It’s been a year since the first primary debate in August of 2015, and this Thursday will mark a year since Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards testified in the House’s Oversight and Government Reform hearing on taxpayer funding.

In all that time, little has changed in how and how often women’s issues have been addressed in this election. The Women’s Debate was founded after recognizing that the dominant conversation about women during the primaries centered on abortion rights and Planned Parenthood. To be clear, they remain even now vital issues, but The Women’s Debate seeks to broaden the understanding of “women’s issues” to include the socioeconomic, health, and safety issues that acutely and disproportionately affect women and girls every day.

How do we know women’s issues like policies about fair wages, poverty, how the justice system addresses sexual assault and rape, access to quality health care, and more weren’t being discussed in the election? We analyzed the primary debate transcripts, and counted only 6 questions—out of more than 700—that did not mention abortion rights or the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

skeptics_thepointSkeptics will ask about how many questions were just on men or other demographic groups. And those skeptics are missing the point.

Because while only 6 questions were about women’s issues, 12 questions were asked that mentioned abortion or Planned Parenthood. This count doesn’t include the times the candidates brought it up themselves in other answers.

You’ll see from the list below that these questions are from the Republican debates. As Hillary Clinton pointed out during the last Democratic primary debate, the Democratic candidates were not once asked about this issue. That is in no way a partisan judgment by The Women’s Debate–it’s for voters to decide. Our observation is that the debate questions were uneven between the parties, and uneven between the issues.

We’re proud to see that both candidates have released policy proposals for paid leave, but we need to know more. Here is our list of questions for candidates on some core women’s issues.

The Questions

The First Republican Primary Debate – August 6, 2015

The Question

MEGYN KELLY: Governor Walker, you’ve consistently said that you want to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. You recently signed an abortion law in Wisconsin that does have an exception for the mother’s life, but you’re on the record as having objected to it. Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion, and with 83% of the American public in favor of a life exception, are you too out of the mainstream on this issue to win the general election?

The Answer

The Question

CHRIS WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, like Governor Walker, you have staked out strong positions on social issues. You favor a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. You favor a constitutional amendment banning abortions, except for the life of the mother. Millions of people in this country agree with you, but according to the polls, and again this an electability question, according to the polls, more people don’t, so how do you persuade enough Independents and Democrats to get elected in 2016?

The Answer

The Question

MEGYN KELLY: Governor Bush, let’s start with you. Many Republicans have been outraged recently by a series of videos on Planned Parenthood. You now say that you support ending federal funding for this organization. However, until late 2014, right before you started your campaign, you sat on the board of a Bloomberg charity that quite publicly gave tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood while you were a director. How could you not know about these well publicized donations, and if you did know, how could you help a charity so openly committed to abortion rights?

The Answer

The Question

MEGYN KELLY: Senator Rubio, you favor a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York just said yesterday those exceptions are preposterous. He said they discriminate against an entire class of human beings. If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?

The Answer

The Question

MEGYN KELLY: Mr. Trump, in 1999, you said you were, quote, “very pro-choice.” Even supporting partial-birth abortion. You favored an assault weapons ban as well. In 2004, you said in most cases you identified as a Democrat. Even in this campaign, your critics say you often sound more like a Democrat than a Republican, calling several of your opponents on the stage things like clowns and puppets. When did you actually become a Republican?

The Answer

Questions about abortion or Planned Parenthood: 5

Questions about other women’s issues: 1 (not all that substantive, but we counted it)

The Second Republican Primary Debate – September 16, 2015

The Question

DANA BASH: Governor Kasich, Senator Cruz is so committed to stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood that it could result in shutting down the federal government in just about two weeks. Do you agree with Senator Cruz’s tactic?

The Answer

The Question

JAKE TAPPER: Governor Bush, you recently said while discussing Planned Parenthood, quote, you’re “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” Now you’ve since said that you misspoke, you didn’t mean to say “women’s health issues.” But Donald Trump said that quote, that comment, which Hillary Clinton did seize upon immediately, will haunt you the same way Mitt Romney’s 47 percent video haunted him. Tell Donald Trump why he’s wrong.

The Answer

Questions about abortion or Planned Parenthood: 2

Questions about other women’s issues: 0

The Seventh Republican Primary Debate – January 28, 2016

The Question

CHRIS WALLACE: Senator Paul, in May on the campaign trail you, said you didn’t get into politics to fight about abortion. You said you were more concerned about the national debt. Your answer is to turn abortion back to the states the way it was before Roe v. Wade. Does that mean that if a liberal state, let’s say, wants to make abortion legal, that you’re okay with that and what do you say to conservative voters who believe deeply that abortion is murder?

The Answer

Questions about abortion or Planned Parenthood: 1

Questions about other women’s issues: 0

The Eighth Republican Primary Debate – February 6, 2016

The Question

MARY KATHERINE HAM: Senator Rubio. One of the lazier pieces of political conventional wisdom is that so-called social issues are hurting Republicans with young people. But on the two most prominent social issues, polling with millennials actually moves in different directions. On one hand, it is clear, young people across the political spectrum increasingly favor same sex marriage. However young voters have not moved to the left on abortion. In fact, large numbers of them favor at least some modest restrictions that conservatives have supported. How do you speak to millennials on both these issues, while Democrats will inevitable charge intolerance and extremism?

The Answer

The Question

MARY KATHERINE HAM: Governor Bush? I want to come to you. Your allies have recently attacked Senator Rubio for being too pro-life to be elected in November. You made a similar charge stating it in an interview. This is a pro-life party. Do you stand behind that criticism?

The Answer

The Question

MARY KATHERINE HAM: Governor Christie. You too, have talked about Senator Rubio’s position on the life issue. Some conservative activists have called this line of attack harmful to the pro-life cause.

The Answer

Questions about abortion or Planned Parenthood: 3

Questions about other women’s issues1

The Ninth Republican Primary Debate – February 6, 2016

The Question

JOHN DICKERSON: Presidents have to, on the one hand, be firm, but also be flexible. You have been flexible and changed your opinion on a number of things, from abortion to Hillary Clinton. But you have said, rightly, that it’s just like Ronald Reagan, who changed his mind on things.
But at the same time, you’re criticizing Senator Cruz for what you say is a change on immigration. He disputes that, of course.

The Answer

Questions about abortion or Planned Parenthood: 1

Questions about other women’s issues: 0

Have we missed one? Let us know in the comments.

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