Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Sanders, Clinton Won’t Say ‘Abortion’ During Debate

Ally Boguhn

Republican Gov. John Kasich this week vowed to sign a measure to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted that most people disagree with his anti-choice position on abortion exceptions.

Democratic moderators this week failed yet again to ask the candidates about abortion rights while the candidates couldn’t bring themselves to utter the word “abortion,” Republican Gov. John Kasich vowed to sign a measure to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted that most people disagree with his anti-choice position on abortion exceptions.

Democratic Candidates Danced Around Abortion But Never Actually Said It

Yet another Democratic debate has come and gone without a single question about abortion rights​—but that doesn’t mean it didn’t come up over the course of the night.

Both Clinton and Sanders made a point of bringing up the topic. The only issue: neither of the Democratic presidential candidates could bring themselves to say the word “abortion.” Instead, the two carefully stepped around the term, noting their pro-choice records and intent to stand up for “women’s issues.”

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Take this statement from Clinton touting her endorsements from reproductive rights groups:

CLINTON: And I appreciate greatly Senator Sanders’ voting record. And I was very proud to get the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, because I’ve been a leader on these issues. I have gone time and time again to take on the vested interests who would keep women’s health care decisions the province of the government instead of women ourselves.

I’m very proud that NARAL endorsed me because when it comes to it we need a leader on women’s issues. Somebody who, yes, votes right, but much more than that, leads the efforts to protect the hard-fought gains that women have made, that, make no mistake about it, are under tremendous attack, not just by the Republican presidential candidates but by a whole national effort to try to set back women’s rights.

Or Sanders discussing how Republicans want to interfere with “choice”:

SANDERS: Let me concur with the secretary, no question women’s rights are under fierce attack all over this country. And I’ll tell you something that really galls me. I will not shock anybody to suggest that in politics there is occasionally a little bit of hypocrisy. Just a little bit. All over this country we have Republican candidates for president saying we hate the government. Government is the enemy …. But, by the way, when it comes to a woman having to make a very personal choice, ah, in that case, my Republican colleagues love the government and want the government to make that choice for every woman in America. If that’s not hypocrisy, I don’t know what hypocrisy is.

As Fusion’s Katie McDonough noted, by the end of the exchange the candidates devoted 252 words to “make a statement that could have been made in 12 words: Abortion rights are under attack in this country. I will defend them.”

“Like I’ve said before, the Republican presidential contenders have had no problem saying ‘abortion’ in front of primetime audiences,” McDonough pointed out. “As state-level restrictions pile up, as the country’s most restrictive abortion ban is about to have its day in court, as the leading Republican candidates argue whether or not women should be allowed to terminate pregnancies in order to save their lives, Clinton’s and Sanders’ word-smithing about ‘choice’ rings increasingly hollow.”

Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio Moves to Kasich’s Desk, Where He Promises to Sign It

Fresh off of his distant second-place victory in the New Hampshire GOP primaries thanks in part to positioning himself as a “moderate” alternative, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vowed to sign anti-choice legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood in the state.

The bill will redirect public funds away from organizations that promote or provide abortion, but will not affect Medicaid funding, as Rewire reported. The legislation, which passed through the GOP-controlled Ohio state legislature Wednesday, would redirect $1.3 million in grants from Ohio’s Department of Health away from Planned Parenthood.

Although many states have pushed for similar bans on funding for Planned Parenthood, Ohio’s is unique in that it targets funding for programs unrelated to abortion instead of blocking Medicaid funding to the organization, according to the Washington Post:

The Ohio bill is different in that it targets state and federal programs addressing HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, infant mortality and other problems. Planned Parenthood receives a large percentage of that money every year to administer the programs across the state. Under the new bill, the organization would be barred from administering those programs because of its role as an abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, a political arm of the reproductive health provider, has mobilized against Kasich and his promise to move ahead with the legislation, targeting the Republican presidential candidate with a five-figure ad buy.

The ad notes that the funding cuts would affect a domestic violence prevention program and breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Rubio: “I Know That the Majority of Americans Don’t Agree With Me” on Abortion Exceptions

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted Sunday that most voters don’t agree with his stringent opposition to abortion rights, even in cases of rape or incest.

During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Rubio reasserted that should he be elected, he would sign anti-abortion measures that included exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but that he did not personally agree with them. Rubio, speaking with host George Stephanopoulos, explained that he supports anti-choice legislation that included exceptions for life endangerment and other measures he claimed would ultimately “save lives.”

“I do require an exception for life of the mother because I’m pro-life,” Rubio said. “The broader point I’ve made, however, is I believe all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws. That’s what I deeply and personally believe. And I’m not going to change my position on something that is so deep in me in order to win an election.”

When Stephanopoulos pushed Rubio to address what he would say to a rape victim who needed an abortion, the senator dismissed the circumstances, claiming that the fetus was more important.

“It’s a terrible situation. I mean, a crisis pregnancy, especially as a result of something as horrifying as that, I’m not telling you it’s easy. I’m not here saying it’s an easy choice. It’s a horrifying thing what you’ve just described,” said Rubio. “I get it, I really do. And that’s why this issue is so difficult. But I believe a human being, an unborn child, has a right to live, irrespective of the circumstances of which they were conceived. And I know that the majority of Americans don’t agree with me on that.”

Most Americans support exemptions to abortion bans in cases of rape or incest. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal under these circumstances, according to Gallup.

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Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.

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Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”