Several Democratic presidential primary candidates lamented after Thursday night’s debate that no one asked about reproductive rights or gender pay equality, issues that motivate the Democratic base.
“Three hours, not one question on abortion—with women’s rights under attack across our country,” former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke tweeted soon after the debate ended.
“The #DemDebate was three hours long and not one question about abortion or reproductive rights,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted minutes later.
A few hours later, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg weighed in: “Since it didn’t come up in tonight’s #DemDebate, at this moment when women’s reproductive freedom is under attack, I wanted to say I trust women to make their own decisions about their health. It’s important we all keep taking about it.”
The closest any candidate came to discussing women’s rights issues came from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who, during a conversation about veterans’ health care, mentioned that female veterans sometimes wait months for gynecology visits through the Veterans Health Administration.
NARAL Pro-Choice America applauded Booker for bringing up reproductive health care on Twitter, writing, “Everyone needs access to full, comprehensive reproductive health care without barriers or delay.”
The absence of a conversation about reproductive health did not go unnoticed by some women watching at home, who slammed the debate moderators for not dedicating any time to issues related to women’s rights.
“If we’re going to have the SAME health care debate for the third debate, could we at least talk about reproductive rights once??,” tweeted Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications for Emily’s List.
“There was a HUGE missed opportunity at last night’s #DemDebate to discuss women’s issues including reproductive health, mortality rates for minorities and Equal Pay. We are more than half of the electorate and we deserve a debate that focuses only on these issues at some point,” Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) tweeted to her nearly 238,000 followers.
Several noted that without Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on stage, women’s rights all but disappeared. Gillibrand, who dropped out of the race after not meeting the criteria for the September debate, focused on fighting for women’s rights, citing President Trump’s appointment of antiabortion federal judges as well as conservative state governments’ attempts to dramatically limit access to abortion as threats to women’s freedoms that couldn’t be ignored.
Many women on social media said her presence on stage was missed.
“Reproductive rights are under greater threat than they’ve been since before Roe v. Wade. We’ve had a three-hour, 10-candidate #DemDebate for the presidency and not a single question *or mention* about that crisis,” wrote Emmy Bengston, deputy communications director for Gillibrand. “But ok. We don’t need a candidate who runs on women’s rights.”