Democratic debate didn’t include a single question about abortion

People hoping to hear Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on abortion during last night’s debate were left sorely disappointed.

Not a single minute was dedicated to the topic.

This comes at a time when reproductive freedom is under assault nationwide. States have recently passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws since Roe v. Wade guaranteed women the right to choose.

Americans are taking notice. In June, a nationwide poll by Monmouth University found that one-in-three Americans, and more Democrats than Republicans, rank abortion as a top issue in the 2020 elections.

Accordingly, many expected the Democratic candidates to face serious questions about reproductive freedom during last night’s presidential debate. Questions about abortion have inspired some of the most powerful moments in earlier debates.

ABC, which aired the debate, can’t take the position that it wasn’t on notice. A day prior, the network solicited suggestions for questions to ask the candidates. Planned Parenthood Action was among those who suggested abortion rights, tweeting, “Ask the candidates what they plan to do to reverse Trump’s attacks on our sexual and reproductive health care.”

The debate covered other important issues of the day, such as immigration, healthcare, and the trade war. But viewers interested in reproductive freedom were left hanging.

Not long after the debate concluded, presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted their disappointment that the three-hour event didn’t include any questions about abortion or reproductive rights. Some lamented that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has made reproductive freedom a pillar of her candidacy, didn’t qualify for the debate.

Media Matters drew attention to the noticeable absence of discussion about abortion rights in a piece that listed nine things that were discussed more than reproductive freedom. The list included veganism, record players, penguins, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hair.

Glorious as Trudeau’s coif may be, advocates for choice were deeply disappointed. #AskAboutAbortion trended on Twitter this morning. (#AskAboutAbortion was inspired by there being no questions about abortion in the first five Democratic presidential debates in 2016.)

Abortion wasn’t the only issue of particular importance to women that was left off the table at the debate. There was no mention of elder care, family leave, sexual assault, or the gender pay gap.

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Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.