With Public Support, 2020 Dems Fight to Keep Abortion Legal

Photo Credit: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/Shutterstock
May 30, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

The wave of hard-line anti-abortion legislation that swept through numerous states recently has made abortion a top issue for the 2020 Democratic hopefuls.

Yet there is little daylight between the 23 candidates, most of whom fiercely criticized the laws and called for greater protections for women's right to safe and accessible abortions. Opponents also stress that the laws grossly contradict the will of the American people.

"The majority of Americans feel that abortion should be legal either in all cases or in most cases," Mallory Newall, director of Ipsos News and Polls, told Cheddar on Thursday. "It will be interesting to see how this might be an issue that will play out moving forward to 2020."

The Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday found that 58 percent of adults indeed favor abortion being legal in most or all cases.

In recent months, however, several state legislatures passed laws that curb or outright ban abortions, many of which critics argue are in violation of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that guarantees the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

In May, Alabama passed the most draconian law, banning abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest and making it a felony for doctors to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union quickly filed a lawsuit last week to block the law.

"If you attack our constitutional right to reproductive freedom, we will sue," the ACLU said in a tweet.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also signed a controversial "heartbeat bill" earlier this month. The law would ban abortion from the moment a fetal heartbeat can be detected — roughly six weeks into a pregnancy and about two weeks from when a woman would first miss her period. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a similar six-week ban bill on Thursday, which does not allow for rape or incest exceptions.

"Most Americans believe that abortion should be legal, that is not a new change. But I think the question of what legality looks like is really what is up for debate right now," Newall added.

Democrats across the ideological spectrum all spoke out against the laws, which have also been passed in varying forms in multiple other states such as Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

"Let us all agree that women's healthcare is under attack and we will not stand for it," Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said at a rally a couple weeks ago. The sentiment was echoed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), true to form, unveiled a detailed plan to guarantee reproductive services as part of all healthcare, create federal legislation that prohibits states from restricting abortion, and repeal the Hyde Amendment — a provision from 1976 that bans federal spending on abortions reenacted each year since.

"Our democracy should not be held hostage by right-wing courts, and women should not have to hope that Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump's Supreme Court will respect the law," Warren wrote in a post on Medium. "Congress should act to ensure that the will of the people remains the law of the land."

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.Y.) also called for the Roe v. Wade decision to be enshrined in federal law.

In her protest of the abortion bills, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) made news this month declaring that as president, she will only nominate judges  who commit to upholding Roe v. Wade. She also traveled to Georgia to fight what she said is the "greatest threat to reproductive freedom we have faced in our lifetimes" and called for Roe v. Wade to be codified and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.

Fighting for abortion rights is also in line with the party's base. Over 80 percent of Democrats support legal abortion in most or all cases, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said Alabama's law "is about controlling women's bodies," not protecting life and tied his objection to the anti-abortion laws to his universal health plan. "When we pass Medicare for All, we will be guaranteeing a woman's right to control her own body by covering comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion," he added in a tweet.

Former Vice President Joe Biden — who has been leading in the polls since launching his campaign in April — also condemned the laws, saying they should be "declared unconstitutional." The abortion issue, however, has revived criticism of Biden for his past support of the Hyde Amendment and previous votes for anti-choice legislation.

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