Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders drew heavy criticism for their recent defense of abortion, which critics say is out of touch with the American people.
“Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were finally asked about abortion last night, and we now know why it’s been avoided up until this point: Both oppose legislation that would protect unborn children from brutally painful late-term abortions after five months of pregnancy,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
The subject of abortion was raised in the March 7 Democratic Town Hall hosted by Fox News. Moderator Bret Baier asked both Clinton and Sanders about their support for abortion and whether they would accept any limits on the legality of the procedure.
Pro-life critics suggested that both candidates avoided a direct answer to the question because their views are more extreme than that of the American public.
Asked whether there were any circumstances or point in pregnancy in which he would be okay with abortion being illegal, Sanders responded, “It’s not a question of me being okay…I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.”
“I think, I believe, and I understand there are honest people. I mean, I have a lot of friends, some supporters, some disagree,” he continued. “They hold a different point of view, and I respect that. But that is my view.”
Sanders criticized Republicans who want to cut social programs, “but somehow on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body.”
When pressed by the moderator specifically about whether he would consider proposals supported by some Democrats to ban abortion after five months, with some exceptions, Sanders replied, “I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.”
Clinton was also questioned by Baier, who said, “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before it’s born? Or do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”
Noting the Texas abortion restriction currently before the Supreme Court, Clinton warned that some lawmakers want to restrict women’s rights.
“Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained,” she said.
“So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions, and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.”
Pressed to clarify her stance, Clinton added, “I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”
However, she said, “I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, Bret, they sometimes arise in the most complex, difficult medical situation.”
Pro-life leaders blasted these comments. Dannenfelser described Clinton’s claim of support for “late pregnancy regulation” as “a total fantasy.”
She stressed that a “late-term abortion limit beginning at five months based on the pain of the child would actually save lives, protect mothers, and is enthusiastically supported by a majority of Americans, especially women.”
“Clinton knows her support for late-term abortion is a liability, and is desperately trying to hide it,” she said, pointing to numerous national polls showing that a plurality or majority of Americans support limiting abortion after five months.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, also rejected Clinton’s claims.
“Mrs. Clinton tried to hide behind a ‘health’ exception in defending late-term abortion, but she knows very well that the Supreme Court has defined ‘health’ so broadly as to include ‘all factors’ including emotional health, family size, and the woman's age,” Ferguson said.
“Hillary Clinton's record in supporting taxpayer funding of abortion, as well as voting against the ban on partial-birth abortions, reveal a deep disregard for the sanctity of human life — an issue that should be a fundamental consideration when deciding for whom to cast a vote.”
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