The outset of the third Presidential debate saw the candidates square off on the future of the Supreme Court, including how their judicial appointees would shape the country’s laws on abortion.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton stated unequivocally that she would uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that held women have a right to abortion subject to certain regulations.
The initial reply of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, was somewhat equivocal:
That answer led some pro-life advocates to question Trump’s professed commitment to overturning abortion.
Trump then elaborated to say his appointment of pro-life Justices would lead to Roe v. Wade being over-turned “automatically.” That comment, in turn, produced puzzlement in the legal community, who pointed out that the Supreme Court doesn’t work in this fashion — that decisions are not changed “automatically” with new judges.
But as Trump made it clear he supported overturning Roe v. Wade, the comment appeared to have an effect on those viewing the debate:
Trump then asserted the law permits doctors to “rip the baby out of the womb” days before birth. Pro-life advocates interpreted the comments as a validation of their position.
Others, however, claimed Trump misrepresented the abortion laws, and that he might be might be mistaken about other things as well. “What Donald Trump is talking about is not an abortion, it’s a scheduled C-section,” one person tweeted.