Friday, October 3, 2008

Outrageous! VP Debate Ignored Women's Issues

I was outraged last night that moderator Gwen Ifill didn't ask a single question about women's issues, and particularly women's reproductive rights. Not one question of a woman making a historic run for vice-president who supposedly appeals to disappointed Hilary supporters. 

Here was folksy Sarah Palin with a 17-year old pregnant daughter, all set up for a shot-gun wedding with a reluctant boyfriend, and Ifill didn't ask her one question about her stance on abortion, contraception, teenage pregnancy or teen marriage. I'm not suggesting that she should have asked her how she would handle her responsibilities as a mother if she becomes vice president. If she does get elected, she'll muddle through as a working Mom like the rest of us have or still do.

But didn't the American public deserve to hear her defend her extreme view that abortion should not be permitted even in cases of rape and incest? What about the fact that in Alaska, rape victims have to pay for the rape kits used to get evidence to prosecute rapists? (See Planned Parenthood's upcoming ad on this be clicking here. Disclosure: the page also asks for a donation.) Shouldn't Palin been asked about the crushing effect on young women of teen motherhood? Or the terrible odds of success of teen marriages?

I can only speculate that Ifill was afraid of appearing partisan, perhaps because she was criticized before the debate because of her book-in-progress. The coming book is about politics in the age of Obama,  and critics had suggested it was complementary of him, thus making her partisan. By not touching on women's issues, Ifill avoided questioning Palin about views on these subjects that do not sit well with most Americans. So was she over-compensating in order to escape criticism?

(Once the criticism surfaced about her book, Ifill should have walked away from moderating the debate. There are so many other excellent journalists who could have been selected whose neutrality would not have been questioned. Another journalist might have had the guts to challenge Palin's views about women's control of their own reproduction. It was an ethical challenge, and Ifill chose to ignore it at the country's expense.)

So Palin got away without having to talk about views that are so out of step with the vast majority of American women. Shame on Gwen Ifill for giving her a pass.

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