The Democratic debate in Houston covered a range of topics from healthcare to foreign policy, but women’s issues were noticeably absent. No questions were asked about the gender pay gap or reproductive rights, in spite of the GOP and Trump administration stepping up its agenda hostile to women.
The failure of the moderators to bring up women’s issues did not go unnoticed. “Three hours, not one question on abortion—with women’s rights under attack across our country” wrote Beto O’Rourke. Planned Parenthood Action tweeted, “at tonight’s #DemDebate there was not *one* question on reproductive health care—despite the fact that the Trump admin has been relentless in its attacks on our nation’s program for affordable birth control”, which was retweeted by Planned Parenthood Votes Texas.
While the attack on reproductive rights is a national issue, the problem is particularly dire in Texas. The state government has placed heavy restrictions on abortion access. Over 900,000 reproductive-age women in Texas live more than 150 miles away from an abortion clinic and there are only 20 clinics that offer abortion statewide.
In response to the debate, Progress Texas observed, “We still have not heard from the candidates about #ReproRights. TX has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and the Trump admin continues to put #abortion further out of reach. We need a president who makes this issue a priority!”
Despite Texas’s attack on reproductive rights, the city of Austin has taken action to work around it. While state law prevents local government from directly funding abortion, the Austin city council has set aside $150,000 to cover abortion access services like travel, lodging and childcare.
Austin’s move to protect reproductive rights has already received pushback from GOP legislators. State Sen. Donna Campbell, who authored the bill prohibiting cities from funding abortion, vowed to take the issue up with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. State Rep. Briscoe Cain even called for the Texas legislature to “abolish the City of Austin.”
“It’s clear that the state legislature is trying to attack Austin in spite of how we duly elected our representatives on the city council,” said Jen Ramos, president of the Austin Young Democrats.
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