There were many things that stood out to me as missed opportunities for the top 10 GOP candidates to set themselves apart and really connect during the first Presidential debate. From the omission of a question paying homage to the fact that this event took place on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, to the way in which questions about same-sex-marriage and race relations were evaded, I was disappointed to say the least. As an old pageant pro, I watch debates looking for candidates to display leadership qualities, to be honest, yet diplomatic, and to take questions a little deeper to give the public some insight into their thought processes. I look for candidates who are willing to stray from their approved talking points to give us a little more about them. I look for those who know when to speak and when to be quiet, those who are respectful and can do the most to impress us with their allotted time. That being said, I learned a lot about each of the GOP candidates running for office, but there was one thing about them I could not ignore: One of the major missed opportunities in this debate was the discussion of women’s reproductive rights.
Beyond the fact that it seemed very odd that 10 men were giving their opinions on a woman’s right to make certain decisions about her body, each candidate spoke the same mantra … ”I’m pro-life.” For the most part, I would say that America knew that already. Instead of recalling the obvious, candidates should have taken the tee-up to talk about the real issue. Abortion, the act, is not the real issue we are facing as a country, it’s a symptom. A symptom of the fact that in America, sex, sexuality and contraception are demonized and are not to be discussed. Further, if your parents do not teach you about sex and birth control, you are not guaranteed to get that information in American public schools. Just like we cannot ostracize a person for being financially illiterate and in turn making decisions that jeopardize their financial future, we cannot ostracize a woman who has not been taught how to be sexually responsible when decisions are made that result in an unintended pregnancy.
Instead of taking issue with the action, an action that we can all agree is never a situation any man or woman wants to find themselves in, let’s take issue with the cause. Let’s ask a basic question: Why does a woman/man/family ever find themselves in a situation where they are faced with this choice in the first place? According to the Guttmacher Institute, currently, 51 percent of pregnancies occurring in the United States are unintended. Let’s be clear … unintended means that at the time of conception, the mother reports the pregnancy as mistimed, unplanned or unwanted. In 2015, why are 51 percent of all pregnancies in the United States unintended in the first place? Taking the lens even closer, the Courier-Journal reported this Sunday that in Kentucky, we are ranked No. 7 in the United States for teen pregnancies.
This, right here, is the real issue. The “why” here is what should be attacked; it’s what we need to legislate; it’s what we should all be able to agree upon that needs to be the real topic of conversation. The “why” is the conversation that should be had before we ever get to the pro-life/pro-choice dramatics. I suggest that we stop playing politics, trying to stroke the heart strings of whatever party base one is affiliated with and work on real solutions to real problems. This is one of the many issues in which we talk until we are blue in the face to defend our stance, and nothing happens … no real issue is identified and no solutions are created. We continue with aimless debate.
As a women’s health provider, I’m here to tell you that talking about abortion without discussing preventative education and access to contraception is like talking about the University of Louisville football history without including the Kragthorpe era … it’s not fun, everyone would love to overlook it, but it’s an important part of the dialogue.
We must pivot the conversation from divisive rhetoric to practical solutions that give everyone the same opportunity. Let’s educate our children in school, let’s give everyone access to contraception that works best for their body chemistry … let’s eradicate the need for these crisis situations. Let’s be proactive as a society … 50 percent of pregnancies should not be unplanned in the greatest nation on Earth. This is unacceptable, but will not change until we stop bantering and start strategizing, together, toward things that matter. #Focus