Life v. Death: Clinton, Trump Outline Starkly Different Abortion Positions in Third Debate
In what is being praised as the most substantive of the three 2016 presidential general election debates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump outlined starkly different positions on abortion.
Trump backed overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and reiterated his support for a ban on most late-term abortions and for defunding Planned Parenthood. Clinton continued to support late-term abortions, backed Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding as beneficial for women and defended her opposition to the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban.
What They Said
Moderator Chris Wallace opened the abortion discussion by asking Trump whether “you want the court, including the justices that you will name, to overturn Roe v. Wade, which includes — in fact, states — a woman’s right to abortion?”
Trump said, “if that would happen, because I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges, I would think that that will go back to the individual states.” Pressed by Wallace about overturning the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Trump said, “if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.”
Clinton took a starkly different position.
Well, I strongly support Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a constitutional right to a woman to make the most intimate, most difficult, in many cases, decisions about her health care that one can imagine. And in this case, it’s not only about Roe v. Wade. It is about what’s happening right now in America.
Clinton then slammed “many states” that she said “are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice to the extent that they are defunding Planned Parenthood, which, of course, provides all kinds of cancer screenings and other benefits for women in our country.” She also criticized Trump for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, and said she “will defend Planned Parenthood. I will defend Roe v. Wade, and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.”
Wallace then pressed Clinton on “how far you believe the right to abortion goes. You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights. You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions. Why?”
The former Secretary of State defended her 2003 vote against the partial-birth abortion ban by saying she thought the ban — which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — did not do enough to protect the life and health of a mother considering abortion.
Because Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account. And when I voted as a senator, I did not think that that was the case.
The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions. So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.
Trump’s response was blunt. “Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.
As the exchange closed, Clinton said that Trump’s statement was “scare rhetoric.” She also implied that she’s had meetings with women who have had late-pregnancy abortions.
You know, I’ve had the great honor of traveling across the world on behalf of our country. I’ve been to countries where governments either forced women to have abortions, like they used to do in China, or forced women to bear children, like they used to do in Romania. And I can tell you: The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice. And I will stand up for that right.
Trump closed out the exchange by saying, “And, honestly, nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that, as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth. Nobody has that.”
Outside Groups React
Abortion advocates were quick to slam Trump and celebrate Clinton. Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards tweeted her support.
— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) October 20, 2016
Likewise, in addition to heavily criticizing Trump, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue said:
Hillary’s answer demonstrated her great strength and leadership: she has listened to real stories of real women who have faced these decisions; she has studied the crisis of abortion access, the closure of women’s health clinics and the real impact on public health; she focused on the every day issues that affect the majority of people, not hypothetical what ifs. … She’s our champion for reproductive rights for a reason.
The Catholic Association Senior Policy Advisor Maureen Ferguson condemned Clinton’s remarks, including her calling abortion “health care.”
Mrs. Clinton vigorously defended her extreme position on late-term abortion, which is completely out of step with public opinion. She tried to hide behind rhetoric about the ‘health’ of the woman, which she knows full well has been defined by the Supreme Court to include ‘all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.’ ‘Health’ is a legal loophole you can drive a truck through.”
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, slammed Clinton for her support of partial-birth abortion:
0“Mrs. Clinton defended partial-birth abortion, falsely stated that China no longer has forced abortions, and said it was ‘scare rhetoric’ to say that babies are ‘ripped from the womb’ at nine months. … The facts are that babies actually are torn limb from limb by dismemberment abortions. To say they are ‘ripped from the womb’ is not ‘scare rhetoric,’ it’s simply descriptive of what happens in abortions. As for the claim that China does not perform forced abortions on women anymore, human rights experts will vehemently disagree.
Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, picked up the point:
If she thinks that China no longer forces women to abort babies, she should explain that to a couple, surnamed Zhong, who in August of this year were forced to choose between an abortion at eight months or the loss of both of their government jobs. Or she should inform He Liping, who was forced either to pay an impossible ‘terror fine’ of $39,000 or face abortion at six months.
Finally, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser summarized the candidates’ positions this way.
“For the first time Hillary Clinton was pressed to own up to the fact that there is not one circumstance in which she would protect the right to life of an unborn child – even a baby who is moments from birth. Donald Trump described well the horror of partial birth abortion, a brutal procedure once used for late-term abortions. Clinton defended her vote to protect this procedure confirming her view that unborn children have no rights up until birth. It is confirmed: Clinton supports unlimited abortion on-demand.
You can read a transcript of the abortion exchange here at The Washington Post.