The Corner

More Bad Reporting on Ryan and Abortion

This time from Stephanie Condon of CBS. She writes: “As the Daily Beast notes, Ryan won his 1998 congressional campaign in part by emphasizing his opposition to abortion and did not support exceptions for a woman’s life or health in the partial-birth abortion ban.” It is just terrific that CBS is treating Michelle Goldberg as a neutral source on this topic.

Here’s the relevant part of what Goldberg wrote in that Daily Beast article (my focus on this part does not, by the way, mean that I concede the accuracy of anything else in that article):

Both candidates backed a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion, but [Democrat Lydia] Spottswood believed there should be exceptions in cases where a woman’s life or health is endangered. “Ryan said he opposes abortion, period,” reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He said any exceptions to a ‘partial-birth’ abortion ban would make that ban meaningless.”

This is the journalistic equivalent of a game of telephone. In reality, the partial-birth abortion bill always included an exception for life, and Ryan never said anything to suggest he disagreed with it. Here’s the relevant section of the bill that was under debate in Congress at the time Ryan ran:

Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. 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 (emphasis added).

Democrats generally insisted on a broader exception. Tom Daschle, for example, pushed an exemption for cases where “the continuation of the pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life or risk grievous injury to her physical health.” Dr. Warren Hern, a major practitioner of partial-birth abortion, said at the time, “I will certify that any pregnancy is a threat to a woman’s life and could cause grievous injury to her physical health.”

Hence the Republican position at the time was that adding the type of exception Democrats favored would nullify the bill. Ryan may have expressed that view in shorthand, or the Journal-Sentinel may have garbled his comments. But Condon’s version of the story is just false.

Naturally, Condon’s story also repeats the false idea that the Sanctity of Life Act would “potentially” ban IVF.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.