Another Democratic Debate Ignores Reproductive Rights

It was the fifth debate in a row to omit the issue.

Thursday's Democratic presidential debate was the fifth in a row to avoid the issue of reproductive rights entirely, despite the prominence of the issue in Congress, state legislatures and the Supreme Court.

Debate moderators Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd drew out many differences between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the final debate before New Hampshire's primary, but they failed to probe the candidates' differences on abortion.

And there are several differences. Clinton, who was notably endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, has advocated for the repeal of the longstanding Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. Clinton also has talked at length about the intersection between reproductive rights and women's economic empowerment and education, which women's health advocates say makes her a "champion" on the issue.

Sanders, meanwhile, has been far less vocal about reproductive rights. In emails, he has said he would "rescind" the Hyde Amendment, but he does not tout that position on the campaign trail or in interviews. He supports legal abortion and said he would expand funding for Planned Parenthood. But he left abortion coverage entirely out of his proposed health plan. And he called Planned Parenthood and NARAL part of the "establishment" after they endorsed Clinton.

NARAL President Ilyse Hogue told The Huffington Post last month that debate moderators are subscribing to an old model of thinking that ignores the important nuances of a "pro-choice" position. “Unfortunately, we're battling decades of conventional wisdom of 'check-the-box pro-choice-ism,'" Hogue said, "which is just say you're pro-choice and move on and talk about things people really care about."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Sanders had taken no position on the Hyde Amendment. He actually has said he would rescind it. 

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