In a January 18 article for New York Magazine, writer-at-large Rebecca Traister joined other media figures in criticizing a lack of questioning on reproductive rights in the January 17 Democratic debate in South Carolina. Traister characterized the silence as “particularly galling” given the prioritization of questions about Bill Clinton's sexual indiscretions and potential duties as “First Gentleman” over discussion of Hillary Clinton's “breathtakingly comprehensive” reproductive rights agenda. According to Traister, there have been “three questions in four debates that somehow relate to the masculinity of a guy who wasn't even on the stage, but not one about the millions of Americans who experience restricted access to legal abortion services,” many of whom “also have limited access to sex-education programs, and affordable contraception.”
Traister pointed out that the exclusion of reproductive rights from the debates was also notable because of Clinton's recent efforts “campaigning vocally and without apology against the Hyde Amendment,” a budgetary rider that bans the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion, making the procedure prohibitively expensive for many women. According to Traister, Clinton's stance on the Hyde Amendment “dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion...[y]et no one at any of the four official Democratic debates has asked Clinton about her remarkable amplification of feminist argument.” Traister wrote (emphasis added):
There was a question, directed at Hillary, about the role her husband, former president Bill Clinton, would play in her administration, and one directed at Bernie about what he thought about Bill Clinton's past sexual indiscretions. If you include the previous debate's question about whether Hillary would have her husband do flower-arranging as First Gentleman, that makes three questions in four debates that somehow relate to the masculinity of a guy who wasn't even on the stage, but not one about the millions of Americans who experience restricted access to legal abortion services, many of them Americans who also have limited access to sex-education programs and affordable contraception, not to mention the jobs, educations, state benefits, affordable child care, and early schooling options that would make decisions about if, how, and under what circumstances to start or grow a family more just.
The lack of interest in the topic of reproductive justice is particularly galling, since this primary season -- which has included talk of political revolution coming mostly from Sanders -- has lately also featured some revolutionary language coming from Clinton, not a candidate usually known for being on the radical edge of debate.
But as too few people seemed to have noticed, Hillary Clinton has spent the past ten days campaigning vocally and without apology against the Hyde Amendment. Hyde, a legislative rider first passed in 1976 and added to appropriations bills every year since, prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, which means that the low-income women, many of them women of color, who rely on Medicaid for health insurance cannot use their insurance to terminate their pregnancies except in cases of rape, incest, or their life being in danger.
It is a discriminatory law that perpetuates both economic and racial inequality.And the notion of repealing it has remained a third rail in American politics until about five minutes ago ... or, more precisely, until this summer, when California representative Barbara Lee introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would effectively repeal Hyde. So far, the bill has 109 co-sponsors but a vanishingly small chance of going anywhere.
Clinton, in her lengthy, thorough statements about the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality, dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion. It would be difficult to overstate how radical it is to hear a mainstream politician address the inability of women to make reproductive choices about their bodies and lives as an economic issue, central to class and racial discrimination in America. Yet no one at any of the four official Democratic debates has asked Clinton about her remarkable amplification of feminist argument.