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Abortion takes center stage at Democratic Town Hall

By: Jessica Kovac

Fox News hosted a town hall with the two Democratic presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, on Mar. 7.  The event was originally set up to be a face-off between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Sanders, but according to Fox, the Trump campaign pulled out at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts. Fox was initially going to give the full stage to Sanders for an hour long town hall, but ended up receiving a surprise call from Clinton, wanting to participate.

This came as a surprise to many because Clinton has not appeared on Fox for two years.  Moreover, the appearances she has made over the years on the news show have been slight.  Brett Baier, the moderator for the Town Hall says, “It’s a good opportunity for us, and it’s one I want to take seriously.” He and the rest of the Fox Team spent most the weekend preparing for the new guest.

This forum revealed how the presidential hopefuls perform, adapt and communicate in a foreign and, arguably, uncomfortable environment.  Both Clinton and Sanders looked surprisingly at ease throughout the event.  For the most part, it was a run of the mill town hall.  Both candidates discussed their policies on higher education and healthcare in depth.  Questions were also taken from the audience, many of whom disagreed with the candidates on major issues.

The first participant in the Town Hall applauded Sanders for his blunt language and honesty throughout the campaign, interestingly comparing the Senator to Trump.  When he asked his question, he revealed some significant concerns that he had with the Senator, concerning that his tax hikes on the wealthy would discourage them from doing business in the United States.  The disagreement led to a debate between candidate and voter, which is rarely seen outside of the swing states.  Previous town halls have had questions from Clinton supporters to Sanders and vice versa, but this was the first time a Republican supporter asked a question to a Democrat.

Baier also asked both candidates about their stances on abortion.  He presented Sanders with the question: “Can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy at which you would be okay with an abortion being legal?”  Sanders response was sharp and to the point.  Before answering, he said that not everyone in the audience would agree with him, but proceeded to explain that he felt it was wrong that the government decide what a woman does with their body.  He went on to say that he did not like how Republicans say the government is too big and the government is too involved, however, on the issue of abortion, they are fine with telling every woman in America what she should do with her body.

To Clinton, he asked, “Should a child have any legal rights or protections before it is born?”  Clinton referenced the Supreme Court decision in Texas that is limiting women’s access to get abortions.  She went on to remind the audience that under Roe v. Wade, it is a woman’s right to make this decision, and if these Supreme Court decisions continue, women are not being granted their full rights under Roe v. Wade because these decisions limit and constrain a woman’s rights.  She also referenced defending Planned Parenthood, noting she is in full support of the work that they do.  Baier asked her if she would defend any exceptions, to which she said she has gone on record saying she would look into exceptions for the life and health of the mother.

In the past 7 Democratic primary debates, abortion has not been mentioned once.  When Baier brought up abortion at the Fox News Town Hall, it caused a stir among liberals and pro-choice advocates that it took this long for the issue to make it to the stage.  Others were upset that it was Fox News, a conservative media outlet, which was the first to bring up the issue.  The hashtag “#AskAboutAbortion” surfaced during the Town Hall to start a conversation about the lack of debate surrounding the issue.

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