In October, RH Reality Check developed a questionnaire for the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, designed to help our readers distinguish between the various contenders' positions on sexual and reproductive health and rights — beyond the sole issue of abortion. Our questions were designed to get under the surface of the candidates' rhetoric on reproductive rights and clarify how far each one was willing to go to support concrete policy changes to back up his or her stated beliefs. Sen. John Edwards's campaign staff answers Andrea Lynch's questions below.
Why do you consider Sen. Edwards to be the strongest candidate on reproductive health and rights?
I have consistently worked to protect and promote a woman's right to choose and to ensure that all women have access to the resources they need to make and act on their family planning decisions. As a senator, I earned a 100 percent voting record with both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
What sets Sen. Edwards's platform apart from the other contenders on issues of reproductive health and rights?
Supporting reproductive health rights must include supporting the decision of women who decide to bear children – including children born to low-income women. I am proud to have a truly universal health care plan that will require by law that every American is covered. I have set a national goal of ending poverty in America by 2036. I believe in One America where everyone has an equal chance to succeed. To support low-income families, my plan will invest in home visits to help at-risk families during pregnancy and infancy, universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. I will also raise the minimum wage and cut the earned income tax credit marriage penalty to make pay and advance a broad range of other initiatives to eradicate poverty. These proposals, taken as a whole, will support the choices that women make.
How does Sen. Edwards's healthcare plan specifically address sexual and reproductive health, family planning, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs?
I am proud to be the first major presidential candidate to propose a specific plan to guarantee quality, affordable health care for every man, woman and child in America. My plan will establish new "Health Care Markets" that will give families and businesses purchasing power and a choice of quality plans, including one public plan. This will give every woman the opportunity to choose an insurance plan that meets her personal reproductive and sexual health needs.
I will also expand Medicaid to cover HIV-positive individuals in every state before they reach later stages of disability and AIDS, and I will develop a national HIV/AIDS strategy through an honest, comprehensive and fast-tracked process that involves stakeholders from the public and nonprofit sectors.
Does Sen. Edwards support comprehensive sexuality education? Does he believe that the federal government should continue to fund abstinence-only until marriage programs, despite evidence that they are ineffective at preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs?
I do not believe that abstinence-only sexual education programs are effective. I support comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education for young people that includes information on both abstinence and contraception. I believe that sex education programs should be comprehensive and include information about contraception as well as abstinence. They also must be scientifically and medically accurate.
Does Sen. Edwards support adolescents' access to confidential family planning and reproductive health services, without having to seek permission from their parents? Why or why not?
Yes, I support maintaining the integrity of the confidential doctor-patient relationship for all women.
Does Sen. Edwards believe that contraception should be covered by private insurance plans and under insurance plans for federal employees? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe all health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs should cover prescription contraceptives and I support measures that would require such coverage.
Does Sen. Edwards agree with the FDA's decision to make emergency contraception over the counter for people 18 and over? Does he think adolescents should be able to access emergency contraception over the counter as well? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe that we must educate about, increase and protect access to emergency contraception.
Does Sen. Edwards support any restrictions on abortion, or does s/he believe it should be entirely up to women?
No, I do not support restrictions on abortion. The decision about whether to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions that a woman can face. She should make it with her family, her doctor, and in the context of her religious and ethical values; government and politicians should not make the decision for her. I have opposed bans on abortion procedures (such as the so-called "partial birth" legislation) that do not make an adequate exception for a woman's health.
Does Sen. Edwards support the Hyde amendment? Under what circumstances does he believe that Medicaid should cover abortions (all pregnancies, life- or health-threatening pregnancies, pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest, extreme fetal malformation)?
I oppose any effort to restrict abortion as an option for women who depend on the government for their health care needs. I support public funding of abortion services for low-income women. While in the Senate, I voted against restrictions on funding for abortions for federal employees and District of Columbia residents.
Does Sen. Edwards believe adolescents should have the right to choose abortion, or should they be required to seek their parents' consent? Why or why not? Are there any circumstances that might make a compelling case for waiving the parental consent requirement?
Yes. I also oppose the Child Custody Protection Act and other measures that unduly burden a young woman's right to choose and endanger her health.
Does Sen. Edwards support continuing federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers? Why or why not?
No, federal tax dollars should not endorse or support programs that knowingly include medically or scientifically inaccurate information and that mislead and intimidate women.
If elected president, what specific measures would Sen. Edwards support for women who choose to become mothers (prenatal care, maternity leave, childcare, healthcare for children)?
There is much we need to do to help families balance work and home life. To help millions of families with child care expenses, I will expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to pay up to 50 percent of child care expenses up to $5,000 and make it partially refundable to benefit low-income working families. To help stay-at-home parents, I will allow them to claim the credit to help pay for child care for newborn infants. I will also create a National Family Trust to offer 8 weeks of paid family and medical leave to all American workers. Finally, my plan for truly universal health care will guarantee quality, affordable health care for every woman, man and child in America.
Does Sen. Edwards believe that gay and lesbian couples should be able to adopt children?
Yes, I believe that gay and lesbian parents should be able to adopt children just like any other parents. There are over 120,000 children waiting for homes in our nation's foster care system. Adoption placements should be decided by judges and adoption agencies based upon the best interests of the children. Both members of a same-sex couple raising children together should be able to form a legal relationship with their children.
If elected president, would Sen. Edwards overturn the Global Gag Rule or reinstate funding for UNFPA?
Yes. I oppose the "global gag rule" that prohibits overseas organizations receiving family planning aid from using their own funds to provide information about the option of abortion.
Read the statement from Sen. Chris Dodd's campaign.
What about the Democratic contenders who didn't respond to our questionnaire? We did their homework for them, mining through their previous public statements to find their positions, right here.
And the Republicans? Concrete information on the Republican candidates' positions and commitments on reproductive health and rights is harder to come by, since their websites generally only include information about the issue of abortion. But here's what we were able to come up with.