In the face of a “nationwide assault on women’s constitutional rights by ideological extremists” Democratic presidential candidates are strengthening their calls for federal action to protect reproductive rights. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand traveled to Georgia on Thursday, where she decried the attacks on women’s rights across the country and announced a suite of policy proposals aimed at protecting abortion access and women’s health care.
Gillibrand called for codifying as federal law the abortion access protections provided by Roe v. Wade; repealing the Hyde amendment (a provision that bans use of federal funds for abortion); protecting funding for women’s health centers; and passing rules that would prevent insurance companies from refusing abortion coverage. Similar policy prescriptions were echoed by others in the 2020 field, including Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who rolled out her own set of proposals on Friday morning.
Warren’s plan, detailed on Medium, also calls for Congress to create “federal, statutory rights that parallel the constitutional right in Roe v. Wade.” (It’s worth noting, as Warren does, that Roe is exceptionally popular: 71% of Americans oppose overturning it, including 52% of Republicans.) Warren is also calling for Congress to pass legislation curbing Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, which have popped up in states around the country in recent years, and which she says “are designed to functionally limit and eliminate women’s access to abortion care.” Warren’s plan also calls for the repeal of the Hyde amendment and a gag rule implemented by the Trump administration earlier this year, which stripped funding from health care clinics that provided abortions.
Democrats appear to be coalescing around two ideas in particular: codifying Roe (Gillibrand, Booker, Warren, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper), and repealing Hyde (Gillibrand, Booker, Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Eric Swalwell).
Several candidates have also talked about appointing judges that would protect abortion rights, including Gillibrand who described her thinking on Medium last week. “Traditionally, presidents and presidential candidates haven’t drawn lines in the sand on judicial appointments,” she wrote. “That tradition ended when Mitch McConnell obstructed the nomination process and stole a Supreme Court seat, when Donald Trump nominated dozens of ideologically extreme judges hand-picked by far-right think tanks, and when Republicans confirmed a Supreme Court Justice who is credibly accused of sexual misconduct.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, who opposed abortion rights up until 2015, said Thursday he would consider Roe a “litmus test” for any judges. (Warren has said the next president should appoint “neutral and fair judges.”)
Buttigieg was, by contrast, non-committal when asked if he would appoint judges who would protect Roe. “Certainly, a consistent judicial philosophy with mine would lead in that direction,” Buttigieg said, according the Associated Press. The same day, Buttigieg offered a notably understated observation while discussing Alabama’s new abortion law, the strictest in the nation, which, as he noted, would impose a harsher sentence on a doctor who presides over a rape victim’s abortion than the rapist himself. “It makes me question whether the discussion about freedom in this country has gone off the rails,” Buttigieg said.