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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Effort to remove restrictions on abortions

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 15, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D - CT: This bill is about stopping laws that purport to be about health when really they interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and have the effect, the very practical impact of harming women and limiting constitutionally protected rights. 

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, D - UT: This bill would not regulate abortions. It would regulate the states, telling them what laws they may or may not pass. How does Congress have the authority to do that? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Well, Connecticut Senator -- Democratic Senator Blumenthal, Richard Blumenthal, says states are putting too many restrictions on abortions, so he has a new bill coming out that essentially would strike down any state law that singles out abortion services or makes abortion services more difficult to access and does not significantly advance women's health or the safety of abortion services. You heard the pushback there from Senator Orrin Hatch. We're back with the panel. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think this is a pretty striking turn. Blumenthal has been working on this now for a couple years. And Democrats for years have tried to portray themselves as the party that believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. This gives that game up. That's not what this is about. This is for people who believe that abortion should be available all the time for any reason under any circumstances whatsoever. 

And the politics, I think, of this are particularly striking. You can see the Democrats think that they have an advantage in using the abortion issue as part of a broader war on women narrative. And the war on women narrative certainly worked for them in 2012. But what you are seeing here is Democrats as a party, or at least those who have signed on to this legislation, pushing against things that are incredibly popular throughout the country, pushing on the notifications, the late-term abortion bans, all of these things that have huge popularity throughout the country, two to one in many cases. And Democrats are taking a strong stand against those things. I don't think the politics of this are what Democrats think the politics are. 

BAIER: To your point, Gallup's poll, degree to which abortion should be legal, take a look at the answers here, legal in certain circumstances, 50 percent -- only under certain circumstances, should be legal in all circumstances, 28 percent, and should be illegal, 21 percent. Mara, the politics of all of this? 

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I understand why this would be good news to some parts of the Democrats' base, maybe. But I think a much stronger issue for the Democrats this year is contraception, not abortion. I mean, the majority of the country as you just showed in that poll, accepts abortion with restrictions. I think that the bill they were going to bring up about Hobby Lobby and trying to frame the Hobby Lobby decision as an attack on contraception, not on religious liberty, is a heck of a lot better for them than abortion. Contraception polls a lot better than abortion. 

BAIER: In the big picture, the economy would drive all of these elections and that would be way down on the list. 

LIASSON: If you're talking about smaller niche issues, I just think contraception is better for them than abortion. 

BAIER: Alright, Charles, two more lawmakers talking about this particular issue today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R - TX: Today, the United States is one of seven countries in the world that permits abortion after 20 weeks. We are in such distinguished company as China, North Korea, and Vietnam, those known paragons of human rights. 

REP. JUDY CHU, D - CA: Between 2011 and 2013 more two dozen states passed over 200 restrictions that block access to abortion services. This translates to more restrictions placed on women's health care in three years than in the entire preceding decade. The effect of these laws is that a woman's constitutional right now depends on her address.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: OK, Charles? 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is supreme cynicism on the part of the Democrats. There is no chance in the world that this will ever become law. There is no chance in the House, and Harry Reid will not even raise it in that he won't even allow a vote on it in the Senate. This is all for show. This is all
-- and also, even by a miracle it did pass, there is no way it would survive constitutional scrutiny because it is such a violation of federalism. This is not the federal government's purview. It belongs to the states. So at every level it's a sham and a show. 

But I think Mara is right. Even as a sham and a show, as a political weapon in the war on women, it is really a rather two-edged sword. On contraception if you are a Democrat, you can't lose. There is a national consensus that it's OK. There are some people who object, but they are a small minority, and that's a question of religious liberty. But if you can make contraception the issue, and you are a Democrat, you are going to win. 

Abortion, the country is always conflicted about it. There is a lot less support today than there was 20 years ago. 

BAIER: You look at that poll, there is not a lot of confliction on certain circumstances. 

KRAUTHAMMER: On certain, but if you ask people overall, are you pro-choice or pro-life, they're almost exactly evenly split, in the high 40s, and there is, I would say, a plurality that would call itself pro-life. It is not a smart issue, and this is one that is so extreme that if it were taken seriously I think it would be a backlash against Democrats. But it's not serious. It's all about politics. And I think it's a miscalculated politics. 

BAIER: Last year, the Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, we covered that, convicted of murdering three babies born alive in his clinic. Many states after that took notice of that. Some other places didn't cover it, but it had an impact. 

HAYES: These are those kinds of restrictions that we are talking about. And if you look at the question of post 20 weeks, you're talking about 64-29 according to the Washington Post. That's not a winning issue for Democrats. 

BAIER: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to find out what's bugging
one London reporter.

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