oil but at a reasonable price, and this would have a
First of all, it would empty Putin's war chest. And secondly, having a reasonable price for Russian oil would be an enormous relief for other
vulnerable countries who are really having a problem now with the higher oil prices overall that we see.
And the second element, if I may, that we discuss intensively is, of course, the food security. As you know, 22 million tons of grain, of wheat
are stuck in Ukraine because of Putin who is blockading the Black Sea exit. Putin is bombarding the warehouses with the grain. So, we discussed today
what we can do because this has horrible knock-on effect to the most vulnerable countries in this world and the poorest people. It's a risk of
Therefore, we do everything by train or by road or by ships over the Danube River to get out as much as possible, as much wheat as possible on
alternative routes. And of course, to financially support those countries who are vulnerable and cannot pay the price for the wheat anymore right
now. You hear from my words, it's complex, but it's important.
AMANPOUR: Another thing that's important and this is slightly off topic from we're talking about now. But I understand it's come up. I mean, just
the picture of you at the G7 Summit, you're the only woman around the table. That hasn't happened in quite a few years. And I understand that
President Biden has been, you know, talked to by many leaders about what just happened in the United States with the rollback of women's rights in a
very severe way. Can you tell me the reaction from the G7 leaders on this issue?
LEYEN: Yes, we have discussed gender equality, and indeed, there were many voices, very sad and very worried about the setback we are observing. And
there was a very clear commitment. We have developed a so-called G7 dashboard that measures the progress in gender equality for that, for the
policies in place.
For example, having good schools and good childcare where -- for women. Women -- the children is important. They get the education they need. We
all know that when children or young girls get the education they need, they have completely different opportunities because they have choices how
they want to lead their lives and they can participate in the labor market. But also, gender-based violence has increased massively through the
pandemic, for example. And they are indeed, it's important to speak about it, but more important is to implement the health system.
And the dashboard we develop now in G7 will measure every single year, the progress in implementing these policies on the ground. Not only our
speeches, they are important and encouraging, our speeches, but we want to see results on the ground. What schools are concerned, what childcare is
concerned, what economic empowerment of women is concerned. If you look at poverty in whatever society, if poverty has a gender, it's female. So, we
have to do something about that.
AMANPOUR: President von der Leyen, thank you so much for joining us from the G7 Summit.
LEYEN: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Putting everyone on notice there about gender equality.
Now, overturning Roe v. Wade has been a decade's long campaign by American activists. Many with unique perspectives like Reverend Rob Schenck. He was
a high-profile organizer and spokesman for Operation Rescue in New York State. A particularly aggressive anti-abortion group. Then, a series of
events forced them to evaluate the term pro-life and the power of words. Schenck joins Michel Martin to discuss his evolution.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Reverend Rob Schenck, thank you so much for talking with us once again.
REV. ROB SCHENCK, EVANGELICAL MINISTER AND THE DIETRICH BONHOEFFER INSTITUTE PRESIDENT: Thank you for inviting me.
MARTIN: You know, obviously we wanted to talk to you because you've had this prominent role in the movement to restrict abortion rights, people who
follow the history of this remember that you came to, I think, national prominence and starting in the Buffalo campaign in 1992. I mean, Buffalo,
New York, for a variety of reasons became the sort of scene of this enormous anti-abortion campaigns that were, you know, peaceful at first but
became increasingly aggressive. You are known for these, you know, very kind of theatrical tactics. How did it become this other thing or take on
this other character?
SCHENCK: Well, I refer to that phenomenon as the Rush Limbaugh isolation (ph) of our movement. When we shifted away from a moral argument based on
human dignity and justice and became politicized and we were, we were co- opted by the Republican Party, for example, both nationally and locally. And when that happened, we shifted our attention away from women in crisis
with unwelcomed pregnancies and their ultimately, of course, the children we hoped they would give birth to, and shifted to political power and
And when that happened, I think we lost our soul as a movement. We lost our moral force. We became just another influence group to begin with. But
eventually, you know, political power is very seductive. And if you don't guard your heart and your mind and your motives, it's very easy to simply
go to a game of domination and triumph. And we became a very triumphant (ph).
By the time I ended my association with the movement in the mid-2000s, I thought very little about the actual individuals and their personal
experience in all of this and more about the political landscape and whether we were going to be victorious or not. And of course, we were, both
on the political and judicial levels.
Meanwhile, of course, the movement did, in fact, turn violent. There was not just destruction of property and ultimately murder, but our language,
our tone, our contempt for our opponents also turn to a form of rhetorical violence. And that demoralized the movement so that today, for me, it's
barely recognizable as the movement I joined 30 years ago.
MARTIN: You can't help but notice that many of the people who've risen to prominence in this movement are for whom this issue is deemed or projected
as primary are also people who have not, never been on the side of civil rights for all people, who have been actively hostile to the civil and
human rights, particularly of African Americans. Some of the states that have the most restrictive abortion policies throughout this whole period
are also some of the same places that have the most egregious, you know, maternal mortality rates. Well, particularly for people of color,
particularly for black women. So, I guess a lot of people say, well, is it really about human dignity or is it really about control?
SCHENCK: What happened in that process of change for the worse overtime. The folks who did co-op at the movement for their own political ends have
now gained dominance in the movement, complete. And so, yes, as you say, the way I see it now, the end of Roe is not a moral victory for the
movement. It's, in fact, the beginning of its greatest moral test, which I predict it will fail. And it will fail miserably and many more people will
be hurt as a result of that, just as they are right now at this moment because the people who got us to this point, the politicians, the
politicized movement leaders, and I include myself among them, it's why I left the movement was to clear my head and conscience and kind of get a
reset for myself.
But what's -- what the reality that the movement has to face is that the victory that's been achieved was achieved because the very people who got
us here are the people who don't simply dismiss the women and now the born children at the center of this crisis, but they actually have a contempt
for them. They hold an attitude that says, you pick yourself up by your own boot straps, were not responsible for you, it's not our burden to take care
of you, you take care of yourself. So, they not only are uncaring, they are actually contemptuous of the people we said we're at the focus of a
So, the result will be that states that now ban abortion will also not simply ignore the women and children placed at great risk as a result of
this but will actually act in ways that further injure them. So, this is a complete inversion of the movement, of the movement's original objectives
and tenants and motivations. It's even contrary to the Christian core of the movement's motivations.
MARTIN: For people who aren't as familiar with your story, what was the breaking point for you?
SCHENCK: Well, there were two. One was, I was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, for my protest activity. And while there, I was placed, curiously,
on the psychiatric wing of the jail, only because of overpopulation. They didn't have any room anywhere else. And the reason that's important is only
because that wing of the jail was both sexes, men and women were in cells on the same block.
And so, where was a woman about three cell doors away from mine who was obviously mentally ill. She was in great distress and she kept screaming,
where are my babies? This is tough to even recall. It was so painful. But she said, where are my children? Who is taking care of them? I have three
kids, where are they? Who's taking care of them? And listening to that for hours broke a kind of spell that I was under.
Because during my years in the movement, I imagined always a rosy cheeked white woman cradling a little baby that she had given birth to because she
had heard our pleas not to kill her unborn child, and that there was an army of pro-lifers around her taking care of her, her child, a whole
community assisting them. That was not the reality for this woman. She was utterly alone, nobody cared about her or her children. And suddenly I
realized, the world is not the fantasy I imagined it to be. This woman's reality is not where I have been living in this movement for 30 years.
And that was the real -- that helped -- well, the only way I could describe it, it was like an intervention. It broke down all my imaginary defenses
and helped me to see the people and their pain who were at the center of this terrible human experience.
And later, I would be asked by a friend I trusted and had worked with extensively in the gun violence prevention space. She said, I had an
abortion at age 22. Here were my circumstances. She said, had you been in exactly the same circumstances I was facing the same risks that I faced,
what would you have done? And she said, I'm not asking for your slogan hearing, I'm not asking for your, you know, facile stage arguments, I'm
asking you as a person, what would you have done in my circumstance? And I had to think long and hard. I brought back to memory that moment in
Montgomery. And I answered her honestly. I said, I would have had the abortion.
And facing myself helped me, again, to understand the true pain and crisis that is at the center of this question, and that's why I now believe that
neither the courts, nor the politicians, nor the state legislators, should be controlling this. This is a deeply personal and literally unique crisis
for every woman who faces it. And she and only the people she seeks out to advise her and help her should be the ones to render this extremely
difficult decision. And it's why I left the movement.
And now, I try to do all that I can to repair the damage I did over a 30- year period based on false information and assumptions and presumptions and imagination. This is reality. It's not something we can create in our own
MARTIN: You know, critics of abortion or opponents of abortion rights say it's pro-abortion. But people who support abortion rights say it's choice.
I'm just curious if you can just explain that why that plays such a little role in the philosophy here, the idea of freewill, or the idea -- or even,
like I say, defending the life -- saving the life of the mother?
SCHENCK: Yes. Well, again, the movement that I joined initially asked those sorts of deep questions over time and very quickly, we stopped asking
those deeply searching and difficult questions. I think a new generation now of prolife-leaning young people are asking those questions. And part of
my reassessment was the realization that pregnancy, unwelcome pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage, all of it, is unique. And it must be treated
uniquely. Even as a philosophical and even religious question, it's unique.
And I even argue at what we have now in Justice Alito's majority opinion on Roe actually reflects a very narrow even theological and religious
underpinning. It's distinctly Catholic. It's a form of Catholicism. It doesn't reflect evangelical, theological process or opinion. This is
something very different. And we have to face these realities.
So, I think young evangelicals and young Catholics are ready to face in these very difficult questions about our own movement, about our own
motivations, and we must seek those and we have to resolve them because this crisis is not going away. Abortion is not going to go away.
MARTIN: Do you think that your argument is having any headway among the people who share your core conviction that abortion is a tragedy and
something that you would prefer not to happen? You know, do you feel that your point of view is making any headway?
SCHENCK: I think with younger evangelicals and younger Catholics, yes. And there are a surprising number of silent doubters in the movement. I hear
from them routinely, people who write me and they send me, you know, e-mail correspondence saying, you know, I don't dare say this out loud, but I have
great doubts myself.
You know, many of them grew up knowing nothing but this fierce conviction, you know, against abortion. But, again, my appeal is that this is unique.
It's not like other things. You can believe passionately that the best choice is for a woman to bring a pregnancy to term, give birth to that
child, raise that child. But in order to get to that place, we have to ask, what are we doing to assist them in that? What's policies?
You know, during my time in the pro-life, anti-abortion movement, I raised tens of millions of dollars to end Roe v. Wade. Will those same donors give
those same amounts of money, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, billions, actually, over the course of the national movement in
all of its quarters, will they give that same amount of money to assist women with health care, with housing, with childcare, with job training?
Will they use the same force in their voting privileges to vote for candidates who support public policy that provides those things for women
in crisis pregnancy and their children all the way through their lifetime? Right now, the answer to that is, on the whole, no. They will not.
I think that's an indication already that there is a big problem with our argument on abortion. But I do believe you can be pro-life and you can
support all those things. I think, right now, it requires that you be a Democrat and not a Republican, because the Republican Party stands against
all those things.
So, can you be a prolife Democrat? I think you can. And you have to support all those systems that allow a woman and assist a woman to make a different
choice than abortion, but we are a long way from that, a very long way. There has to be a whole lot of work. And it's going to take an uncoupling
of the pro-life movement from the Republican Party. But right now, the pro- life movement is a wholly subsidiary of the Republican Party, and that is an enormous, and right now, irresolvable problem.
MARTIN: Reverend Rob Schenck, thank you so much for talking with us today.
SCHENCK: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: A powerful epiphany.
And finally, tonight, musicians are taking a stand live for the first time since COVID, at the Glastonbury Festival, here in Britain, Roe v. Wade also
took center stage. Popstar Billie Eilish used her headline set to say, "Today is a really, really dark day for women in the United States." While
rising superstar, Olivia Rodrigo, said that she was "devastated and terrified and that so many women are going to die." Women representing the
generation who will have less rights than their mothers and their grandmothers did.
And, in his festival closing set, rapper and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar delivered this impassioned call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENDRICK LAMAR, ENTERTAINER: They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's rights. They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's
rights. They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's right. They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's right. They judge you,
they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's right. They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women's right. They judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A powerful message on one of the biggest platforms in the world as women's rights in the United States take a draconian turn for the worse.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.