May 7, 2004

The Kerrys Toss Out A Deadly Red Herring

The New York Times reports that Teresa Heinz-Kerry told Barbara Walters that she once almost had an abortion in the 1970s but a miscarriage made it unnecessary, in an interview that will be aired tonight:

Teresa Heinz Kerry told a television interviewer this week that she had planned to have an abortion in the mid-1970's after discovering that cortisone she took while unaware of her pregnancy could cause birth defects but that she had a miscarriage the night before the scheduled procedure.

"I'm pro-choice, because I'd like to have that choice myself," Mrs. Heinz Kerry, the wife of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, told Barbara Walters in an interview scheduled to be broadcast on Friday night on the "20/20" program on ABC. "I presume that most women will look at a choice like that as a terrible choice. But they should be given the chance to make it as I was."

Republicans outside of the mainstream campaign will salivate over this revelation. Some will surrender to the temptation to rake Kerry over the coals on this issue, blowing this up into a shadow campaign issue. The temptation will be there ... but it will be a huge, huge mistake.

In the first place, finding out that the Kerrys support abortion rights hardly qualifies as a great revelation. It's one of the more consistent stands the Senator has, even though he vacillated on partial-birth abortion for a while before voting against the ban. His consistency makes this a zero-impact issue.

Even worse, the circumstances of Ms. Kerry's decision are undeniably sympathetic. Even if you oppose abortion as I do, for reasons I'll probably put into a separate post sometime soon, being told that your medications have likely deformed your heretofore-unknown unborn child is a devastating tragedy, one which I certainly wouldn't want to face. To effectively attack her choice from three decades ago, you would have to argue that she's lying now, and good luck proving it. And for what? To start an argument with people who have already decided what they believe on the issue?

I suspect that the Kerrys didn't just let that slip during the Walters interview. Both Kerrys are smart people and have extensive experience in handling media interviewers -- and while I'm aware of Walters' reputation for getting the extra reveal from her interview subjects, I'm not terribly impressed by her. I think that Mrs. Kerry deliberately chose to tell that story now, both to allow the audience to connect to her and to give the Republicans just enough rope with which to hang themselves. I'm hoping that most Republicans are smart enough to refuse to take the bait.


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