Moderators Finally Asked Democrats an Abortion Question

5 minute read

The Democratic presidential candidates were finally asked about abortion at a town hall hosted by Fox News on Monday—a question whose absence from previous debates had angered many activists, prompting the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

Seven Democratic debates had passed without a question about abortion, the Washington Post reported.

“Can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be OK with abortion being illegal?” Fox moderator Bret Baier asked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders: It’s not a question of me being okay. This will—thank you for the question, but I happen to believe—and let me be very clear about it. I know not everybody here will agree with me. I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.

I think, I believe, and I understand there are honest people. I mean, I have a lot of friends, some supporters, some disagree. They hold a different point of view, and I respect that. But that is my view.

And I’ll tell you something which I don’t like in this debate. There are a whole lot of people out there who tell me the government is terrible, government is awful, get government off our backs. My Republican friends want to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare – Medicaid, education. But somehow on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body.

Baier: I guess the genesis of the question is that there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that’s something to look at. You’re saying no.

Sanders: I Am very strongly pro-choice. that is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.

Baier later posed the same question to Hillary Clinton. “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before its born?” he said. “Or do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”

Clinton: Well, again, let me put this in context, because it’s an important question. Right now the Supreme Court is considering a decision that would shut down a lot of the options for women in Texas, and there have been other legislatures that have taken similar steps to try to restrict a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor.

It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained.

So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions, and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.

Baier: Just to be clear, there’s no—without any exceptions?

Clinton: No—I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.

I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, Bret, they sometimes arise in the most complex, difficult medical situation.

Baier: Fetal malformities and…

Clinton: And threats to the woman’s health.

Baier: Sure.

Clinton: And so I think it is—under Roe v. Wade, it is appropriate to say, in these circumstances, so long as there’s an exception for the life and health of the mother.

Many on social media had wondered about the absence of abortion questions, given its recent relevance in the news. In November, a gunman targeted a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, leaving three people dead. Last week, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the enforcement of a Louisiana law that would have restricted access to abortions in the state, and the high court is also considering a separate case about a Texas law.

Sanders posted on Twitter on Monday about how long it had taken for the question to come up at a Democratic debate, noting that it was conservative outlet Fox that asked the first question.

The two candidates, both of whom support abortion rights, had alluded to the topic in previous debates. Clinton touted her endorsement from Planned Parenthood and argued that women should be able to make their own health care decisions. Sanders described it as a woman’s personal choice and criticized Republicans who “want the government to make that choice for every woman in America.”

At the Republican debate in Detroit on Thursday, the lack of questions about the water crisis plaguing Flint, Mich., had also agitated some viewers, but Baier posed one question on the subject to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, asking how Republicans plan to solve such problems.

Rubio called it a “systemic breakdown at every level of government” but said he disagreed with people who were “politicizing” the issue.

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