HILLARY Clinton and Donald Trump were finally asked about abortion in their final face-to-face showdown ahead of Election Day on Wednesday night.
For the first time in all three presidential debates, and after weeks of pressure from reproductive rights activists and voters on social media using the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion, the debate moderator pressed the rivals for their answers.
Their contrasting responses were still being widely discussed by debate viewers the following morning.
While discussing the Supreme Court, debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his position on Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that has legalised abortion rights since 1973.
The Republican candidate simply said that he was “pro-life” and reiterated that the issue of abortion would return to the states under his presidency.
“That’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court,” Trump said. “I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.”
But Clinton doubled down on her commitment to defending reproductive rights, vowing to fight for a woman’s right to choose.
“In this case, it’s not only about Roe v. Wade, it is about what is happening right now in America,” the Democratic candidate answered.
“So many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice, to the extent that they are de-funding Planned Parenthood, which, of course, provides all kinds of benefits for women in this country.
“I will defend Planned Parenthood, I will defend Roe v. Wade, and I will defend women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions,” she promised. “We have come too far to have that turned back now.”
When Chris Wallace pressed her on “how far” she would take abortion rights when it comes to late-term procedures, Clinton defended her position on late-term abortions in certain situations. “I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, get worst news one can get,” she said.
“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.”
Clinton’s impassioned speech earned her plenty of praise on social media, but Trump fired back at his rival’s explanation.
“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 okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me,” he said.
Clinton responded: “Well that is not what happens in these cases, and using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate.”
Trump’s graphic description on the life issue is likely to have thrilled anti-abortion activists who have pressed Republicans to paint Democrats as extreme on the issue throughout the election. Yet several US publications and research institutes have since denied that his comments are factually correct.
“Clinton does believe mothers should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any point — up until birth — if her life is in danger, but abortions as late in a pregnancy as Trump suggests are almost unheard of,” CNN reports.
Some 90 per cent of abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
About 1.2 per cent of abortions occur after 21 weeks, and 43 states in the US ban it before viability with limited exceptions, according to NBC News.
None are happening on “the final day” of pregnancy, one abortion provider trained in late-term abortion tweeted.
Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, made abortions legal during the entire term of a pregnancy, but put restrictions on the procedure during the second and third trimesters.
Here’s how people reacted to the #AskAboutAbortion discussion on social media.