'Ms.' Magazine Encourages Celebs to Acknowledge Past Abortions

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 10, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, "Ms." magazine is on a campaign to convince celebrities to acknowledge having abortions and talk about it. So far, four ladies have stepped up: "Judging Amy" actress Amy Brenneman; "Sister Act" actress Kathy Najimy; "Ms." magazine founder Gloria Steinem; and comedian Carol Leifer.

So why are these ladies doing this? Joining us from Washington, the publisher of "Ms." Magazine, Eleanor Smeal.

Before you get to their personal stories, I have an interesting poll just in, a CNN poll. Forty-five percent of Americans favor banning abortions in their states except to save the life of the mother. Forty-five percent. That's a lot of folks. Are those people, in your opinion, bad people?

ELEANOR SMEAL, PUBLISHER, "MS." MAGAZINE: No, of course not. I think we should get away from good and evil and talk about public policy. And obviously, the women who have abortions, which are about 35 percent of the American women have had one, are not evil either. They're good people, too.


SMEAL: They're people who needed the service.

O'REILLY: I want to get to the psychology of how you're approaching the abortion issue. Because you're obviously in the forefront with this new campaign.

So the 45 percent of Americans that oppose abortion except to save the life of a mother you would say they are what? Misguided? How would you describe that huge block?

SMEAL: First place, I was surprised at that poll, because we've been running on whether to keep it legal or illegal, much higher than that.

O'REILLY: That's 45 favor the ban, 51 oppose, 3 are unsure. So with a margin of error of 4.5, it's almost a tie. And this is CNN. I mean, this isn't some right-wing organization. And their polling methods are pretty good. I mean, we use their polling at all.

But what I'm trying to get at is, how do you at "Ms." magazine see this group?

SMEAL: What we see is the reason why we wanted to focus on real women stories — and by the way, Bill, we do focus on celebrities. We asked women to step forward who've had abortions to tell their own stories.

Because we think too much of this is in the hands of politicians with slogans and simple 8-second sound bites appealing to, you know, make themselves sound self-righteous. But we're ignoring women.

And obviously, millions of women in our country have decided to have an abortion and because they needed to. And there is a story to be told there. We think if we get back to women's lives and saving women's lives and improving the health of our families.

O'REILLY: OK. But isn't it true that there are some women who have abortions for convenience? I know a woman who's had four abortions, and she admitted to me that she didn't believe that the fetus was anything and that to her it was almost a form of birth control.

Now, when you get a situation like that — some women are desperate. Some women need the abortion for health reasons, we know that. But other women take it casually and say, "Hey I'm pregnant, it's an inconvenience. I'm going to destroy the fetus. I don't really care." Do you respect that?

SMEAL: Well, what I think is that we should stop being so judgmental. You know, the reality is...

O'REILLY: That's not judgment. This is what the women say.

SMEAL: You can't put aside all of the women who need abortions.

O'REILLY: I'm not.

SMEAL: And you can't put aside that, if folks who want to ban it have their way, how many women would suffer, how many would die, how many would be injured.

O'REILLY: What I'm trying to get at is you paint a picture that every abortion is necessary, and every abortion is a woman's reproductive right. That's the picture that that you paint.

SMEAL: The way we paint the picture, really, is that this should be a special decision with a doctor and the woman and the people who she trusts. And that this shouldn't be a governmental decision. It shouldn't be something that's blanket policy...

O'REILLY: What responsibility — we've already heard that. But what responsibility does the government have to protect a potential human being? Do they have no responsibility at all? Can you abort a baby after 26 weeks, as the Doctor Tiller does in Kansas?

SMEAL: We're not talking about that. What we're talking about, really, is...

O'REILLY: What responsibility does the government have in protecting potential people? Any? Do they have any?

SMEAL: Well, do they have any responsibility towards the women? I mean, the reality is that we want exceptions and so that there is the health of the woman is considered, that her decision is considered.

You can't have someone pregnant against their will. This isn't good family policy. This would be harmful to the nation, also.

O'REILLY: OK, but if you birth a child and then you don't like the child and you don't want to raise the child, I mean, you can make the same argument. You can't have a parent against her will. You see, look, what I'm trying to get at is I'm trying to find a compromise here.

SMEAL: You can put up a child for an adoption, obviously. I mean, that's what happens if you are totally unable and...

O'REILLY: That's true. And you can birth the child and put the baby up for adoption. And that, I think, is an option that we all should consider rather than wiping the fetus out.

SMEAL: But that's saying that an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old should have a child when they're not physically fit, when it's harmful. If the mother is ill or if the woman's ill.

O'REILLY: There are special circumstances.

SMEAL: Well, that's why blanket laws don't work. And that's why there should be an exception for the health. And that's really why, you know, ob/gyns, the American College of Ob/Gyns side with having it legal. Because the bans will punish them.

O'REILLY: Besides, they're only — less than 10 percent of American doctors, Ms. Smeal, as you well know, will perform the operation. And that is because...

SMEAL: The important thing is...

O'REILLY: Ninety percent of doctors do not want to destroy a potential human being.

SMEAL: No, no.

O'REILLY: That is a powerful statement.

SMEAL: No, no, no. In the first place the people who perform abortions are principally baby doctors or gynecologists. So about all — if you're a good doctor...

O'REILLY: Less than — very few doctors will do the procedure.

SMEAL: If you're — well, if you're an orthopedic surgeon, obviously, you're not doing abortions. So we're talking about ob/gyns. And they — their society, it represents...

O'REILLY: I only have a minute left with you.


O'REILLY: Ms. Brenneman, Ms. Najimy — we knew about Steinem and the other one.

SMEAL: Some stars have...

O'REILLY: Here's what I want to know. Are they getting any heat, as far as you know, for coming out?

SMEAL: No. No. They haven't gotten any.

O'REILLY: Good. Because we don't want anybody, you know, ever doing that kind of thing. I think that's awful. So they just made the statement because they support the cause?

SMEAL: Well, not only that, let's look at who signed this. It's now over 7,000 women. And what we're so surprised at is that so many women are writing us and thanking us. They're thanking us because they don't want to feel isolated. They don't feel ashamed. And they do want to speak out. And they want this discussion to be taken over by women.

Because right now, for example, the South Dakota legislature who voted to ban, only 10 percent, well, actually it's about eight percent of the senators were women. It's time that women's voices are heard on this subject.

O'REILLY: All right. Thank you, Ms. Smeal. It's always a pleasure.

SMEAL: Thank you.

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