Can Someone Please #AskAboutAbortion At Sunday’s Debate?

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Debates are important opportunities to hold candidates accountable on issues that directly affect our daily lives. In the last presidential debate, we heard candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spar over immigration, the economy, and national security. But so far, there has not been a single question asked about abortion access during a debate in 2016. Given that the crisis of abortion access in our country is inextricably linked to the health and economic security of women and families across the nation, that needs to change. Safe, legal, and accessible abortion plays a huge role in giving women the opportunity to determine their own destinies, and it’s an issue that matters to millions of people across the country. According to recent data, 1 in 3 women will choose abortion by the time they’re 45 years old (and the majority of these women will already have children of their own). Equally important is the fact that the majority of Americans — 7 in 10 — support keeping abortion safe and legal. That’s exactly why we need to know what candidates think about this important issue. Ahead, a few key reasons why Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz need to #AskAboutAbortion this Sunday.

Abortion access is not a 'niche' issue: It is essential to every woman’s ability to create the future she wants for herself and her family.

Asking about abortion means recognizing that reproductive health care is inextricably linked to economic mobility.
For too many women in this country, abortion care has become inaccessible. In many states, anti-choice politicians have imposed numerous unnecessary restrictions on abortion care, and discriminatory federal policies like the Hyde amendment prevent low-income women from using insurance to pay for care. When a woman doesn’t have access to reproductive health care, including abortion, she also doesn’t have the ability to choose what’s best for her and her future. For many women, that means not being able to care for the children they already have in the way they had hoped. Abortion access is not a “niche” issue: It is essential to every woman’s ability to create the future she wants for herself and her family. Women deserve to know whether a politician is going to work to make sure all women, regardless of zip code or income, have access to abortion, or if they are going to put even more roadblocks up between them and their constitutional right to health care.
Asking about abortion can reveal a lot about a candidate.
You can learn a lot about a person and their attitudes towards women when they’re asked about reproductive rights. Take Todd Akin, for example. His now infamous 2012 comment about “legitimate rape” came about thanks to a question on whether his proposed abortion ban would include exceptions for rape and incest. With this comment, he reinforced his backwards worldview, lack of respect for women, and ignorance towards the issues we care about. It reinforced how wrong he was for the U.S. Senate. For a more recent example, take this week’s vice presidential debate. Many observers agreed that the most substantive and revealing part of the debate was when Tim Kaine and Mike Pence discussed their differing views on abortion. The conversation gave Tim Kaine a perfect opportunity to ask Mike Pence the key question about his views on reproductive rights: “Why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves?” Tim Kaine and Mike Pence’s discussion moved the issue beyond the simple “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels to a level that forced the candidates to be accountable for what they have done to expand or dismantle reproductive freedom — and, by association, whether or not they trust women to make their own decisions. Their discussion made plain the fact that Tim Kaine has faith in women to make their own reproductive choices without a politician standing in the way, and that Mike Pence believes he’s better equipped than a woman to make a decision about her health care. Americans deserve to hear the presidential candidates have the same discussion.

Countless politicians at every level of government are working tirelessly — obsessively, even — to make it harder and harder for us to access abortion.

Asking about abortion acknowledges that we’re at a make-or-break moment when it comes to reproductive freedom.
This year, the Supreme Court dealt a decisive victory for reproductive freedom by striking down a dangerous Texas law that closed all but a few clinics in the state. But countless politicians at every level of government are working tirelessly — obsessively, even — to make it harder and harder for us to access abortion. Since 2010, 261 anti-choice laws have passed through state legislatures, many of which are dominated by anti-choice politicians. Already, 87% of counties in the country are without a single abortion provider. We deserve to hear how each candidate would address these laws. The differences between the two presidential candidates on reproductive health care and a woman’s role in the world make it even clearer that we’re at a make-or-break moment for women. In about 30 days, we’ll have a chance to put someone — Hillary Clinton — in the White House who has built a career on advancing women in society. Or, we’ll end up with Donald Trump, who we can only assume if elected will display the same amount of respect for women as he has throughout his career and his campaign — zero. There are many issues on which the candidates differ dramatically, but so far, we've had the chance to see them discuss these differences on the debate stage. Just as voters deserve to hear a debate on those issues, they also deserve to hear these candidates talk about their differing plans to defend and expand a right that is of huge consequence to our lives. Simply put, we need our moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. Women's futures depend on it. Do your part by signing NARAL's petition to have an abortion question asked at the debate here, and check out Refinery29's full coverage of the debate on Sunday.
Kaylie Hanson Long is the national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights advocacy group. The views expressed here are her own.

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