First things first: Have you gotten your free #NastyWomen sticker yet? If not, get on that and let Donald Trump and his fans know that while good girls may go to heaven, Nasty Women go to the White House!
The big news event of the week, obviously, was the final presidential debate. Let’s just savor those words for a moment, shall we?
Now, about that debate…
Well, they finally did it. After thousands of women across the country took to social media and demanded that debate moderators #AskAboutAbortion, Fox News person Chris Wallace broached the subject–in a way that was utterly predictable, scientifically bogus, and politically slanted to make the anti-choice position look reasonable and measured.
But before we get to Wallace’s SUPER FRINGE-Y question about “partial birth abortion,” how have Presidential debates historically addressed abortion rights? Perhaps surprisingly, for such a perennial, litmus-test issue, the answer is: They mostly haven’t. And when abortion has come up, the question typically hasn’t been about women’s rights or reproductive freedom, but about the candidates’ religious beliefs or priorities for judicial appointments.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, or even a post-Reagan one. According to Media Matters‘ analysis of debates going back to 1962, questions about abortion in Presidential debates have been about religion or judicial appointments fully 56% of the time. That means that fundamental issues that are central to the pro-choice position–issues like autonomy, privacy, women’s individual and economic equality, and whether men and women are equal under the law–are being ignored.
Breaking with that tradition, longtime FOX commentator Wallace didn’t ask the candidates directly about judicial appointments or religion. Instead, he framed the issue in a way that was arguably worse: By putting Clinton on the defensive about “partial-birth abortion” (a right-wing talking point used since the 1990s in efforts to ban abortion) and suggesting that Clinton supported abortion with no limitations.
Despite this framing, and Trump’s gleeful attempts to take Wallace’s lead and run with it (“They take the baby, and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day,” he droned), Clinton delivered a stirring and sincere defense of the right to choose. As Think Progress put it, “Instead of equivocating about whether the government should restrict the later abortion procedures that may sound upsetting to an outside observer, or apologizing for her support for a procedure that some Americans may feel uncomfortable with, she focused on the difficult real-world circumstances that may lead a couple to end a pregnancy in the second or third trimester.”
While Trump was busy making it clear that he has no idea how abortion, women’s bodies, or pregnancy work, Clinton affirmed wholeheartedly that she supports the right to choose even when that choice is difficult, saying, “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.”
If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that abortions at nine months aren’t a thing, and that late-term abortions are extremely rare: Most abortions (90 percent) occur in the first trimester, and doctors perform only about 100 third-trimester abortions per year nationwide. You probably also know that second- and third-trimester abortions are usually due to serious fetal abnormalities, or to protect the health or life of the pregnant woman. But perhaps you have friends or relatives who don’t know all those things, or who (shudder) take Trump at his word. Here are a few resources to share with them: First, this Jezebel interview with a woman who recently had an abortion at 32 weeks’ gestation, after finding out that the fetus she was carrying wouldn’t survive outside the womb.
Second, this New York Times piece in which doctors explain, with absolute clarity, that the scenario Trump described in the debate does not exist: In cases where a baby has to be delivered prematurely (because a woman experiences sudden complications, for example), that’s called birth, and in cases where a fetus dies in utero and is delivered at nine months, it’s called stillbirth. “Doctors say the scenario Mr. Trump described does not occur.”
And third, this editorial in Rolling Stone, which lays out the prognosis for women in a Trump Administration. The title: “Donald Trump’s Abortion Policies Would Kill Women.”