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Candidates' Forum: Questions on social issues for NY-26 hopefuls

As part of our ongoing series to find out as much as we can about what the candidates for the NY-26 special election believe about issues, we present this week's questions and answers on hot button social issues.

Below are the questions as sent to the candidates and, after the jump, the answers from each candidate in the order received.

What is your position on abortion, addressing your position on when if it should be legal at all, or only in early and/or later stages of pregnancy and the circumstances of a pregnancy (age of the mother, whether rape or incest), also as it relates to federal funding either directly or indirectly of abortion and/or agencies that may be involved in providing abortions.

What is your position on marriage? Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom? Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples?

Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?

Ian Murphy:

What is your position on abortion, addressing your position on when if it should be legal at all, or only in early and/or later stages of pregnancy and the circumstances of a pregnancy (age of the mother, whether rape or incest), also as it relates to federal funding either directly or indirectly of abortion and/or agencies that may be involved in providing abortions.

My position is that the American people need to choose between outlawing abortion and taking proven steps toward lowering the abortion rate. Contrary to prevailing thought, they are not the same thing. According to a global study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmaker Institute, the legal status of abortion has no effect on a country's abortion rate. The same study found that where abortion is illegal it is an extremely dangerous procedure, which results in the worldwide death of roughly 67,000 women each year.

The only things that reduce a nation's abortion rate are an increase in its overall living standard and a strong commitment to reproductive/contraceptive education. For instance, Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world, abortion is illegal, and its sex education focuses on abstinence alone. At 54 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, that country subsequently has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. The Netherlands, by contrast, has a much higher living standard, abortion is legal, and the rate is a scant 6 per 1,000 women. The United States' living standard is generally on par with the Netherlands, and yet the abortion rate is 21 per 1,000—double that of Western Europe.

Why? Well, according to the National Institute of Health, the low Dutch rate can be attributed to their firm commitment to family planning services, and sexual/contraceptive education. Like so many other issues in this country, we've been given a false choice. Abortion's been framed as “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life,” legal vs. illegal, moral vs. immoral, Republican vs. Democrat.

It's a very emotionally charged debate based on false assumptions. Regardless of your moral convictions on abortion, I think everyone can agree that as a society we want fewer of them. No one likes abortion. But the thing is, that will only happen with smart policies. It will not happen out of moral outrage. It will not happen out of anger and other extreme emotions. It will not happen by threatening women with prison. So, yes, abortion should remain safe and legal until about 15-20 weeks of gestation, which is roughly when a fetus is thought to be viable—that is to say, able to live outside of the womb. I base that number on the policies of Western Europe and an average of numbers put out by the Journal of the American Medical Association. I believe, however, that a procedure can and should be performed after 20 weeks if the mother's life is in danger or there are other legitimate, extenuating circumstances—such as a terrible genetic defect, which may or may not be the result of incest.

Though it is a tragedy in itself, whether a woman is raped has no bearing on my position. Now that we know we're engaging in an overly emotional and critically flawed debate, we should step back and reevaluate the impacts of federal funds used for family planning and abortion. The Republican-controlled Congress recently voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood—making a bevy of misleading and factually inaccurate claims in the process. But it's quite clear that cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood will actually raise the abortion rate in America. So, again, as difficult as it may be, the American people need to make a choice between overheated, manipulative rhetoric and a sensible policy that will result in fewer abortions. You can't have both.

What is your position on marriage? Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom? Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples?

People should be allowed to marry whomever they want, and receive equal benefit from the government.

There are some common sense areas where the federal government should intervene in matters of marriage: adults should not be allowed to marry children; children should not be allowed to marry children; sufferers of Stockholm syndrome should not be allowed to marry their captors; and no one should be allowed to marry Donald Trump. 

Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?

Yes. I agree with our top military brass in this matter.

I'd like to add an important point: In politics, “wedge” issues like gay rights and abortion are often used to manipulate social conservatives into voting against their own economic self-interest—and, in the case of abortion, against their own social goals.

Abortion, particularly, is an issue I know the people of NY-26 care about passionately. A candidate's views on abortion tell many people all they need to know before they vote. I've talked to a few people who really like my positions, generally, but they won't vote for me because I am not “pro-life.” Well, I'm the only candidate in this race to offer a stark break from the failed, bipartisan economic policies which have made everyone broke in this country. I'm the only candidate in favor of universal health care, universal family planning and universal reproductive/contraception education. In other words, I am the only pro-life candidate in this race.

Kathy Hochul:

Q: What is your position on abortion, addressing your position on when if it should be legal at all, or only in early and/or late stages of pregnancy and the circumstances of a pregnancy (age of the mother, whether rape or incest), also as it relates to federal funding either directly or indirectly of abortion and/or agencies that may be involved in providing abortions.

A: This is obviously a difficult decision between a woman and her doctor, and I don’t think anyone should take this decision lightly. I do, however, believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, and think the federal government should not be involved in making medical decisions. I support the continuation of Roe v. Wade, which has been the established policy on this issue since 1973.

I support federal funding for the health services and guidance provided by Planned Parenthood, including breast, ovarian and cervical cancer screenings, infertility testing, pelvic exams, family planning and other vital services.

Q: What is your position on marriage?  Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom?  Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples?

Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?


A: I don’t think the federal government should involve itself on issues of who can marry whom, that needs to be determined by the states. I believe everyone should be afforded equal rights under federal law. I do support the civil institution of marriage for gay couples, with absolutely no requirements placed on religious institutions.

Gay men and women, who want to fight to defend our freedom, should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Jack Davis:

What is your position on abortion, addressing your position on when if it should be legal at all, or only in early and/or later stages of pregnancy and the circumstances of a pregnancy (age of the mother, whether rape or incest), also as it relates to federal funding either directly or indirectly of abortion and/or agencies that may be involved in providing abortions.

I oppose federal funding for abortion, directly or indirectly. I oppose terminations of later stage pregnancies, including those known as “partial birth.”

What is your position on marriage? Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom?

Marriage is a state issue. Each state should decide its own rules for marriage.

Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples?

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law. I oppose giving special privileges to any group.

Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?

I am a former Marine and officer in the Coast Guard and the only candidate to have served in the military. The fact is, anyone who has been in uniform can tell you gay men and women have served honorably in the military, probably since the founding of our country. Having said that, any soldier, sailor, Marine or airman whose conduct, of whatever kind, is detrimental to good order and discipline and corrosive to morale should be discharged.

Jane Corwin:

What is your position on abortion, addressing your position on when if it should be legal at all, or only in early and/or later stages of pregnancy and the circumstances of a pregnancy (age of the mother, whether rape or incest), also as it relates to federal funding either directly or indirectly of abortion and/or agencies that may be involved in providing abortions.

I oppose partial birth abortion, do not support taxpayer funding of abortion, would vote to defund Planned Parenthood and am supportive of parental notification.

What is your position on marriage? Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom? Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples?

I believe that marriage should be defined as the union between one man and one woman. Unlike any of my opponents, I spoke out when President Obama announced his plans to refuse to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The President of the United States swore an oath to uphold the laws of our great country and as a member of the Executive Branch he needs to enforce those laws, including the Defense of Marriage Act. It is the Supreme Court’s job to consider the constitutionality of the law and the President should not usurp the authority of the Supreme Court.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law nearly 15 years ago by President Clinton – he himself a democrat like President Obama – who understood that marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman.

Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?

It’s important to look at the military’s implementation plan for allowing gay men and women to openly serve in the military, especially since we are a nation at war. Last year, Democrats made a political decision to decline to wait for the military’s report on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’s important for leaders in the military – those who would actually be the ones implementing a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – to testify before Congress about how they would implement a repeal of the law to ensure that military readiness during a time of war is not affected.

Jeff Allen
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Thank you Howard for sending the questions and thank you candidates for all answering. http://writeinbellavia.com/
Daniel Jones
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Jeff - Do you know if Bellavia filed an opportunity to ballot form? I ask because without one write-in votes will not count towards the total under state law.
Ian Murphy
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Jeff, Any time.
Daniel Jones
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Ian - I know I've battered you pretty hard over the last few weeks about what you have written about the troops, which I do not regret....but I have to say that I give you credit for putting your positions out there. It takes guts for telling people how you feel even if that position is unpopular, like your position on abortion. Although I sometimes wish you would tone it down, you do engage regular voters on forums like this and that's admirable. You will never have my vote, but you do have my respect. Best of luck to you.
Ian Murphy
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Daniel, Thanks. I appreciate it, but the truth can't be toned down. It is what it is, my man.
Daniel Crofts
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Ian, Thanks for taking the time to answer these important questions. I read the NY Times article citing the study you mentioned, and I was just wondering how you would respond to the statement cited therein that the statistics are influenced by the agenda of the people in charge of collecting the data?
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