(CNSNews.com) – Donald Trump during the third presidential debate on Wednesday night said partial-birth abortion was “terrible” and “not acceptable,” but Hillary Clinton called his description of babies being ripped from the womb in the ninth month of gestation “scare rhetoric.”
The right to abortion, partial-birth abortion, funding Planned Parenthood and the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court featured prominently in the early stages of the debate in Las Vegas.
Clinton reiterated that her priorities when naming judges to the bench included the court not reversing Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
Trump pledged to appoint justices who “will be pro-life,” “have a conservative bent,” and “interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted.”
After a discussion on the second amendment, moderator Chris Wallace brought the topic back to abortion.
Noting Trump’s pro-life stance, Wallace asked whether he would like to see the court, including judges whom he would name, overturning Roe v. Wade.
Trump replied that since he would appoint pro-life judges, if he as president would name two or perhaps three justices, “that will happen.” The issue would go back to the states to make a determination, he said.
Responding to the same question, Clinton reaffirmed that she supports Roe v. Wade, “which guarantees a constitutional right to a woman to make the most intimate, most difficult in many cases decisions about her health care that one can imagine.”
Clinton noted that Trump wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which she said “provides all kinds of cancer screenings and other benefits for women in our country.”
“I will defend Planned Parenthood,” she said of the nation’s leading abortion provider. “I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.”
Wallace recalled that Clinton voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions, and asked why.
“Because, Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account,” she said.
“The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make,” she said. “I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”
Trump made clear his strong opposition to the practice.
“Well I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, just prior to the birth of the baby,” he said. “Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me.”
“Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she's going and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day,” he continued. “And that's not acceptable.”
“Well, that is not what happens in these cases,” Clinton retorted. “And using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate. You should meet with some of the women that I’ve met with – women I’ve known over the course of my life. This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make.”
As Wallace began to move on to immigration, Trump got one last line in: “Nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth, nobody has that.”
The 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act defines the procedure as follows: “an abortion in which the person performing the abortion (A) deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (B) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus.”
The U.S. Senate passed the bill 64-34, with Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) – who announced his candidacy for Democratic presidential nomination six weeks earlier – among the “no” votes. Supporters included 17 Democrats, including Sens. Joe Biden (Dela.), Harry Reid (Nev.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.).