In the 2016 presidential election cycle, there’s been one constant: This election has been unlike any other.
So, when someone says a candidate has done something “unprecedented,” it’s easy to say, “What’s new?” But, in the opening moments of Wednesday night’s third and final debate, Donald Trump did something that hasn’t ever happened in the history of American presidential politics.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, no major-party presidential candidate has given a more thorough defense of life than Trump made. And when Hillary Clinton responded, the difference between the two candidates couldn’t have been more stark.
Moderator Chris Wallace opened the debate with a discussion about the Supreme Court. During the follow-up, he asked Donald Trump if he would support a high court decision that repeals Roe.
Here’s how the debate ensued:
Trump: Well, if that would happen, because I am pro-life and I will be appointing pro-life judges, I would think that that would go back to the individual states.
Wallace: But I’m asking you specifically —
Trump: If they overturned it, it will go back to the states.
Wallace: What I’m asking you, sir, is do you want to see the court overturn? You just said you want to see the court protect the second amendment. Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
Trump: If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that will happen. And that will happen automatically in my opinion because I’m putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this, it will go back to the states a tornado states will then make a determination.
Wallace: Secretary Clinton?
Clinton: I strongly support 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. And in this case, it’s not only about Roe v. Wade. It is about what’s happening right now in America so many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice to the extent that they are defunding Planned Parenthood, which, of course, provides all kinds of cancer screenings and other benefits for women in our country.
Donald has said he’s in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. He even supported shutting the government down to defund planned parenthood. I will defend Planned Parenthood. I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.
Wallace: Secretary —
Clinton: And we’ve come too far to have that turn back now. Indeed he said women should be punished, that there should be some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions. And I could just not be more opposed to that kind of thinking.
Wallace: I’m going to give you a chance to respond, but I want to ask you, Secretary Clinton, how far you believe the right to abortion goes. You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights. You also voted against a ban on late-term partial-birth abortions. Why?
Clinton: 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. And when I voted as a senator, I did not think that that was the case. The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions. So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.
Wallace: Mr. Trump, your reaction and particularly on this issue of late-term partial birth abortion.
Trump: 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.
Now, you can say that that’s OK, and Hillary can say that that’s OK, but it’s not OK 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, only the final day. And that’s not acceptable.
Clinton: Well, that is not what happens in these cases. 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. I do not believe the government should be IN it. I’ve been to countries where governments forced women to have abortions like they did in China or force women to bear children like they used to do in Romania. I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice, and I will stand up for that right.
Wallace: All right. Just briefly, I want to move on.
Trump: And honestly, 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.
Trump’s comments about the Supreme Court, in general, were just as exciting for conservatives and evangelical Christians. The GOP nominee made a passionate defense for a strict constructionist view of the nation’s framing document:
The Supreme Court, it’s what it’s all about. Our country is so, so, just so imperative that we have the right justices. Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people, many, many millions of people that I represent, and she was forced to apologize and apologize she did. But these were statements that should never ever have been made.
We need a supreme court that, in my opinion, is going to uphold the second amendment and all amendments, but the second amendment, which is under absolute siege. I believe if my opponent should win this race, which I truly don’t think will happen, we will have a second amendment which will be a very, very small replica of what it is right now. But I feel that it’s absolutely important that we recall because of the fact that it is under such trauma. I feel that the justices that I am going to appoint—and I’ve named 20 of them—the justices that I’m going to appoint will be pro-life, they will have a conservative bent, they will be protecting the second amendment, they are great scholars in all cases and they’re people of tremendous respect. They will interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted.
And I believe that’s very, very important. I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear.
It’s all about the constitution of—and so important, the constitution the way it was meant to be and those are the people that I will appoint.
Liberal mainstream media pundits are attempting to declare the debate a “push,” or a slight win for Clinton. But, social media says Donald Trump dominated the night once again.
Either way, we’ll find out for sure in less than 21 days.