Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump finally had to give serious answers about the question of abortion at the third presidential debate Wednesday night, giving reproductive rights a much needed moment in the spotlight during this campaign—and Clinton delivered more than we’ve come to expect in a country where several states have been trying to roll back abortion rights for years.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about Roe v. Wade, and Trump gave a predictably vague answer about picking Supreme Court Justices who would overturn the ruling, then passing the issue on to individual states. Then Wallace asked Clinton “how far” she believes the right to abortion goes—specifically in cases of late-term abortions, or abortions after the fetus would be viable for birth.
“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,” Clinton said. “I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”
So on late-term abortions, one of the most controversial uses of the procedure, Clinton was absolutely adamant that a woman’s right to choose should be protected. She made the crucial point that women getting these abortions are not women who were just too lazy to do something about their pregnancy earlier, or who decided at the last second that they just didn’t feel like having a baby. Often, late-term abortions are needed because women are struggling to raise money for the procedure, or because a horrific health problem has just arisen. Late-term abortions are also incredibly difficult physically and emotionally, and are only performed by a few doctors around the country—an issue that Jezebel illustrated in a moving interview with a woman who had one. And in the end, it doesn’t matter what a woman’s reasoning is for wanting an abortion, no matter how far into the pregnancy it is. A woman should have absolute autonomy over her own body.
Trump then took Clinton’s answer and tried to make the whole thing into a graphic horror show, talking about how Clinton wants to “rip the baby out of the womb” just before birth. But we know that’s not what’s going on here. This is about a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body and when—a right that shouldn’t still be under attack in 2016.