News Politics

Abortion Rights Take Center Stage at Republican Debate

Ally Boguhn

Republicans facing off in Saturday night’s presidential debate sparred over whose anti-choice stances were the most draconian.

Republicans facing off in Saturday night’s presidential debate sparred over whose anti-choice stances were the most draconian.

During the debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, conservative commentator Mary Katharine Ham questioned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about how he could reach young voters on “social issues” such as same-sex marriage and abortion when Democrats charged that his stances showed “intolerance and extremism.”

Rubio responded by suggesting that abortion is “a human rights issue” that requires balancing women’s bodily autonomy with the legal rights of a fetus. “They’re in conflict,” Rubio said. “And as a policymaker, I must choose which one of these two sides takes precedence. And I have chosen to err on the side of life.”

The Florida senator criticized the media for not posing similar questions to Democratic candidates during their party’s debates, demanding that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party be held accountable for being what he deemed as “extremists” on abortion rights.

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“There has been five Democratic debates. The media has not asked them a single question on abortion, and on abortion, the Democrats are extremists. Why doesn’t the media ask Hillary Clinton why she believes that all abortion should be legal, even on the due date of that unborn child?” Rubio said, promoting the disproved notion pushed by conservatives that abortion is common in the late stages of pregnancy.

Abortions during the third trimester are exceedingly rare—about 1 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy. State laws severely restrict access to the medical procedure in the late stages of pregnancy, despite criticism from medical professionals who note that many common health issues in both the fetus and pregnant person are not detected until that late point in the pregnancy.

Rubio made the misleading allegation that Clinton supports so-called partial birth abortion.

“Why don’t they ask Hillary Clinton why she believes that partial birth abortion, which is a gruesome procedure that has been outlawed in this country. She thinks that’s a fundamental right,” Rubio asked, using the ambiguous term coined by anti-choice activists who use inflammatory rhetoric to make it difficult for lawmakers to oppose their legislative priorities.

The senator ignored that Clinton has consistently said she is open to some restrictions, including so-called partial birth abortion bans, as long as they include exceptions.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, after a follow-up question about recent charges made against Rubio alleging he is “too pro-life” to win the general election, pivoted to laud his efforts to undermine access to abortion.

“Look, I’m pro-life. In fact, on this stage, I’m the most pro-life person because I’ve acted on it for eight years as governor of the state of Florida,” Bush said, pointing to his work funding crisis pregnancy centers in the state, and erecting additional barriers to abortion access.

Rubio fired back that if he were elected, he would sign anti-choice measures that contained exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the patient, but that he “would rather lose an election than be wrong” about abortion.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chimed in that he, too, has a long history of attacking reproductive health in his home state.

“I’ve been pretty helpful to the pro-life cause in one of the most pro-choice states in the union,” Christie bragged, referring to the $7.5 million he cut from the state budget meant for funding family planning service providers, including Planned Parenthood.

Clinton responded to Republicans’ criticism of her abortion stance during a Sunday interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, calling Rubio’s attacks “pretty pathetic,” before clarifying her own views.

“This is something that illustrates how Sen. Rubio has just been going as far as he can to try to, I guess, buttress his credentials with certain parts of the Republican constituency,” Clinton said. “I’ve been on record for years about where I stand on making abortions safe and legal, the exceptions that are appropriate that should be looked into, and the very difficult choices that very few women have to confront that lead to excruciating kinds of decisions.”

Clinton pointed to the specifics of Roe v. Wade, addressing Republicans’ claims that she would allow abortions at any stage in pregnancy without restrictions. “People should go back and read Roe v. Wade. Reasonable kinds of restrictions can be imposed as long as the life and health of the mother are taken into account and that’s what the law is today.”

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.