FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2016
Ahead of tonight’s Democratic debate, NARAL is reminding the moderators that voters have yet to hear the candidates debate their plans to address the crisis of abortion access facing millions of Americans. On the heels of Donald Trump’s call for women to be punished for having an abortion, and amidst an alarming rise in the number of death threats directed at abortion providers and their patients in the past year, NARAL sent a letter to CNN debate moderator Wolf Blitzer urging him to #AskAboutAbortion and the candidates’ plans to address to crisis of abortion access during tonight’s debate.
In support of this effort, NARAL Pro-Choice America board member Renee Bracey Sherman published the op-ed below in Glamour on the importance of allowing the candidates to debate their plans to protect abortion access. She joins thousands of NARAL members who have petitioned online and on Twitter for the debate moderators to ask a question about abortion at the Democratic debates. View the #AskAboutAbortion tweets from activists here.
Key point from the op-ed: You might be thinking, Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice and miles ahead of the Republican candidates, so what’s the point in talking about it? Well, both candidates support expanding healthcare access and regulating Wall Street, but that hasn’t stopped them from clashing over how to do it. It should be the same for abortion.
By Renee Bracey-Sherman
Thursday night, in Brooklyn, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tell voters why each should be the Democratic Party’s nominee. CNN moderators will undoubtedly ask questions about economics, healthcare, and gender equality, but the real question is whether they ask about the one issue at the center of all three: abortion.
To date, there have been eight debates, and moderators have asked exactly zero questions about abortion. There have been useless questions about what Bill Clinton would do as First Gentleman, Bernie and Jane Sanders’ honeymoon in the Soviet Union, and so, so many questions about the email “scandal” that isn’t. (If Clinton’s emails had been about abortion, would moderators have asked about it?)
Univision debate moderators came close by mentioning abortion in a question about judicial nominations, especially in light of the case currently before the Supreme Court—which could effectively end abortion access for millions of women. During the FOX News town hall, candidates were asked about later abortions in a way that stigmatized women who might need them, but candidates didn’t actually debate the procedure or lay out plans for the future.
In previous debates, both Clinton and Sanders have noted their support for Planned Parenthood and desire to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal, but they haven’t explained what they would do to protect or increase access to care. On the campaign trail, each has said they would overturn the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that disproportionately bars low-income people and women of color from using their Medicaid insurance for abortion care. Research has shown when a person isn’t able to the access abortion care they want, they’re three times as likely to be living below the federal poverty level two years later. Abortion is as much an economic issue as it is a healthcare issue.
As a Black woman who has had an abortion, I want to know how they will do it. At a time when abortion clinics are being shuttered, shot at, threatened, and burned, and patients are having to travel hundreds of miles or induce their own abortions because there’s no clinic nearby, we need pro-choice candidates to outline their agendas on what reproductive freedom should look like. Let’s be honest: it would make the debate more relevant to people’s lived experiences.
Donald Trump says he will “punish” those of us who have abortions somehow (he’s not sure yet). Senator Ted Cruz touts the endorsement of anti-abortion extremist Troy Newman, who believes abortion providers should be “executed.” Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich wants voters to think he’s the moderate choice in the field, when his record is anything but. In five years, Kasich shut down half of the abortion clinics in Ohio, banned abortions after 20 weeks, cut contraception access, and defunded Planned Parenthood, just to name a few of his major achievements.
So, the anti-choice candidates are clear that they will do everything in their power to deny access to abortion. But what’s the alternative?
You might be thinking, Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice and miles ahead of the Republican candidates, so what’s the point in talking about it? Well, both candidates support expanding healthcare access and regulating Wall Street, but that hasn’t stopped them from clashing over how to do it. It should be the same for abortion.
Will abortion be covered in Sanders’ Medicare-For-All plan? How will Clinton direct the Department of Justice to respond to the record number of attacks on providers? Will their administration step in to stop the prosecution of those who are self inducing their abortions? How will the candidates stop states from closing abortion clinics? Will their immigration policy ensure undocumented people are able to access abortion care? How will they ensure everyone is able to access safe, affordable abortion care in their community?
We can’t continue to allow anti-choice candidates to define the conversation. We must demand that our pro-choice politicians do more than just check the box. They must advance access to care, not maintain the status quo.
I am one of the 30 percent of women who’ve had an abortion and I vote. I’ll be watching in hopes that the debate moderators will #AskAboutAbortion. The future of abortion access depends on it.
Renee Bracey Sherman is a reproductive justice activist working to increase the visibility of people who have abortions. Bracey Sherman is a board member at NARAL Pro-Choice America.