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Late Night: Jon Stewart talks to Planned Parenthood president

March 8, 2012 |  9:31 am

One of the more surprising turns of the 2012 presidential election has been the renewed focus on social issues, especially reproductive rights. On Wednesday night, Jon Stewart welcomed Cecile Richards, who, as president of Planned Parenthood, understands what it's like to be at the center of the reignited culture wars.

"There's tremendous discussion going on in the country right now on women's health issues, contraception, mainly amongst, I guess you'd call them 'penised Americans,' " Stewart began. "So we thought, 'Why not bring in someone without a penis?' " 

"That's big of you," Richards quipped, expressing her astonishment over the fact that "birth control itself is a topic of debate in this presidential election." She claimed that the Republican primary has devolved into a "race to the bottom where every presidential candidate... is trying to say, 'I would be absolutely the worst for women,' including being opposed to birth control coverage."

Stewart noted what he sees as a conservative rhetorical shift when it comes to the subject of contraception. "It’s been changed to be an issue about women wanting for someone to pay for them to have sex," he argued. "It strikes me as a very interesting direction to take the conversation."

"I don’t know if I can respond to that," Richards said, sounding exasperated.

She claimed that the vast majority of women in America think of birth control as a healthcare issue, not a religious matter. "They are astounded that we are now redebating issues that I think have been settled for a long time," she said. 

Richards also staunchly defended her organization, which, as Stewart vivdly put it, has been caricaturized as "an abortion factory." 

"The reality is we’re the largest family planning provider in America, and we do more to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion than any organization in this country," Richards replied, prompting a hearty round of applause from "The Daily Show" audience. 



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-- Meredith Blake