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September 22, 2016 / Press Releases

Pro-choice groups call on Lester Holt to #AskAboutAbortion


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2016

Today, NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, and CREDO sent the following letter to Lester Holt in advance of the first presidential debate, encouraging him to #AskAboutAbortion on Monday. The letter is a follow-up to the highly successful, nationwide digital campaign led by NARAL Pro-Choice America during the Democratic primaries to encourage moderators to ask a question about abortion. The campaign reached over 26 million Twitter users.

In the letter, the organizations call on Holt to ask a question about abortion that captures the true needs of women in America. From the letter:

While many topics deserve the candidates’ consideration—from job creation to immigration to national security—safe and reliable access to abortion is fundamental to all Americans’ ability to determine our own destinies. One in three women in this country has had an abortion, and the majority (over 60%) are mothers who are trying to take care of the families they already have.

[…]

In presidential debates since at least 1984, moderators have typically posed questions on abortion that border on entirely theoretical because they focus on extreme outlier cases. We hope that your questions capture the true needs of women and the lived experiences surrounding abortion access.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. Holt,

As you prepare for the upcoming presidential debate, you will no doubt be weighing which issues deserve the attention of the candidates and the nation they seek to lead. Since your task is to provide, with limited time, a setting for the candidates to debate their different approaches to the most critical issues in our lives, we implore you to press the candidates on their plans to address the crisis in abortion access in our country. We stand together in making this request, and hope you understand the importance of such a question.

While many topics deserve the candidates’ consideration—from job creation to immigration to national security—safe and reliable access to abortion is fundamental to all Americans’ ability to determine our own destinies. One in three women in this country has had an abortion, and the majority (over 60%) are mothers who are trying to take care of the families they already have. Despite the fact that seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, many in government are actively trying and succeeding in blocking access to what is, at its core, a constitutionally protected right. Consider the following facts, which paint a picture of dwindling access to abortion across the country:

  • 261 anti-choice laws have passed through state legislatures since 2010
  • 27 states have anti-choice legislatures where both chambers are anti-choice
  • 87% of counties in this country have no abortion provider at all

Throughout this presidential campaign, we’ve heard Hillary Clinton outline her plan to expand abortion access by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, and we’ve heard Donald Trump say that a woman should be punished for her decision to have an abortion. These starkly different approaches to such important issues deserve to be contested on the national debate stage. Voters deserve a fulsome debate on how to expand access to abortion so they can decide for themselves which candidate will do right by their family.

In presidential debates since at least 1984, moderators have typically posed questions on abortion that border on entirely theoretical because they focus on extreme outlier cases. We hope that your questions capture the true needs of women and the lived experiences surrounding abortion access.

Below are the questions we propose you ask:

  1. Among all of the barriers to accessing abortion care for American women, financial burdens rank highest. This is because the Hyde Amendment prevents low-income women from using public health insurance to access this medical service, and clinic closure laws have been so detrimental that it now requires considerable financial means to take time off work, find childcare and travel long distances to access abortion care. As president, how would you ensure that the constitutional right to abortion is guaranteed to all Americans, regardless of their financial situation?
  2. The Zika virus is a threat faced by countless Americans, particularly in Florida, where you two are currently fairing evenly. Polls have shown that 6 in 10 voters believe a woman should be able to access abortion if she is infected with Zika. If elected president, would you allow a woman infected with Zika to access abortion, or would you restrict that access?
  3. In Texas, where women’s health clinics have closed because of laws that put restrictions on their operations, maternal mortality has doubled. As president, what steps would you take to reverse maternal mortality in this country?

Few issues are at once more personal and more consequential to Americans as when, whether, and with whom they choose to start or grow a family. This issue is too important to leave unaddressed on Monday. We hope you’ll allow the candidates to talk about their differing plans to defend and expand our constitutionally protected right to access abortion.

Sincerely,

Ilyse Hogue

NARAL Pro-Choice America, President

Nita Chaudhary and Shaunna Thomas

UltraViolet, Co-Founders

Silvia Henriquez and Destiny Lopez

All* Above All Action Fund, Co-Directors

Eleanor Smeal

Feminist Majority, President

Terry O’Neill

National Organization for Women, President

Heidi Hess

CREDO, Senior Campaign Manager

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Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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