Concord, New Hampshire—After a year of trashing on Planned Parenthood and the defenders of reproductive rights, suddenly contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are trying to advance their candidacies by calling other contenders too extreme when it comes to restricting access to abortion.
“Call Cecile Richards, the Republicans may need her to moderate the next debate,” jokes Arnie Arnesen, the former New Hampshire legislator and gubernatorial candidate who for decades has been one of the state’s most ardent advocates for a woman’s right to choose.
No, it is not likely that Richards, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America president who has courageously wrangled with anti-choice Republicans on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, will be called upon to help the 2016 Republican candidates sort through questions about abortion rights.
But the last Republican debate before the New Hampshire primary did explore the issue in a way that had at least some of the contenders acknowledging that Americans do not agree with the fierce anti-choice positions—and rhetoric—that have characterized this year’s GOP campaign.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been appealing to social conservatives by saying he would like to ban abortion as an option even in cases of rape and incest. “I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life,” says Rubio.
In Saturday night’s Republican debate in Manchester, the senator’s most aggressive rivals suggested that nominating a candidate with such an extreme stance would indeed lead to the loss Rubio mentioned.
“I believe that if a woman has been raped, that is a birth and a pregnancy that she should be able to terminate,” declared New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. “If she is the victim of incest, this is not a woman’s choice. This is a woman being violated. And the fact is that we have always has believed, as has Ronald Reagan, that we have self-defense for women who have been raped and impregnated because of it, or the subject of incest and been impregnated for it,” he said. “That woman should not have to deliver that child if they believe that violation is now an act of self-defense by terminating that pregnancy.”