During the final presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a substantive question about her stance on the legality of abortion restrictions, yet he allowed Republican nominee Donald Trump to avoid a similar question and instead repeat the baseless right-wing media myth that Clinton supports so-called “partial-birth” abortion.
Throughout this election cycle, reproductive rights advocates have been pushing for debate moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. Although Wallace asked Clinton a substantive question about her previous vote against a piece of anti-choice legislation that did not meet the requirements of Roe v .Wade, he failed to fact-check Trump’s misleading pivot to “partial-birth” abortions.
In response to Clinton’s comments about the importance of ensuring any restriction on abortion includes constitutionally-mandated exceptions for the health and safety of the mother, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton believes “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.” Trump continued that Clinton supports letting abortion providers “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”
Trump’s comments reflect the misleading right-wing media claim that the Democratic position on abortion access includes support for so-called “partial-birth” abortions -- often invoking the term as a description of an abortion that takes place in the final months or “moments” of a pregnancy. In reality, “partial-birth” abortion is a non-medical and fabricated term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have an abortion.
Not only is “partial-birth” abortion a right-wing media creation, the allegation that Clinton supports such a practice is also inaccurate. On October 9, PolitiFact Texas rated as false a statement by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that Clinton “supports unlimited abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, including partial-birth abortion.” PolitiFact noted that “abortions in the weeks leading up to birth” are an extreme rarity and that “Clinton has long said that she’d support a late-term limit on abortion--provided it has exceptions” -- a position she reiterated during the October 19 debate.
In her remarks, Clinton not only emphasized the importance of abortion access, but also noted that Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider that she would not allow anti-choice lawmakers to defund. For his part, Trump promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.