Stephanopoulos Questioned Pelosi on Contraception: 100 Words; Questioned GOP Candidates: 1,000 Words

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Republican presidential candidates at a debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. on Jan. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

( – George Stephanopoulos was more aggressive in pursuing the issue of government involvement in contraception when he questioned Republican presidential candidates in a debate Saturday night in New Hampshire than he was in January 2009 when he questioned then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Before going to work for ABC, Stephanopoulos worked as the communications director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and White House.

On Jan. 25, 2009, when Congress was preparing to pass President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill—which the Congressional Budget Office now says cost $825 billion—then-Speaker Pelosi appeared on “This Week.” Stephanopoulos, who then hosted the show, asked Pelosi about the proposed stimulus including what he called “hundreds of millions of dollars” for family planning. “How is that stimulus?” he asked.

Pelosi gave a brief answer in which she concluded: “One of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the state and to the federal government, too.”

Stephanopoulos did not press Pelosi on the issue—asking her exactly one follow-up question. It was: “So, no apologies for that?”

Pelosi responded: “No apologies. No. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn to our economy.” Without any interference from Stephanopoulos, Pelosi then segued into talking about Food Stamps and unemployment insurance.

Stephanopoulos’s and Pelosi’s entire discussion about the “hundreds of millions” in the Obama stimulus that would go to fund contraception lasted a little more than one hundred words.

The scene was far different at the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on Saturday night. There former Clinton Communications Director Stephanopoulos brought up former Sen. Rick Santorum’s argument that the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut had been wrongly decided. That decision said there was a “right to privacy” in the Constitution that prevented states from prohibiting contraceptives. The “right to privacy” the court created in that case was used by the court eight years later–in Roe v. Wade–to declare there was a constitutional right to abortion.

Without mentioning the link between the contraception case and the abortion case, Stephanopoulos asked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney if he agreed with Santorum’s view on the contraception case.

What ensued was a discussion of the contraception issue, stoked by approximately 15 interjections and follow-ups by Stephanopoulos, that lasted about 1,000 words and that was expanded to include Rep. Ron Paul and Santorum.

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Here is a transcript of the contraception discussion from the Jan. 25, 2009 edition of ABC News’s “This Week:”

George Stephanopoulos, ABC News: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.): Well, the family planning services reduce costs. It reduces costs. The states are in a terrible fiscal budget crisis now. And part of it, what we do for children’s health or education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the state and to the federal government, too.

Stephanopoulos: So, no apologies for that?

Pelosi: No apologies. No. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn of our economy.

Here is a transcript of the contraception discussion from the Jan. 7, 2012 Republican presidential debate broadcast on ABC:

George Stephanopoulos: Back in Manchester. Governor Romney, I want to go straight to you.

Senator Santorum has been very clear in his belief that the Supreme Court was wrong when it decided that a right to privacy was embedded in the Constitution. And following from that, he believes that states have the right to ban contraception. Now I should add that he said he’s not recommending that states do that—

Santorum: No, I said –let’s be clear—

Stephanopoulos: Absolutely. I’m giving you your due—

Santorum: I’m talking about–we’re talking about the 10th Amendment and the right of states to act.

Stephanopoulos: But I do want to get to that core question.

Santorum: OK.

Stephanopoulos: Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?

Romney: George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were a governor of a state or—

Stephanopoulos: Well, the Supreme Court has ruled—

Romney: –or a–or a legislature of a state. I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you’re asking, given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so, you’re asking could it constitutionally be done? We can ask our constitutionalist here.

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Stephanopoulos: I’m sure Congressman Paul—

Romney: OK, come on–come on back—

Stephanopoulos: –asking you, do you believe that states have that right or not?

Romney: George, I–I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no–no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.

Stephanopoulos: Hold on a second. Governor, you went to Harvard Law School. You know very well this is based on—

Romney: Has the Supreme Court–has the Supreme Court decided that states do not have the right to provide contraception? I—

Stephanopoulos: Yes, they have. In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut.

Romney: The–I believe in the–that the law of the land is as spoken by the Supreme Court, and that if we disagree with the Supreme Court–and occasionally I do–then we have a process under the Constitution to change that decision. And it’s –it’s known as the amendment process.

And–and where we have–for instance, right now we’re having issues that relate to same-sex marriage. My view is: We should have a federal amendment of the Constitution defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But I know of –of no reason to talk about contraception in this regard.

Stephanopoulos: But you’ve got the Supreme Court decision finding a right to privacy in the Constitution.

Romney: I don’t believe they decided that correctly. In my view, Roe v. Wade was improperly decided. It was based upon that same principle. And in my view, if we had justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, and more justices like that, they might well decide to return this issue to states as opposed to saying it’s in the federal Constitution. And by the way, if the people say it should be in the federal Constitution, then instead of having unelected judges stuff it in there when it’s not there, we should allow the people to express their own views through amendment and add it to the Constitution. But this idea that justice—

Stephanopoulos: But should that be done in this case?

Romney: Pardon?

Stephanopoulos: Should that be done in this case?

Romney: Should this be done in the case, this case to allow states to ban contraception? No. States don’t want to ban contraception. So why would we try and put it in the Constitution?

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With regards to gay marriage, I’ve told you, that’s when I would amend the Constitution. Contraception, it’s working just fine, just leave it alone.

Stephanopoulos: I understand that. But you’ve given two answers to the question. Do you believe that the Supreme Court should overturn it or not?

Stephanopoulos: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn—

Romney: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes, I do.

Paul: He mentioned my name.

Stephanopoulos: Go ahead then.

Paul: I didn’t know whether I got time when it was favorable or not. But thank you. No, I think the Fourth Amendment is very clear. It is explicit in our privacy. You can’t go into anybody’s house and look at what they have or their papers or any private things without a search warrant.

This is why the Patriot Act is wrong, because you have a right of privacy by the Fourth Amendment. As far as selling contraceptives, the Interstate Commerce Clause protects this because the Interstate Commerce Clause was originally written not to impede trade between the states, but it was written to facilitate trade between the states. So if it’s not illegal to import birth control pills from one state to the next, it would be legal to sell birth control pills in that state.

Stephanopoulos: Senator Santorum?

Santorum: What’s the question?

Stephanopoulos: On the right to privacy and the response to Congressman Paul.

Santorum: Well, Congressman Paul is talking about privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment, which I agree with him in. I don’t necessarily agree that the Patriot Act violates that. But I do agree with–obviously we have a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. But that’s not what the Griswold decision nor the Roe v. Wade decision were about. They created through a penumbra of rights a new right to privacy that was not in the Constitution. And what I’ve–and that’s, again, I sort of agree with Governor Romney’s assessment, legal assessment– it created a right through boot-strapping, through creating something that wasn’t there. I believe it should be overturned. I am for overturning Roe versus Wade. I do not believe that we have a right in this country, in the Constitution, to take a human life. I don’t think that’s–I don’t think our founders envisioned that. I don’t think the writing of the Constitution anywhere enables that.

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