Democrats debate immigration, healthcare but not abortion

shutterstock 399808348 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, New York, 2016. | a katz / Shutterstock

During the most recent round of Democratic primary debates on Tuesday, candidates for the presidency expressed support for systematic reform on immigration and healthcare, but were not questioned about abortion or religious liberty. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for the decriminalization of illegal border-crossing, though the proposal was not widely supported by the other candidates. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) reiterated his support for offering free healthcare and college education to immigrants already in the United States illegally, while also proposing increased border security to prevent the policies acting as an incentive for further illicit crossings.

"A sane immigration policy moves the comprehensive immigration reform," said Sanders. "It moves to a humane border policy, and which, by the way, we have enough administrative judges, so that we don't have incredible backlogs that we have right now."

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper offered a more moderate platform on immigration reform, saying that the country needs to "secure the borders, make sure whatever law we have doesn't allow children to be snatched from their parents and put in cages."

Referencing the recent reports of dangerous and unsanitary conditions at many border detention centers, Hickenlooper said the situation strained belief. "How hard can that be?" he asked. 

The lack of abortion questions on abortion was criticized by both pro-abortion and pro-life advocates. Planned Parenthood, tweeting from its PAC account, called it a missed opportunity for the candidates to discuss a "fundamental issue that impacts their lives." 

"Candidates spent more than 30 minutes debating health care, but it's meaningless if we cannot access it, said Planned Parenthood.

The American public "deserves" to hear what the candidates have to say about abortion access, tweeted Planned Parenthood.

"We call on the Democratic National Committee and CNN to ensure that effort to protect abortion access are discussed," they said. 

Previous attempts to address the issue during debates resulted in confused statements by some candidates on the right to abortion of transwomen, biological males who identify as women. All of the candidates participating in the July 30 debate have endorsed healthcare plans that would pay for abortion with taxpayer funding. 

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, used the debate to invoke his Christian faith in support of some labor issues, including the minimum wage and unionization. 

Buttegieg criticized "so-called conservative Christian senators," whom he accused of blocking a bill that would raise the minimum wage. 

"The minimum wage is just too low," said Buttigieg. "Scripture says that whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker."

In April, Buttigieg previously expressed his belief that abortion "is a moral question, it is not going to be settled by science," and that it was not appropriate for abortion policy to be set by a "government official imposing his interpretation of his religion."

The second night of debates will be held on Wednesday evening, featuring the candidates who did not debate on Tuesday.

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