On Meet the Press Sunday, moderator Chuck Todd was asking Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) whether he supports abortion rights. Todd asked, “Will you have a litmus test for judges on Roe? It’s pretty clear in 2020, no matter which side of the abortion you are on, it is going to be on the ballot, the issue of Supreme Court justices. Do you believe in that Roe litmus test?”
Sanders responded with a full-throated defense of abortion: “Look, I believe what they did in Alabama was unbelievable, other states are doing it, the idea that women in this country should not be able to control their own bodies is beyond belief. They have that constitutional right. So if you’re asking me would I ever appoint a Supreme Court Justice who does not believe in defending Roe versus Wade, who does not believe that a woman has a right to control her own body, I will never do that.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 19, 2019
But just a few seconds later, things went off the rails when Todd inexplicably asked, “Are you in all concerned, though, about this idea that people may try to worry about the sex of a child, or essentially, are those types of restrictions on abortions something you’re open to?”
Bernie, obviously caught off guard but also obviously uneducated on the issue, capitulated. “That, I mean, that’s a concern,” Sanders said, adding, “Well, that’s not a, I wouldn’t use a restriction on, that’s an issue that society has got to deal with, and it is of concern.”
Todd followed up to the question asking, “How would you deal with that in the law?”
“I don’t know how, at this particular point,” Sanders said. “I would deal with it, but that is an issue that we really have got to deal with.”
Sanders was clearly stumbling, but by acknowledging “that’s a concern” legitimizes Todd’s question, which is one designed to cloud the issue. Sex-selective abortion is a straw man argument and proponents of it in the United States are purely looking to restrict abortion through any means possible. It’s just another way to malign and police women’s motives when seeking an abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Laws that prohibit abortions for specific reasons, such as sex selection, make it more difficult to obtain abortion overall, especially for women of color and immigrant women, compounding the issues these groups already face when attempting to access sexual and reproductive health care… Laws that force doctors to interrogate a patient’s reasons for having an abortion perpetuate stereotypes and imply that women, and especially women of color, cannot be trusted to make their own medical decisions.”
Democratic candidates who claim to support a woman’s right to choose need to be educated enough on the issue to answer questions, even ridiculous ones like Todd’s, without knee-jerk defaulting to denying women access to medical care based on specious claims. Sanders can’t say that women have a constitutional right to make decisions concerning their own bodies, and then take it away in his very next breath. Women deserve better male allies than that.