Last night in the CNN/YouTube Republican debate, the candidates were asked what the punishment should be for women if abortion is banned.
The question of “How Much Time Should She Do?” is one that we heard from Anna Quindlen this summer and is now resurfacing once again. Now that the political heat is high, this message – while it’s certainly not new – might just reframe the abortion debate and put conservatives on the defensive for a change.
Pro-choice candidates have consistently been forced by anti-choice rhetoric into positions where they end up compromising on reproductive rights issues; this is no big news. But asking anti-choice individuals about criminalization isn’t an easy question to answer, as you can see in this video. And as mentioned in the Quindlen article, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa asked anti-choice Republican Jim Nussle publicly during the 2006 governor’s race the very same question, in which he lost the race to pro-choice Governor Chet Culver.
The National Institute for Reproductive Health’s Messaging Project gave PPGI resources for their campaign, which focuses specifically on “How Much Time?” after doing research which showed that this question resonated with the public more than a number of other pro-choice messages. While the majority of Americans are pro-choice, the majority of them aren’t activists and many don’t even consider a candidate’s position on choice to be a priority. But putting criminalization at the forefront of the argument could not only change the debate, but prioritize the public’s expectations in candidates.
Jill also wrote a great piece about this when the Quindlen article came out that asks more than the one question. Last night, the candidates naturally turn the question to the doctors (because you know, the women seeking abortions are too distraught and not mentally well enough to be held responsible). The criminalization of doctors is also being researched by the National Institute in creating effective messaging; because if doctors are put in jail, women won’t have anywhere to go and this country will regress back to dangerous, illegal abortions.
In short, Journey’s question last night is an opportunity to not only reframe the abortion debate, but to reclaim it altogether.
RH Reality Check has more details on the debate.