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Biden and Trump Battle Over Reproductive Rights in the First 2024 Presidential Debate 

Published: JUNE 29, 2024

Three days after the second anniversary of the landmark Dobbs decision, which destroyed federal protections for abortion rights, President Biden and former President Trump battled over reproductive rights during the 2024 presidential debate. The upcoming election hinges on widely contrasting visions for the future of reproductive rights in America, with each candidate's stance holding big implications for policy and public health. 


Trump doubles down on restricting reproductive rights

Moderator Dana Bash, CNN's chief political correspondent, kicked off the topic by challenging Trump on his role in overturning Roe v. Wade. She emphasized that while the decision returned decisions about reproductive rights to the states, it did not exempt the federal government from influencing access to abortion pills, which are a crucial medical intervention for nearly two-thirds of all abortions.

Trump defended his stance by citing widespread support for state-level regulation of abortion, sidestepping the real-world consequences encountered in states where stringent laws have resulted in tragic outcomes — such as women facing life-threatening complications because of lack of access to proper care. His endorsement of exceptions — supporting abortion in cases of rape, incest, and maternal health — which is similar to former President Reagan's stance, underscored a selective interpretation of reproductive rights, highlighting the enduring ideological divide. 

Trump's assertions devolved into misinformation

When pressed by Bash on whether he would block abortion medication as president, Trump incorrectly claimed, "First of all, the Supreme Court just approved the abortion pill. And I agree with their decision to have done that, and I will not block it." 


Fact-checkers swiftly debunked Trump's assertion, clarifying that the Supreme Court's recent dismissal of a case on medication abortion was based on procedural grounds, not a ruling on the merits of the abortion pill itself. The Court's decision to send the case back to the lower courts underscores the complexity and consequences of judicial maneuvering on reproductive rights issues, emphasizing the need for evidence-based discourse. 

Soon after Trump's false statement about the ruling on abortion pills, he, yet again, made the unsubstantiated claim that some Democratic states allow "after-birth abortions." This claim, which he's made several times in other public appearances, lacks any basis in reality and only serves to distort public understanding of reproductive healthcare. Despite misleading assertions suggesting otherwise, no credible evidence shows that any state permits such practices. Unfortunately, this assertion went unchallenged, perpetuating the dangerous misinformation Trump perpetuates about reproductive rights.

Biden reaffirms his commitment to reproductive rights

"If elected, I will restore Roe v. Wade," Biden unequivocally stated.


Biden continued, reaffirming his commitment to empowering individuals and their healthcare providers to make pregnancy decisions free from political interference — a stance that resonates with the majority of Americans, who support a woman's right to choose. 

Though Biden's support for reproductive rights was clear and strong, he missed several opportunities to challenge Trump's claims and debunk rampant misinformation about abortion policy. The President also struggled to clearly communicate his own policy points on reproductive rights, resulting in a less than satisfactory defense of the issue despite his strong support.

The debate has been criticized for its brevity on an issue as critical issue as reproductive rights, as well as the lack of pushback on misinformation and inadequate fact-checking.


Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. She got her start in the mid-90s at the Philadelphia Weekly, managing a 10-page section of the newspaper and more than 500 lonely hearts.Her professional stock skyrocketed when she started writing a saucy (and pre-Carrie-Bradshaw-era) dating advice column called “Ask Me Anything.” She appeared regularly on local radio stations and late-night TV as an expert on everything from grooming...

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