The leaders of two influential anti-abortion rights groups are blasting the decision to exclude Carly Fiorina from Saturday’s presidential debate, arguing that GOP voters deserve to see the primary field’s lone female candidate -- and one of the race’s sharpest critics of Planned Parenthood -- on stage in New Hampshire.
In a statement shared with Roll Call, the women -- Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, and Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life – said that they are “dumbfounded” at Fiorina’s exclusion.
“The only polls that matter are the one voters make on primary or caucus day,” the two women said. “Carly won more votes in Iowa than two of her rivals who will be on the debate stage. She has more delegates than Gov. Christie, and is polling ahead of Dr. Carson in New Hampshire.”
Dannenfelser and Yoest are the latest prominent conservatives to call for ABC News to amend its lineup for Saturday’s event, joining a list of Republican dignitaries that includes 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, onetime speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and the most recent winner of the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz.
The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard failed to qualify for the debate – hosted by ABC News in conjunction with the Republican National Committee -- when she fell short of meeting any of a trio of established criteria: finishing in the top three in the Iowa caucuses, polling among the top six candidates in New Hampshire, or polling among the top six candidates nationally. Unlike previous debates, ABC News will not host an undercard debate.
Of the candidates who are still running for president, only Fiorina and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore were not invited to participate Saturday. Cruz and fellow Sen. Marco Rubio, Govs. Chris Christie and John Kasich, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson will appear on stage.
Neither Susan B. Anthony List nor Americans United for Life has endorsed a Republican candidate for president. But both are prominent organizations within the anti-abortion rights movement and have praised Fiorina for her outspoken opposition to abortion-rights and criticism of Planned Parenthood.
“Neither of us has endorsed a specific candidate, but we do support vigorous debates,” said Dannenfelser and Yoest. “That’s why we call on the RNC and ABC News to put Carly on the stage, and let the voters cull the field. Carly Fiorina’s bold pro-life, pro-woman voice deserves to be heard.”
Fiorina has faded in the polls since a handful of widely praised debate performances in the fall and is seen as a deep long shot to win the nomination. She finished seventh in Iowa.
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