While GOP presidential debates tend to focus on vilifying Planned Parenthood and discussing how to roll back women’s right to choose, Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate on PBS took on a very different tenor.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both pledged to fight back against the record-breaking number attacks on reproductive rights, specifically calling out their Republican colleagues for going too far to restrict women’s choices.
“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,” Clinton said. “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.”
Sanders agreed with Clinton’s policy points, noting that “women’s rights are under fierce attack all over this country” and pointing to the hypocrisy evident in GOP-led attacks.
“All over this country, we have Republican candidates for president saying, we hate the government, government is the enemy,” Sanders said. “But when it comes to a woman making a personal choice, in that case, Republican candidates 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.”
It’s the closest that the two candidates have come to addressing abortion at a Democratic debate — a subject that reproductive rights groups have been pressuring moderators to bring up.
The candidates made their comments at the first presidential debate that’s ever been moderated by two women, a gender ratio on the stage that Clinton referred to as “historic.”
Clinton is walking a fine line on this subject thanks to a recent debate about whether women should support her based solely on her gender, spurred by comments from two Clinton surrogates — former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and feminist icon Gloria Steinem — that angered many young voters.
“I have spent my entire adult life working toward making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices, even if that choice is not to vote for me,” Clinton said on Thursday. “I have no argument with anyone making up her mind about who to support.”