In the last of the 2000 presidential debates, feminist leaders are urging the Commission on Presidential Debates to give women’s issues a greater voice. In the first debate, abortion and mifepristone (RU 486) received just a few minutes of attention before being redirected to other topics. In the second debate, the world “woman” was uttered three timesonce by Bush in opposition of gay civil unions; once in relation to a woman’s contribution to gun violence and once in reference to Texas being ranked 49th in health care for women. The third debate is the last opportunity for topics such as violence against women, pay equity and the Family Medical Leave Act to receive any focus. “The lack of focus on women’s issues is appalling,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
The gender gap will play a significant role in the election of the next president, and with women voters still fluctuating in their opinion more than male voters, discussing women’s issues is of critical importance. Also, civil rights advocates are concerned with the paucity of minority issues being discussed in the debates. According to the Los Angles Times, analysts at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an organization focusing on black issues, worry that black voters are apathetic and voter turnout will be low. The NAACP is financing a get-out-the-vote drive in several states and has also urged for more focus on minority groups in the final debate. The organization has proposed questions for the “town hall” format that include judicial nominations, police brutality, gun violence and economic justice.