Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights

Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights
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Democratic hopefuls vying to take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE are leading a push to enshrine abortion rights in federal law in response to a series of states passing legislation to ban the procedure. 

Several Democratic candidates for president have pounced on the idea of codifying the Roe v. Wade decision with legislation as a way of highlighting their support for abortion rights, and in direct response to an Alabama state measure that would outlaw almost all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.

“Federal law should supersede harmful state laws that take away women’s reproductive freedom,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' Three 2020 candidates have missed about half of Senate votes MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

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Six candidates so far have backed the idea in some capacity: Gillibrand, Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill O'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Progressives fume at Buttigieg, warn him not to attack Warren at debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Feehery: Trump may be down, but he's not out yet MORE (D-Mass.), as well as former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Booker hits Buttigieg over gun buyback comment: NRA doesn't 'need our help' White House condemns violent video MORE, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperGardner dodges questions about Trump's call for Biden probe 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' MORE

Another 18 have yet to take positions on the issue, which could become a litmus test in the Democratic race.

The campaign promises come shortly after Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law the nation's most restrictive abortion ban. Legal challenges are expected, while Ivey acknowledges that the ban "may" be unenforceable. Missouri’s state legislature, meanwhile, is expected to approve a similar measure soon.  

A number of 2020 hopefuls lambasted the measure, calling it "dangerous" and declaring it a "war on women" that they vowed to see overturned.

“As president, I will codify Roe v. Wade. I will make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that women in this country have a guaranteed right to an abortion,” Gillibrand said Thursday at a rally centered on abortion rights at Georgia’s state house.

“We need to pass it through the House and Senate, and I look forward to signing that law when I become president,” Booker told BuzzFeed News.

“Right now I am calling for it, even though obviously with Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFury over Trump Syria decision grows Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds MORE and a [majority Republican] Senate, we would not see a vote.”

Several states, including Georgia, have passed similarly restrictive laws in recent months that aim to restrict abortion access. The so-called heartbeat abortion bans outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant.

The laws, most facing legal challenges, are an attempt by abortion opponents to get the Supreme Court to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade by revisiting a key component of the ruling that said states can’t place certain restrictions on abortion. 

Congress won't pass a bill to codify the legality of abortion if Republicans keep control of the Senate in 2020, but presidential candidates are putting the stake in the ground now ahead of a Democratic primary where women are expected to once again make up the majority of voters. 

Warren announced her sweeping platform on abortion policy Friday, which called for Congress to pass a law that parallels Roe v. Wade. 

“Because these federal protections would be valid on a variety of constitutional grounds — including equal protection and the commerce clause — they would ensure that choice would remain the law of the land even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe,” Warren said. 

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Warren's plan would pass federal legislation to prevent states that "functionally limit" access to abortion and would guarantee reproductive health coverage be included in all health coverage.

A spokesperson for O'Rourke's campaign told The Hill that the former Texas congressman "supports fully protecting Roe v. Wade, codifying it into federal law, repealing the Hyde Amendment, expanding access to reproductive health care, and fighting to defend a woman’s right to access an abortion in every part of this country." 

Gravel has proposed passing a constitutional amendment guaranteeing Americans personal autonomy "including the rights to contraception, to safe and legal abortion, and to gender transition."

Hickenlooper, a longshot candidate and the former governor of Colorado, has said the next president "must act to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law."

Still, other Democrats running for president have been noncommittal or silent on the issue.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Chasten Buttigieg fundraising for husband Pete overseas Progressives fume at Buttigieg, warn him not to attack Warren at debate MORE said this week that the idea should be “taken seriously” while condemning the Alabama law, but did not directly say whether he supported it.

“I think the full range of responses needs to be contemplated because we can't just keep having this play out one Supreme Court point at a time," he said. 

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Warren leads Democratic field by 3 points in new national poll Analysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.) says on her campaign website that she is fighting to ensure “reproductive rights are not just protected by the Constitution of the United States but guaranteed in every state," but has not laid out details on a policy proposal.

Presidential front-runners including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill On The Money: Trump touts China trade deal | Wall Street, Washington see signs for caution | Trump threatens sanctions on Turkey | Sanders proposes sharp hike to corporate taxes MORE (I-Vt.) have not commented on the proposal, but have spoken out against the Alabama ban. 

The campaigns for Harris, Biden and Sanders have not replied to a request for comment.

Gillibrand became the first 2020 candidate to commit to appoint judges who would preserve Roe v. Wade, later followed by Sanders and Reps. Eric SwalwellEric Michael Swalwell2020 Presidential Candidates NBA draws bipartisan backlash over China response Former Ukraine envoy Volker to resign as head of McCain Institute MORE (Calif.) and Seth MoultonSeth Moulton2020 Presidential Candidates Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (Mass.). 

The issue could rally Democrats who support abortion rights, particularly among female voters who helped drive the party to victory in reclaiming the lower chamber during last year's midterm elections. Seventy-eight percent of Democratic women, and 73 percent of Democratic men, say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in September 2018.

NARAL Pro Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said it's important not only for candidates to speak out against abortion bans, but to lay out their ideas for how to protect access. 

"We want to hear how they will protect an abortion access and start to take us out of the hole that we're in,” she said. 

“This needs more than feel good words. It needs a well thought out policy plan.”

2020 Democratic candidates who back the idea:

  • Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
  • Former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska)
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)

Dem candidates who have not said whether they back the idea: