Joan Walsh Pushes Back At Melinda Henneberger's Notion That Dems Are Politicizing Contraception Issue

Chris Matthews just couldn't seem to make it through another segment talking about the Republican's recent overreach with their assault on women's access to affordable contraceptives without bringing on the Catholic bishops favorite water carrier,
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Chris Matthews just couldn't seem to make it through another segment talking about the Republican's recent overreach with their assault on women's access to affordable contraceptives without bringing on the Catholic bishops favorite water carrier, Melinda Henneberger.

Henneberger's recent piece at The Washington Post attempts to blame Democrats for ginning up the recent debate purely for political and fundraising purposes as though the backlash against the actions of the Catholic bishops and some of the recent statements from presidential candidate Rick Santorum, or the invasive transvaginal ultrasound bill that it appears Virginia Bob McDonnell has now backed off of, was not real or sincere.

Thankfully Salon's Joan Walsh was there to push back at Henneberger's assertions and I'll just lead readers over to her column where she has more on the interview above -- Did crafty Dems make contraception a campaign issue? :

First Rush Limbaugh, now the Washington Post women's blog, claim the GOP was set up by its enemies on birth control

Did you know the GOP doesn’t want to be talking about contraception? That it’s an issue ginned up by opportunistic Democrats? Rush Limbaugh made that case last week (while also insisting Republicans would win an election decided on culture war issues, so I’m not sure what his problem was.) But Wednesday it made its way to the Washington Post’s women’s blog, in a piece by Melinda Henneberger headlined: “It’s Democrats who are putting focus on birth control.”

Now, Henneberger is not a Republican. She’s a sorta-liberal, a veteran of the New York Times, Huffington Post, Slate and Politics Daily, who too often gives Republicans the benefit of the doubt, particularly when it comes to reproductive health issues. She emerged as a leading voice criticizing President Obama’s decision to require all employers, even religiously affiliated ones (though not churches) to provide contraception coverage in health insurance policies. You know my stand on that. But her questionable views on the politics of birth control got my attention a few weeks earlier, when she carried water for Rick Santorum and let him whine in an interview that Salon’s Irin Carmon had been unfair to him in her piece “Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control.”

Much more there where Walsh takes Henneberger's arguments apart, so go read the rest.

Transcript below the fold.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In what could signal a major political tipping point, Virginia governor Michael -- actually, Governor Bob McDonnell today said he would oppose -- oppose -- a Republican bill that would have required women to get an invasive ultrasound before getting an abortion in Virginia.

McDonnell, who`s often talked about as a potential VP nominee for -- especially for Romney, was criticized nationally for his earlier intent to sign a bill like that and by more than a thousand protesters recently at the state capitol this Monday, actually.

Well, this comes following weeks of fighting here in Washington over access to contraception, women`s health care, the fights in which Republicans appeared ready to battle hard to stop that contraceptive coverage as part of the health care law.

What are the politics at play here, and how will these fights affect women voters as we head towards the 2012 election? In fact, most women -- well, most voters are women. Joan Walsh is an MSNBC political analyst editor-at-large for Salon, and Melinda Henneberger writes for "The Washington Post."

Well, let`s take a look at Emily`s List here. Emily`s List is, obviously, an organization which helps people get elected to politics. The political group that supports candidates who favor abortion rights is using last week`s fights against women`s health care in a new fund-raising. It went up today in Florida, California, Illinois. Let`s listen to part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The power to decide whether or not women will use contraception lies with her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are the women?

NARRATOR: So who should be heard? You.

Join us. Go to Emilyslist.org today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Melinda, I want to have a general conversation with you and Joan about this. You are both great people on this program, obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: so I`m obviously going to listen to you mostly, rather than talk.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But they`re -- I keep hearing from the women who produce us here, the senior producers and others around me, that they`re very concerned that the government, especially the Republican Party -- well, exclusively the Republican Party -- is making a move here; they`re making a move here to question whether women should get contraception as part of the national health care plan.

Here in Virginia right across the Potomac River -- and they have already done this in eight states -- they are pushing to require that women have -- who are -- who have chosen to come to a clinic to have an abortion have to sit and watch something as part of a responsibility that they, the state, decides they must meet that they can impose on somebody, to look at an ultrasound or to have in fact an ultrasound test.

What does this politically mean? What is going on politically here?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": On the ultrasound issue in particular, I think that this decision by Bob McDonnell to pull back, to reverse himself, to say this isn`t going to happen is very, very important.

I think we can draw from that that he is not only saying this doesn`t work for Virginia. When you read his statement, he is saying that this is actually at odds with Republican rhetoric, that we as a party cannot say we -- you know, invasive government is anathema to us...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HENNEBERGER: ... but, you know, a transvaginal ultrasound is not invasive.

I just think that the disconnect was too big and they realized this pushback. I mean, they see the kind of money that women`s groups are raising, that pro-choice women`s groups are raising.

MATTHEWS: So do you see it as kind of realpolitik?

HENNEBERGER: Sure.

MATTHEWS: It`s pure politics.

HENNEBERGER: I think they see that it really does go too far.

MATTHEWS: Joan, do you agree that this is basically a political decision by the Republican conservative governor of Virginia that they have gone too far here potentially?

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: Oh, absolutely.

I think that he had signaled that he was going to sign it. He`s been on the far right on all of these decisions, Chris. So this is really about the media and women`s groups and individual women, wonderful women in Virginia standing up and saying, you`re going too far.

Now, most of us think that the ultra -- the outside-your-body ultrasound bill is also going too far. It is not like that is a great thing. That is very intrusive on a woman`s decision. It is meant to stop abortion, stop the legal exercise of a right.

So it`s not like that is so great. But this really did show how out of touch these people are that they were really willing to say, a woman has to submit to being penetrated if she wants an abortion. I mean, that`s -- it`s crazy.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go into dangerous -- let me go into dangerous territory here...

WALSH: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... because I think sometimes common sense should interfere with the usual political discussions.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Ironically, it was the president of the United States who comes across to most people as rather secular. He has a Christian faith, he goes to church. But he seems basically a secular politician. I think that is fair to say. He doesn`t wear his religion on his sleeve, whatever his religion might be in his case. And it is obviously a Christian religion.

But when you push through something that says women should have access free to contraception, that to me will be probably the greatest reduction potentially in the number of abortions in this country.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Because if every woman has a free -- there is no real financial excuse not to use protection, to use the common phrase, if you choose to have sex and you don`t want to have children.

And therefore the great irony is that`s one way to reduce radically the number of abortions. Now along come the conservatives with their way of reducing the number of abortions.

You pick up here, Joan.

Their way of doing it is make you look at this ultrasound right as you go in to get an abortion.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: I would say get there for the takeoff, not the landing....

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... or the beginning.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Get there when you`re going to stop the conception.

WALSH: Well...

MATTHEWS: Get there when you`re not going to have the unwanted pregnancy in the millions and millions of cases where women will now get access to free birth control, rather than the few isolated cases where a woman might change her mind.

And, look, I`m up for free decision-making.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: If they did have this testing and they do make a decision, fine.

HENNEBERGER: I just think that, you know, the Catholic Church has been working in this country for universal health care since 1919, and they should take the victory and go home.

I mean, this is a very important -- the larger Affordable Care Act is...

MATTHEWS: Right.

WALSH: Absolutely.

HENNEBERGER: ... such an important step forward from what we have all been working for all this long.

MATTHEWS: So the compromise should hold.

HENNEBERGER: I hope the compromise holds. We will see whether it does or not.

But I just think, back to the politics of the thing, it really -- I think it`s why -- I wrote the piece today that, you know, it`s Democrats who really want to make the conversation about this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me challenge you on that.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Joan, you pick up here.

It`s not just Democrats who want to fight. As we speak, Fred Upton...

WALSH: No.

MATTHEWS: ... no, the congressman, Boehner, Cantor, the whole Republican leadership in both sides is pushing a big bill to change the health care bill to deny people The free contraception.

WALSH: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: I`m just saying that, in the presidential race, they would rather not make this the talking point.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m talking Congress.

WALSH: Well, look, the president -- the president did something very important.

He listened to the Institute of Medicine, and he made a medical choice to say that insurance companies must provide contraception cost-free because it keeps women healthy and because it actually saves money. So that is a no-brainer.

And the fact that these Republicans, from Rick Santorum and the entire field to John Boehner, think that they want to play politics with this and repeal that requirement, when there are so many other requirements -- look, I know they want to repeal all of Obamacare, as they call it, but they`re focusing on this because they do want to eliminate women`s access to contraception.

MATTHEWS: OK. They may pull back at some point.

WALSH: So, Melinda, I so disagree with you on the notion that Republicans are ginning this up -- that -- excuse me -- Democrats are ginning this up. Republicans want...

HENNEBERGER: I don`t mean they`re ginning it up. I think that they are -- it`s brilliant for them. Why wouldn`t they want to talk about it? It is a complete win for them on the political side.

WALSH: Well, they`re -- but they are also talking about it because it is a real issue. They`re not talking about it to raise money, ka-ching.

HENNEBERGER: They are in fact raising money, both sides.

WALSH: They are talking about it because it is a real -- absolutely. But that is not the only issue.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: They are talking about it because it is a real, real issue.

HENNEBERGER: Sell outrage to raise money.

WALSH: It`s not an outrage.

But I`m just saying, you make it sound as though they are only doing it to raise money. They are doing it because women`s rights are under threat.

HENNEBERGER: No, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: ... believe what they say.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Women`s rights are under threat.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. We`re out of time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re going to bring this up again.

Thank you both. I respect both of you so much.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Melinda, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: And, Joan, of course.

WALSH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, it is Ash Wednesday today. I am a little late getting there, but I will get there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Joan, thank you for coming on.

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