Skip to main content /transcript


Senate Votes to Withhold Funds From Schools That Ban Boy Scouts; Abortion Boat Docks in Dublin

Aired June 15, 2001 - 19:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight: two hot topics, two outspoken guests. First, the Senate and the Boy Scouts. Were lawmakers trying to help the Scouts or hurt homosexuals?

And then the abortion boat: Is it needed in Ireland, or abortion activists just making waves?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the CROSSFIRE: Gary Bauer, president of American Values, and Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Two hot topics tonight.

First, a funny thing happened on the way to an education bill. At the very last minute, Senator Jesse Helms tack on an amendment to deny federal funds to any school that denied access to the Boy Scouts. Opponents said he was forcing schools to discriminate. Helms said they were just fronting for gays and lesbians.

And topic No. 2: In Ireland, a group of abortion rights activists have sailed their own ship into the port of Dublin to provide abortion counseling. Opponents call it a murderous mission. The Women on Waves Foundation say they're just offering a service otherwise denied to Irish women.

Tonight we steam full-sail into both issues, starting with the Boy Scouts. And since this Friday night we have no idea where Bob or Tucker are, we've invited one of our favorites, Bay Buchanan, back as co-host on the right.

Bay, fire away.

BAY BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST: Elizabeth, isn't this whole fight really about you and your friends trying to kick out of the public schools anyone in any group that does not agree with your gay agenda?

ELIZABETH BIRCH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Bay, no, that is not what it's about. What it is about is that Jesse Helms, and he hasn't done this for a number of years, proffered a gratuitous amendment that is wholly unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue. Boy Scouts have equal access to America's schoolhouses on the same basis as any other group. This was completely unnecessary, and very vintage Helms, like a Trojan horse trying to sell mom and apple pie with a lot of toxicity and meanness built in the belly.

PRESS: Gary.


PRESS: You are conservative, you believe in local control. Will you please tell me what business does the United States Senate have telling schools who can hold meetings there and who can't?

BAUER: And you're a liberal and you don't believe in local control. Why are you suddenly concerned about it?

PRESS: I am concerned about it.

BAUER: Look, Bill, the Boy Scouts are under incredible attack from around country because they insist on sticking to a set of basic traditional values. My hat goes off to Jesse Helms and the Republicans in the Senate. They did the right thing. The American people, I think, would overwhelmingly support that agenda. And I think Elizabeth knows that in fact the Boy Scouts, in spite of the Supreme Court decision, are being kicked out of schools around the country because of pressure from the radical gay rights movement.

BUCHANAN: Elizabeth, the situation is, it's not just Jesse Helms. This bill passed unanimously, I might say, in the House of Representatives. So what is happening here is that Boy Scouts are not getting their Constitutional rights. They are getting thwarted every which way they turn in many of these districts around the country, and so Congress has come in and said: We need an enforcement mechanism to make certain that the Boy Scouts of America get their constitutional rights granted to them. That is what this is all about.

How can you possibly be opposed to having enforcement action to get a group to have just their constitutional rights handed to them?

BIRCH: With all due respect, your facts are not quite right. The Boy Scouts have never been successfully denied from a schoolhouse in America, and I think people are confusing...

BUCHANAN: But, Elizabeth, they have to go to court to get them.

BIRCH: No. People are confusing endorsement and sponsorship with access. Who do you want to rule on this? The U.S. Supreme Court, or a sloppy, ill-conceived amendment in Senate which passed 51 to 49? You have to note, Bay, that in fact more senators stood up to this nonsense than ever before on a Helms amendment. And in fact, you know, people are playing politics.

BUCHANAN: Let's go back to the point.

BIRCH: But it's not gay people. I just want to say that I really believe, Bay, that if you or Gary had a gay son, and you loved that son very much, upstanding citizen, contributing to society, eventually paying taxes, cares deeply about America, and you wanted that young son to learn how to put up pup tents and tie knots, and, you know, really learn what the Boy Scouts has to offer, you wouldn't want that individual barred.

BAUER: Since it was brought up, "our sons." Look, Elizabeth, if my son was engaged in that kind of activity, that kind of conduct, then I would not expect a group that was built on certain moral standards to have to change its standards to accommodate my son. The problem that your movement has is that it's tolerant of everything, except individuals and organizations that continue to believe in traditional values.

BIRCH: Gary, the problem that your movement has, with all due respect, is that you shout from the mountaintops about local control until it's inconvenient to you. You don't want local school boards to have control here.

BAUER: Well, Elizabeth, you throw off local control unless it's convenient for you.

BIRCH: No, that is not true. That's not true.

BUCHANAN: Elizabeth, what is happening here -- you say that they have access to public schools. What is happening is these district are being very clever, and they're saying, all right, you Boy Scouts are going to have to pay so much more than any other group to have access.

Or they're going to say, listen, you cannot distribute material. Sure, other groups can. You cannot. What the Boy Scouts are having to do is spend very valuable money -- money that they've hard-raised -- and spend it in order to get equal rights. That's all that this is about, Elizabeth.

BIRCH: You are confusing the constitutional right...


BIRCH: It's not.

BUCHANAN: That's all it's about.

BIRCH: Let me respectfully try to correct this. In fact, you are confusing sponsorship and endorsement with equal access. The First Amendment allows for equal access. That's what the Boy Scouts are entitled to. In fact, there are some schools that have nondiscrimination policies. They cannot bar the Boy Scouts from their doors. They have to allow equal access.

But some don't want to endorse the Boy Scouts, because in fact, of the discriminatory policy.

PRESS: Gary...

BIRCH: Sorry, Bill. PRESS: Here's what gets me, is I don't think this is a gay issue, I think this is an American issue. I mean, I think this is a country where we -- in your campaign, you always quote the Declaration of Independence, "all men and women are created equal." No discrimination in this country for any reason whatsoever, and yet, when you stand up, and stand up for that principle of equality, here's what happens. Here's what you get accused of on the floor of the United States Senate.

BAUER: Is there a question here somewhere?

PRESS: Yes. Here is Jesse Helms. I want to get your comment.


SEN. JESSE HELMS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The goal here is the goal of the organized lesbians homosexuals in this country of ours.


PRESS: Now, see, do you see what he does? I just want you to see -- I want to see if you are brave enough tonight to condemn Jesse Helms for turning a human rights issue into a gay issue.

BAUER: Condemning for what, Bill? Look...

PRESS: Exactly what I said.

BAUER: Whether you want our listeners and viewers to know it or not, there is a radical gay and lesbian political movement in the country, and it is goals go fundamentally to the very issues of our institutions and the things that Americans care most about. There's an effort to redefine marriage, so that men can marry men. There's an effort to browbeat organizations like the Boy Scouts, that have been set up to set -- to teach a set of values.

Liberals in this country always talk about tolerance, but they are unwilling to tolerate Americans organizing based on traditional ideas and values of family.

BIRCH: Can I just say that -- I just want to say, this is exhibit A for what is wrong with the Republican Party, and what they have to contend with.


BIRCH: And we're a bipartisan organization, and there are polar extremes in this country. And Mr...


PRESS: One at a time.

BIRCH: You represent a polar extreme in this country.

BAUER: And the gay and lesbian community is trying to redefine marriage, so that men can marry men.

BIRCH: And in fact, it's why people are departing the Republican Party.

BAUER: You're in the mainstream. You're in the mainstream. Right.

BIRCH: Absolutely, I am.

BAUER: The Republican Party, that you say people are departing, has controlled the White House in the last 25 years more than the Democrats. We control more state legislatures that we have in years. The Senate is narrowly divided, but other than...

BIRCH: Mr. Bauer, that is because they have learned how to contend with the ideology that you represent. But they're losing that battle.


BAUER: I'll tell you what. Everybody that's watching on TV that thinks the Boy Scouts ought to be browbeaten in accepting homosexuals...

BIRCH: They are not browbeaten. They are protected by the United States Constitution.

BAUER: ... and that the rest of your agenda ought to be accepted, which includes men marrying men...


BAUER: ,,, ought to vote for the Democratic Party.

PRESS: I want to ask your agenda. By the way, I think her agenda and my agenda is equal rights for all Americans, and I'm proud -- I'm proud...

BAUER: It's clearly not equal rights for the Boy Scouts.

BIRCH: It is equal rights.

PRESS: I want to find out what your agenda is, because here's what the Jesse Helms amendment says. It says schools have to allow anybody in -- any group to meet there, that pledges allegiance to God and country. Now, last Monday night on CROSSFIRE, Bay and I had as a guest Norm Olson from Michigan, head of the Michigan militia. They pledge allegiance to God and country. Should they be allowed to meet in any public school in the United States.

BAUER: Well, you know, as usual, Bill, the liberals take an amendment or an issue and they try to pull something out of it and distort it.

(CROSSTALK) BAUER: You asked me a question. Let me answer it. Militias are not trying to meet in America's schools. The Boy Scouts are, and the gay and lesbian movement is trying to stop them.


BUCHANAN: Bill, it's about...


BUCHANAN: This amendment, Elizabeth, is about youth groups. It's right in there, youth groups is how it's defined. The last I heard, militia is not a youth group...

BIRCH: Bay, but,..

BUCHANAN: But, Elizabeth, you suggested Gary is extreme. Are you suggesting to me that the gay and lesbian agenda is not an extreme...

BIRCH: Absolutely not, Bay.

BUCHANAN: That's mainstream, and Gary and I are extreme.

BIRCH: That's absolutely an extreme.

BUCHANAN: Oh my, oh my. This is a redefinition.

BIRCH: Bay, I didn't refer to you, because I'm not as well- versed, but you know, in fact, I'm going to tell you...


... gay and lesbian people -- gay and lesbian people are born into every single stripe of American family.

BUCHANAN: That is not what we're talking about. But that doesn't mean you redefine...

BIRCH: You paint with a broad brush. All gay people are advocating for is equal rights. Period. How could that be extreme?



BUCHANAN: ... the Boy Scouts have done...

BIRCH: ... equal access, which they already have...

PRESS: One...


BUCHANAN: ... enormous good, enormous good.


BAUER: But you opposed and argued against.

BUCHANAN: Are you...

BAUER: You opposed that Supreme Court decision and argued against it. The gay and lesbian community adamantly opposed it. You now cite to us a court case that you took the other position on.

BIRCH: Can I point out why?

BAUER: Point out whatever you like.

BIRCH: 5-4 decision.

BAUER: Right.

BIRCH: They wrestled with it...

BAUER: Um-hmm.

BIRCH: ... because in fact it is wrong to discriminate and it is wrong to discriminate against gay people.

BAUER: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Elizabeth. So for the whole first part of this show...

BIRCH: So you're justifying...

BAUER: ... you quoted a Supreme Court decision that you worked tooth and nail to stop.

BIRCH: No, I think that Jesse Helms -- Jesse Helms...

PRESS: Hey, guys, I have to ask you...

BIRCH: ... Jesse Helms...

PRESS: ... to speak one at a time.

BIRCH: ... Jesse Helms was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's what I said.

PRESS: All right. On that point, we will take a break and just cool down just a little bit. But when we come back, we're going to take a little sail, we're going to take a little sail on the ship Aurora, that abortion ship that's in Dublin, Ireland. We guarantee you it will not be smooth sailing when we come back on CROSSFIRE.


BAUER: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Bay Buchanan sitting in on the right.

A group calling itself Women on Waves has converted a fishing boat into an abortion clinic and sailed with a Dutch flag to Ireland. The problem is they sailed without a proper license to operate a clinic, and we're told by Dutch authorities that if they took the life of even one child they would be facing four years in prison.

Stopped cold on this trip, but what's going to happen on the next? Our guests, Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, and Gary Bauer, president of American Values -- Bill.

PRESS: Gary, quick question, I think I know why you don't like this boat, because these women are so clever. They have found a way around the antiquated laws of an antiquated country like Ireland. That's what it's all about, isn't it?

BAUER: Bill, talk about ugly Americans. You know, these folks are not content with 1.3 million abortions a year in America. They're trying to export it all over the world.

Women around the world need lot of things. They need better health care, better education, better job opportunities. The last thing they need is being promoted the idea that taking innocent human life is somehow a great advantage for women. It isn't.

BUCHANAN: Elizabeth, Ireland is a democratic country. It is also a Catholic country. It voted twice, the people voted in a referendum twice keep abortion illegal. This is their choice. Is this not a contemptuous act on the part of these women to show up and suggest they change that?

BIRCH: I don't think so. I think that the choice to have an abortion is probably one of the most difficult ones that any individual would ever have to face, and I would never want to have to face that decision myself. But the fact is that conservatives want it both ways. I can't think of anything more intimate, more local than the control of one's reproductive rights. And I think the women of Ireland and the women of the planet deserve the opportunity to make these difficult decisions themselves, perhaps with a spouse or a partner, perhaps on occasion with their doctor or a religious adviser, but in fact, it is their own decision and not a government's decision.

PRESS: All right, Gary, let's back up here on this ship. Now, as we know, there was rumors that -- they do have a clinic on board this ship so there was a capacity to perform abortions if women had requested it and they went off in international waters. They're not doing that, because as Bay pointed out they didn't have the license. There was talk that they might give out the pill, RU-486. They're not doing that because they don't have a license. So at the most they're offering counseling now.

But let's go back and assume that they were doing what they said they were going to do. I mean, there are casino ships all over the world that pick people up, where gambling is not allowed, and they go off into international waters and they can gamble away.

There are 6,000 women a year from Ireland that go to England because they choose to have an abortion. If these Irish women want to exercise that right, why shouldn't they be able to go out under international law and do so? It's a medical service...


BAUER: Well, because -- because the taking of innocent human life is a little bit more profound than rolling the dice on a gambling ship.

PRESS: See, they don't believe you. I mean, they don't share that same opinion, Gary. So why shouldn't they have the choice to exercise their rights?

BAUER: Obviously not. But the good people of Ireland, a majority of them, do share my opinion, which is why they've spoken on this issue a number of times. And as a right of a sovereign nation they've decided they don't want to go down the road that the United States was forced to go down by Roe versus Wade, a horrible Supreme Court decision that's resulted in the destruction of millions of innocent human unborn children.

PRESS: Let me ask about this. What if this was the good ship Viagra? Viagra is allowed in Ireland, not RU-486. What if this ship were pulling into Dublin to give away free Viagra? They'd have a hero's welcome from the Irish, wouldn't they?

BAUER: Well, Bill, I don't know. I mean, I think they're going to still have to go to the drugstore and not count on a ship docking there...

BUCHANAN: Yeah, the last I heard Viagra didn't kill babies, Bill.

BAUER: ... in order to get your Viagra.

PRESS: Neither does RU-486.

BUCHANAN: Disagree...

PRESS: Yeah, right. Damn right.


BAUER: Fundamental disagreement.


BUCHANAN: Elizabeth, you say conservatives want it both ways. Let's talk about liberals, in particular your group, Human Rights Campaign.

You say that all these different people have human rights, but you seem to be the one that wants to choose who has the right to live. OK, these babies have a right to life, yet you are unwilling to defend their right.

BIRCH: That's not what I said. I think that what I -- I really battle with is who makes the decision. And I think you want to place the decision in the hands of large, unwieldy governments, and I want to put the decision in the hands of women, who should have complete control over the reproduction...

BUCHANAN: What about the human rights? You're not answering the human rights. You don't like it when government...

BIRCH: The decision about the human right should be placed in the hands of women who choose to bear or not bear children.

BUCHANAN: All right. What about -- what about...

BIRCH: It is the decision-maker...

BUCHANAN: All right. How about the times that we've had men who have actually decided that the women, their wives, were like property, and you've asked government to come in and say this is just not permitted. There's many, many times that you have come in and said we need laws to protect the rights of gay, because government has to step in because people are making the wrong choices.

And yet in this occasion, you say, we're killing somebody here, it could be. We have a baby here we're killing, but with this crime, government backs out, women choose. This is life, Elizabeth.

BIRCH: This is the decision of the woman who would give birth or not. And it is not the decision -- it should not be the decision of the Irish government, or the American government. And that is it.

I mean, it is a public policy position that I feel very strongly about. My organization does not take -- we are a pro-choice organization, this is not part of our central missing, but in fact, as a woman -- and I think countless men feel this way as well -- we are talking about the decision-maker. Should it be a large, faceless government, or should it be the woman and her intimates, the people that she cares about around her to grapple with that decision?

BAUER: But Bill, the more fundamental question is whether anybody should ever be able to make a choice to take the life of an innocent unborn child.

BIRCH: Well, who gets to say? Why do you get to say?

BAUER: We had some references to reproductive rights -- when a woman is pregnant, she has reproduced. The question is whether that child will now be allowed to live. You can call it whatever you want, but there is now -- there is now two heartbeats.


BIRCH: ... U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this too. It is the law of the land.

BAUER: And God willing, they will rule sometimes soon...

BIRCH: It is the law of the land. BAUER: ... that all of our children are protected by the law and protected by the constitution of the United States.

But I would remind you again, you are very good at quoting the law of America, but you are quite willing to ignore the law of Ireland. They have decided they don't want abortions there.

BIRCH: No, what I'm saying is that Bay pointed out -- I'm simply saying this and I will go quickly -- that indeed, you were holding up a Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court of this country has ruled.

BAUER: And Supreme Courts have made mistakes, and this is one of them.

BIRCH: It should be respected. No, it should be respected, as it is the law of the land.

BAUER: And one can abide by a decision while working strenuously to overturn it, just as we did in the Dred Scott case, which was the other time that the Supreme Court took a whole class of human beings and said they had no rights that the rest of us were bound to respect. That was a disaster and a blot on America's conscience, and I'm convinced, Elizabeth, that some day we will look back on this disaster of 1.3 helpless children destroyed every year, and we will be ashamed.

PRESS: I just want to cut in here. Here is the problem with you and Bay -- you keep calling it killing babies, killing children -- that is outrageous, that is wrong. If it is murder, why shouldn't the doctor and the woman both be accused of first-degree murder and executed? Why don't you support that? Because you know it's not murder.

BAUER: Bill, if you want to support such a law, I would urge you to do it. It would be a great step forward for you since you seem oblivious about the fact that it is innocent human life. What do you call when something that has a heartbeat is destroyed, Bill? Whether it's a dog, a cat, or an unborn child, it has been killed.

PRESS: You say it's choice and you let the woman make the choice.

BAUER: A heartbeat indicates life.

PRESS: Time to go. Good night, Gary Bauer, good night, Elizabeth Birch, thank you both for coming in.

BIRCH: Good night. Thank you.

PRESS: We are not saying good night yet, because on the boy scouts and on the ship Aurora, Bay Buchanan and I will have some closing comments coming up next.


BUCHANAN: Bill, the boy scouts have done so much good for so many millions and millions of young kids, and yet the liberals would willingly just throw them aside because they won't agree with their beliefs. The key here is both of these issues show the true underbelly of the liberal agenda, and that is one of intolerance and contempt for the belief of others.

PRESS: You know, I am proud to be called a liberal. If being a liberal means that I am for equal rights, if being a liberal means that I am for discrimination against nobody, if I am against discrimination...

BUCHANAN: Against boy scouts.

PRESS: ... I am proud to be a liberal. You know, I was a boy scout. And let me tell you, I loved the boy scouts. They do do good work. But they should not be allowed to deny access to other boys just they happened to be gay. That is un-American.

BUCHANAN: You have a problem with the constitution, and it is easy to call you a liberal, Bill.

PRESS: I am proud of it.

From the left, I am Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

BUCHANAN: And from the right, I am Bay Buchanan. Join us again next week for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top