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Tipsheet

Psaki Flared Up At a Reporter’s Question on Abortion Ahead of Biden’s Visit with the Pope

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In a White House press breifing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki got into a heated exchange with a reporter after he asked if abortion would be a topic of discussion during President Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis on Friday. 

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During the briefing, Owen Jensen of EWTN, a Catholic news network, asked Psaki "[t]he White House has said they [Biden and Pope Francis] will discuss working together on ‘efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity.’ Question one: Will that include the human dignity of the unborn?"

“Well, Owen, as you know — although, you ask me most often, if not every time, about abortion — but I will say there is a great deal of agreement,” Psaki answerded, before being interrupted.

“Is there a problem with this?” Jensen added.

“Let me finish my answer. There’s a great —” Psaki retorted.

“Is there a problem with my questions?” Jensen inquired.

“There is not. You can ask anything you want,” Psaki said. 

“I wanted to note, since you follow this [abortion] closely, is that there is a great deal of agreement and overlap with the President and Pope Francis on a range of issues: poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic. These are all hugely important, impactful issues that will be the centerpiece of what their discussion is when they meet,” Psaki continued. “The President has met with [Pope Francis.] This will be their fourth meeting.  We expect a warm and constructive dialogue. You are familiar with where the President stands.  He’s somebody who stands up for and believes that a woman’s right to choose is important.”

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Jensen responded, saying that the Pope has said that abortion is murder. Psaki cut Jensen off mid-sentence, stating “[t]he Pope has spoken differently” and that “I have just outlined for you what the focus of the meeting will be.”

Psaki then moved on to the next question as Jensen said “[a]bortion is murder” and called Psaki out on “[giving] other people a chance to follow up, and I get nothing?”

“The Pope has said ‘abortion is murder’ and ‘it’s like hiring a hitman.’ Does the President agree or disagree with that?” Jensen pressed. 

“You know that the President believes in a woman’s right to choose. You’re very familiar with this issue,” Psaki said before moving on to another question.

Biden, the second Catholic president in the country’s history, has a proven track record of supporting abortion rights. At the same time, he is described as a “devout Catholic,” and claims to attend Mass regularly.

Earlier this year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convened to discuss if pro-abortion politicians should be eligible to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Pope Francis recently said “[i]f you have an abortion, you kill.” But, as the Associated Press reported, “[Pope Francis] was unequivocal that [communion] cannot be given to anyone who is not ‘in communion’ with the church, though he declined to say if a pro-abortion politician was out of communion.”

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