Networks Plan Special Coverage Following Supreme Courts Abortion Ruling

Broadcast networks broke into regular programming to cover the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, while cable networks have been virtually non-stop in providing reaction.

That will continue this evening. Rachel Maddow will host her MSNBC show, breaking from her regular schedule. Norah O’Donnell will anchor CBS Evening News from the Supreme Court. At 8 PM, PBS will feature The End of Roe: A PBS NewsHour Special Report, with Judy Woodruff looking at the legal and cultural impact. Washington Week, hosted by Yamiche Alcindor, will focus entirely on the Roe decision and feature the Politico reporter who broke the leaked draft opinion.

That leaked opinion gave networks extra time to prepare for a momentous ruling. MSNBC, which ran commercial free for four hours after the decision, had reporters in Jackson, MS and St. Louis, MO, capturing the scene outside abortion clinics in two states that have so-called “trigger laws,” where abortion laws immediately take effect.

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NBC News broke in with a special report, at 10:12 AM ET, with Lester Holt anchoring and the network remaining on air through 1:04 PM.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, who is retiring next month, put the decision in context. “So this decision doesn’t ban abortion nationwide, it just removes it as a constitutional right, leaving it up to the states,” he said to MSNBC’s Katy Tur. “And this is a first … because the Supreme Court has never before granted a widely recognized constitutional right, and then taken it back. So this is historic in many ways.”

Earlier, Williams said that a “newly emboldened” conservative Supreme Court could next look at affirmative action in college admissions. “It seems pretty likely that affirmative action will bite the dust next term,” he said.

The announcement of court decisions is far different than it was say, 20 years ago. Opinions are posted online, ending the spectacle of interns racing with paper copies of the opinions in their hands to get to network news crews set up outside the Supreme Court building. There also was another difference this year: The justices have not been meeting in person to announce their rulings, apparently a lingering covid policy. And protesters were kept at bay from the building, as security barriers were set up following the leak of the opinion.

The ruling came down at about 10:10 AM ET, with SCOTUSBlog blasting out the news that it had been released. On CNN, the network quickly got up a chyron that there was a ruling, and shortly after that featured Jessica Schneider at the court with the news that Roe was overturned. On Fox News, Bill Hemmer announced, “The case of Roe Vs. Wade is now in.” Seconds later, ,the chyron changed to, “Supreme Court Reverses Roe V. Wade,” and Shannon Bream began to read from it. “Politically, it’s an earthquake,” said Bret Baier, as he and Dana Perino reflected on then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to not hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, giving his successor Donald Trump the opportunity to select Neil Gorsuch. “The ability for President Trump to fill that seat enabled this vote to happen,” Baier said.

Among other plans:

O’Donnell will interview Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, with reports from chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford and other reporters around the country.

MSNBC’s primetime lineup will focus on the decision, with NARAL President Mini Timmaraju joining Maddow along with Rep. Pramilla Jayapal. The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle will expand to two hours. Over the weekend, Andrea Mitchell will anchor MSNBC Reports from noon to 2 PM ET on Saturday, and Yasmin Vossaughian will be live from the court on Saturday and Sunday in the 2 PM ET to 4 PM ET shift. Jonathan Capehart will host his Sunday show live from the New York City Pride parade, as will Alicia Menendez.

More to come.


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