During Thursday's forum, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham was asked about the "war on women," to which he responded, "I'll show you a war on women." He was referring to the plight of women living under ISIS rule. It's a familiar tactic for Graham, who is known for bringing questions back to military support. But by focusing on the Middle East, Graham — maybe inadvertantly — downplayed the struggles American women face.
The question about a Republican war on women — which went to Graham and not Carly Fiorina, the only female on the stage — launched a large discussion among the candidates about whether to defund Planned Parenthood. "I don’t think its a war on women to stop harvesting organs from unborn babies," Graham said. Although his campaign rhetoric often focuses on the military, he's also championed for pro-life efforts. In June, Graham introduced "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" which would restrict abortions after 20 weeks, because, as he argues, that's the point at which fetuses can feel pain.
Though none of the candidates had a progressive statement regarding the "war on women," Graham's may have been the most uncomfortable of the night.
His response was troubling on two counts: It assumed that the only issue facing women is abortion access, and it belittled the concerns of Americans by comparing their plight to that of women in far more restrictive countries. Additionally, he used the question as a springboard to rally support for his desire to send further troops to the Middle East. "You want to see a war on women? Go to Iraq and Afghanistan," Graham said. "I've been there 35 times." He then vowed to send support troops and further forces into those countries if elected president. Graham's comment did not go unnoticed.