Cecile Richards did a generally good job of defending Planned Parenthood in an interview last night with Chuck Todd, but I was disappointed to watch her decline to push back on one badly loaded question. Todd put it to her this way:
I’m going to ask you a question I asked Marco Rubio….Whose constitutional right is greater: the mother, or the unborn child?
Todd mentioned that Rubio had admitted that it was a tough question, but that he came down on the side of the unborn child. Richards responded with some perfectly reasonable arguments for abortion rights, but dodged the question of rights in conflict. Todd could well have challenged her for evading his question, but he didn’t. Richards’ evasion was consistent with the prevailing practice of the abortion rights movement: don’t talk about the fetus.
Rather than simply evade the question, I would have loved to see Richards gently explain to Todd how his question was tendentious: probably without realizing it, he had adopted anti-abortion language. Mother vs. unborn child? No, there is no mother involved in an abortion decision (unless the woman happens already to be a mother) and there is no child. There is a pregnant woman. Her body contains a fetus, not a child.
Richards could then have observed that the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade did not recognize the pre-viability fetus as a being with constitutional rights. And that is perfectly sensible: persons have rights under our constitution; potential persons do not. I would have been thrilled to see Roberts answer Todd’s question with another question: Is it not absurd and offensive to even suggest that a fetus—a potential person–has rights that trump the rights of an actual person—an actually living, feeling, thinking woman? But that would have been too much to expect.