Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders answer questions about abortion

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks with moderator Bret Baier during a Democratic Presidential Town Hall event in Detroit, Michigan, March 7, 2016.

REUTERS

After seven Democratic debates without a question about abortion rights, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Monday evening finally addressed the subject during a Fox News televised town hall.

While both candidates -- like most Democrats -- are both well known as in favor of abortion rights, they gave slightly different answers on the question of late-term abortions.

Asked generally whether abortion should ever be illegal, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, "I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to be doing with her own body."

He chided Republicans who broadly oppose government interference in people's personal lives, "but somehow on this issue they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body."

Asked more specifically if he would support restrictions on abortions for pregnancies farther along than five months, Sanders simply responded, "I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a choice to be made between a woman, her physician and her family."

Clinton, by contrast, noted that she has gone on the record as in favor of some "late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother."

However, Clinton stressed that she objects to the recent efforts in Congress to pass a federal law banning abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions. "Under Roe v. Wade, it is appropriate to say in these circumstances" that abortion rights may be restricted, she said -- "so long as there's an exception for the life and health of the mother."

Clinton also stressed her more general support for abortion rights, and for Planned Parenthood.

"Under Roe v. Wade, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family," she said. "We've got to continue to stand up for a woman's right to make these decisions and to defend Planned Parenthood."

Abortion rights supporters and advocates have called on debate moderators to ask the Democrats about the issue, using the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have already used multiple debates to express their opposition to abortion rights. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida last month explained why he supports bans on abortion rights, even in cases of rape or incest.

"I do support protection for the life of the mother because I'm pro-life," he said. "I just believe deeply that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. If I'm president and there's a bill that's passed that saves lives but it has exceptions, I'll sign it. But I do believe deeply that all human life is worthy of the protection of laws. I've already said, for me, the issue of life is not a political issue and I want to be frank. I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life."

In a highly unusual move for Republican, GOP front runner Donald Trump has expressed his opposition to abortion while nevertheless defending Planned Parenthood. "As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I'm pro-life," Trump said in the tenth GOP debate. "I'm totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women -- cervical cancer, breast cancer -- are helped by Planned Parenthood."