Women’s Reproductive Health Isn’t up for Debate—but We Still Need Candidates to Discuss It

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If you blinked during Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, you might have missed discussion on the topic of reproductive health entirely. (Wednesday's debate likewise glossed over another major health issue: climate change.) Considering that nine states have now passed bills that seriously limit women's access to abortion, and another four are considering similar actions, and 19 states have laws that could be used restrict legal abortions, the issue's lack of airtime seemed like an egregious oversight.

On stage at the debate, only New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were given a chance to speak (for just less than a minute apiece) about their stances on abortion rights. But other frontrunners in the 2020 presidential race have their own game plans to protect women's reproductive rights. Here's where six Democratic presidential hopefuls stand.

Kamala Harris

"Similar to the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, Harris will require, for the first time, that states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade obtain approval from her Department of Justice before any abortion law or practice can take effect," reads Senator Kamala Harris' official campaign website.

This will stand for any state or locality that has attempted to defy Roe v. Wade in the last 25 years. While the DOJ will act as a safeguard against any potential threats to the right to an abortion, citizens also have the opportunity to challenge the government body.

In addition, Harris has pledged to help protect Planned Parenthood, attempted to repeal the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funding for abortion clinics), and sough to "reverse the Trump Administration’s illegal attempts to cut evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants," according to the site.

Joe Biden

Although the topic of reproductive health rights is noticeably absent from Vice President Joe Biden's campaign website, his track record tells a wishy-washy story about his stance on abortion rights.

For example, he did vote to allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade in 1981, reports The New York Times. And, as recently as June 5, he said he still supported the Hyde Amendment—a statement that he quickly retracted at a gala hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Atlanta. “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without the health care they need... If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support [the amendment],” the vice president said (according to HuffPost).

If Biden has a specific plan to protect reproductive rights if he becomes president, he hasn't shared them publicly.

Bernie Sanders

During Thursday's debate, Senator Bernie Sanders said that his proposed single-payer healthcare system "guarantees every woman in this country the right to have an abortion if she wants it." On top of that, his campaign website states that he intends to fully fund Planned Parenthood, and other players that provide access to contraception as well as safe abortions.

According to his website, he also has pledged to "oppose all efforts to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade, and appoint federal judges who will uphold women’s most fundamental rights." However, it's crucial to note that—in the past—the senator has defended and supported an anti-abortion rights Democrat (Heath Mello, a former mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska).

Elizabeth Warren

In the wake of the Alabama abortion ban, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a Medium post titled "Congressional Action to Protect Choice."

"Congress should pass new federal laws that protect access to reproductive care from right-wing ideologues in the states," she wrote. "Federal laws that ensure real access to birth control and abortion care for all women. Federal laws that will stand no matter what the Supreme Court does."

Warren included a bulleted list of exactly how she intends on doing so, including making the rights set forth by Roe V. Wade statutory at the federal level, passing preemptive laws that keep states from passing Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (aka, TRAP) laws, and situating reproductive health coverage within health coverage as a whole. In addition, Warren believes congress should pass the EACH Woman Act, which prevents private insurance companies from restricting the right to abortion.

Pete Buttigieg

"The government’s role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes preventive care, contraceptive services, prenatal and postpartum care, and safe and legal abortion," reads Mayor Pete Buttigieg's website. He also says he wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

During his Fox News presidential town hall, the candidate also spoke about his opinion on term limits. “I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on when you draw the line that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line,” he said according to HuffPost. “And I trust women to draw the line.”

How he will fight for said rights came up on the campaign trail in May. "The next president needs to be the strongest president ever on women’s rights, and equality, and gender inclusion—especially if American women are going to take a chance on putting a man in again," he said. He plans to do so by appointing justices that agree that freedom is reproductive freedom, setting up barriers so states can't restrict abortion at will, and funding sex education and birth control more widely.

Kirsten Gillibrand

During part two of the debate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, "“I have been the fiercest advocate for Roe v. Wade, and I promise you when that [oval office] door closes, I will guarantee your reproductive rights no matter what.” Indeed, the senator has constructed an in-depth platform on the topic of reproductive rights.

Along with pledging to be decisive in nominating judges to the supreme court, she promises to end the Hyde Amendment, repeal President Trumps gag rule, and fund pregnancy prevention programs like Title X. "As president, I won’t just continue to defend women’s civil rights from political attacks — I’ll make guaranteeing those rights a priority. Women are half of this country, and they deserve nothing less," she writes.

These states are making it their business to protect abortion rights. And since transportation can be a hurdle when it comes to getting the procedure, this organization is making moves to help.  

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