(CNSNews.com) – In a Democratic primary contest marked by positions on abortion viewed by many Americans as extreme, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Tuesday night laid out a position that raised the flagging hopes of some pro-life Democrats.
While other candidates in the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate gave the now-standard comments about women’s reproductive rights being “under attack,” Gabbard gave a more nuanced answer in reply to the question, “If states prevail on restricting abortion, how would you stop them?”
“This is often one of the most difficult decisions that a woman will ever have to make, and it’s unfortunate to see how in this country it has for so long been used as a divisive political weapon,” she began.
“I agree with Hillary Clinton on one thing – disagree with her on many others – but when she said abortion should be ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ I think she’s correct,” Gabbard said.
“We see how the consequences of laws that you’re referring to can often lead to a dangerous place, as we’ve seen them as they’re passed in other countries, where a woman who has a miscarriage past that six weeks could be imprisoned, because abortion would be illegal at that point.”
“I do, however, think that there should be some restrictions in place. I support codifying Roe v. Wade – while making sure that, during the third trimester, abortion is not an option unless the life or severe health consequences of a woman are at risk.”
Unlike other candidates, Gabbard’s response on the abortion question drew no audible applause at the Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.
Elsewhere in Westerville, attendees at a Gabbard debate watch party cheered at the end of her comments, according to a brief video clip posted on social media.
A PAC established this year with the aim of drafting a pro-life Democrat into the 2020 race – and whose Twitter feed often despairs at the extreme views expressed by some of the candidates – was buoyed.
“Let’s stand with Gabbard and invite her to move closer to her pro-life roots,” the Pro-Life Democratic Candidate PAC tweeted. “Here at the Gabbard watch party in Westerville, Ohio to thank Tulsi for opposing third trimester abortion and invite her to move in a pro-life direction.”
Ahead of the debate, the PAC urged moderators to ask clear questions of the candidates about what limits on abortion they would support.
“Instead of papering over party elite’ pro-abortion extremism, we want moderators to facilitate a real debate about what limits the Democratic Party platform will affirm,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “Does the party have a message to 20 million pro-life Democrats other than, ‘Drop dead?’”
Gabbard is polling at under one percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average, the lowest of the 12 candidates in Tuesday’s debate.
More than two decades of Gallup polling has found between eight and 14 percent support for abortions in a third trimester of pregnancy.
‘Under full-on attack in America today’
Of the 12 presidential hopefuls taking part in the debate, eight were asked questions relating to abortion and reproductive rights. Excerpts of their responses follow:
Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.):
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word, with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to reproductive health care, which is under full-on attack in America today.”
“For any state that passes a law that violates the Constitution, and in particular Roe v. Wade, our Department of Justice will review that law to determine if it is compliant with Roe v. Wade and the Constitution, and if it is not, that law will not go into effect.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden:
“I would make sure that we move and insist that we pass, we codify Roe v. Wade. The public is already there; things have changed.”
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg:
“I’m not talking about packing the court just with people who agree with me, although I certainly will appoint people who share my values, for example, the idea that women’s reproductive freedom is an American right.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.):
“I would codify Roe v. Wade and make it the law of the land.”
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.):
“And I’m having deja vu all over again because we have another health care debate, and we’re not talking about the clear and existential threat in America, that we’re in a state that has had two Planned Parenthoods close.”
“I will create the Office of Reproductive Freedom and Reproductive Rights in the White House and make sure that we begin to fight back on a systematic attempt that’s gone on for decades to undermine Roe v. Wade.”
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro:
“I would also make sure that I appoint, as president, people who respect the precedent of Roe v. Wade, that we codify Roe v. Wade …”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.):
“Three out of four Americans believe in the rule of Roe v. Wade. When you’ve got three out of four Americans supporting it, we should be able to get that passed through Congress. We should not leave this to the Supreme Court.”