Opinion

Democratic Debates: No, Not All Women Support Abortion

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Posted: Jul 01, 2019 9:25 AM
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Democratic Debates: No, Not All Women Support Abortion

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Democratic debates are painting abortion as an issue that all women support. But nothing could be further from the truth: Numbers show that women – even more than men – are divided on the procedure that ends countless unborn lives. 

Seven of the Democratic presidential candidates looking to challenge President Trump in 2020 touched on abortion during last week’s debates: Beto O’Rourke, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Of the bunch, Gillibrand delivered the lengthiest comments – and won the media’s admiration for it.

On June 27, the senator directed her abortion remarks “to America's women and to the men who love them.”

“Women's reproductive rights are under assault by President Trump and the Republican Party,” she began. “Thirty states are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade right now” she said of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

(An ABC News fact-check later reported that, while “several states have been enacting so-called ‘trigger’ laws, which would immediately make abortion illegal in that state should Roe be overturned,” the number was “not near 30 states.”)

As she continued, Gillibrand called it “mind-boggling” to her “that we are debating this on this stage in 2019 among Democrats whether women should have access to reproductive rights.”

Calling out President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, she claimed that “I have been the fiercest advocate for women's reproductive freedom for over a decade,” before promising that, as president, “I will guarantee women's reproductive freedom no matter what.”

At a later point in the debate, she argued that American women – each and every one of them – “are on fire.”

“We've marched, we've organized, we've run for office, and we've won,” she insisted. “But our rights are under attack like never before by President Trump and the Republicans who want to repeal Roe v. Wade, which is why I went to the front lines in Georgia to fight for them.”

Many in the media recognized her remarks. 

“Kirsten Gillibrand gave her opponents a history lesson on abortion politics,” read one Vox headline, while Teen Vogue commended, “Only Four Candidates Had the Courage to Say ‘Abortion’ at the Democratic Debates,” including Gillibrand.

And, the same day as the debate, New York Times reporter Matt Stevens wrote that “Ms. Gillibrand has sought to position herself as the advocate-in-chief for women” and acknowledged that “Her leadership on abortion fits with her broader strategy.”

On Twitter, the media compliments continued. 

Bloomberg Politics urged on social media that Gillibrand “makes a passionate case for upholding Roe vs. Wade and abortion rights.”

MSNBC and CNN pundit Aisha C. Moodie-Mills tweeted, “Worth noting that Gillibrand tried to create space for her in stage as the men talked over her. Very on brand. She has always worked to lift up women’s voices.”

For her part, feminist and Medium columnist Jessica Valenti praised, “Gillibrand brings up how often abortion rights have been thrown under the bus - she's right, and this is why we need nominees who don't just say they're pro-choice, but who know how to fight for abortion access.”

But Gillibrand – and many media – overlooked several flaws in her comments, including that women lead the national pro-life movement. Those women include Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List, Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life, Abby Johnson of And Then There Were None, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists, and Lila Rose of Live Action.

In response to the debate, Rose commented on Twitter that “It’s so exhausting when Democratic candidates say they speak for all women and that every women [hearts] abortion.”

That’s because they don’t. 

Last summer, a CBS/Refinery29 poll showed that 72% of millennial women are likely in favor of abortion restrictions. In June, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that a majority – 61% of Americans – are “in favor of a combination of [abortion] limitations.” It also revealed that the “most acute divide among Americans” on abortion is not a gender divide but rather “between the parties — and of women of different parties.”

Among other numbers, the poll found that “77% of Democratic women identified as ‘pro-choice,’ while 68% of Republican women identified as ‘pro-life.’” 

Sixty-two percent of Republican women said “they oppose laws that allow abortion at any time during pregnancy in cases of rape or incest." They were also the “only group to say overwhelmingly that life begins at conception.” 

Yes, women – rather than men – get abortions. But that doesn’t mean all women support it. That’s because abortion isn’t a women’s issue: It’s a human rights one.