Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights


Democratic hopefuls vying to take on President Trump 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 Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said.

{mosads}Six candidates so far have backed the idea in some capacity: Gillibrand, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

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 McConnell 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. 

{mossecondads}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 Buttigieg 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 Harris (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 Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (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 Swalwell (Calif.) and Seth Moulton (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:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.)
  • South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • Former Rep. John Delaney (Md.)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
  • Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Andrew Yang
Tags Amy Klobuchar Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Bill de Blasio Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Eric Swalwell Jay Inslee Joe Biden John Delaney John Hickenlooper Kamala Harris Kirsten Gillibrand Marianne Williamson Michael Bennet Mitch McConnell Pete Buttigieg Pew Research Seth Moulton Steve Bullock Tim Ryan Tulsi Gabbard Wayne Messam

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