Warrens announcement comes days after Republican legislators in Alabama passed a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Though the law is currently invalid, and women in Alabama can still access abortion, the ban is designed to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices could overturn or at least severely hamstring Roe v. Wade. There are no anti-choice Democrats running for president, and candidates were swift to criticize the Alabama bill and other new abortion restrictions in Georgia, Ohio, and elsewhere. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released her own proposal on Thursday after meeting with lawmakers and activists in Georgia, and Senator Bernie Sanders also used his email list to raise money for three abortion funds, including the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama.
Like Gillibrand, Warren calls for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits publicly funded health care like Medicaid from covering abortion. Both senators also support the codification of Roe v. Wade into federal law. Warren specifically urges Congress to create federal, statutory rights to abortion that block states from interfering with either a doctors provision of abortion care or a patients ability to access that care. Warren further urged passage of the Womens Health Protection Act, which has already been introduced in Congress. The act would overturn state-level obstacles to abortion, like Alabamas law forcing women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds before they can receive abortions. She called for the repeal of the global gag rule, which blocks non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding from providing or even referring women to abortion care. She closed by endorsing the EACH Woman Act, which would prohibit private insurance companies from refusing to cover abortion services. The overarching goal is to protect the right to abortion from erosion at both the legislative and judicial levels.
Republicans from President Trump to state lawmakers have already escalated their usual anti-abortion rhetoric; Trump, for example, has now repeatedly and falsely claimed that abortion providers kill babies after birth. The president, then, might use Warrens abortion policies as grounds for a fresh round of attacks on her candidacy. But that might only help Warren. Most Americans still overwhelmingly oppose abortion bans, and Warrens proposals may resonate with older Democrats in particular. The senator, who had her first child two years before Roe v. Wade guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion, deliberately evokes the bad old days in her post. When I was growing up, long before Roe, people still got abortions. Some were lucky. Others werent. They all went through hell, she wrote.
The original version of this post stated that Warren was the first candidate to release an abortion proposal. This post has been corrected.
"In all meaningful respects, this bill closely resembles an abortion ban that has been a part of Alabama law for well over 100 years. As today’s bill itself recognizes, that longstanding abortion law has been rendered unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,” she said.
It has little chance in Congress. But Warren is one of the few Democratic candidates with a clear reproductive rights plan.
The statement, posted on Medium, comes as a wave of strict anti-abortion laws are sweeping the country. On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed into law a bill banning nearly all abortions in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest. On Thursday, the Missouri state Senate passed a bill banning the procedure at eight weeks (the bill now goes back to the state House for approval). Many of these laws are aimed squarely at overturning Roe.
This is a dark moment, Warren writes. People are scared and angry. And they are right to be. But this isnt a moment to back down — its time to fight back.
While many Democratic candidates have condemned restrictive anti-abortion laws in recent days, only a few, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), have taken concrete positions on how they would defend abortion access.
With her statement, Warren joins that group. She calls on Congress to enshrine the right to abortion in federal statute, in case Roe v. Wade is overturned and the current federal right to abortion is taken away. She also calls for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions, and federal legislation preventing states from passing medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics. And she proposes a reversal of the Trump administrations domestic gag rule, which bars providers that receive federal family planning funds from performing or referring patients for abortions.
The legislation Warren supports has little chance of passage without a Democratic majority in Congress. But anti-abortion groups in recent years have abandoned an incremental approach in favor of a more aggressive one, and have seen major victories around the country. Now Warren is proposing an equally aggressive response.
The Supreme Court has said in Roe v. Wade and in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability, when a fetus can survive outside the womb. But theres no federal statute guaranteeing the right to an abortion. That means that if Roe were to fall, the issue would be left up to the states, which could ban abortion as they see fit. Warren wants to change that, as well as passing other federal laws to help protect access to abortion and other reproductive health care. Heres what her proposal calls for:
Polling data shows that 71% of Americans oppose overturning Roe — including 52% of Republicans, Warren writes. Congress should do its job and protect their constituents from these efforts by establishing affirmative, statutory rights that parallel Roe vs. Wade.
Also in Ohio, the legislature proposed a similar measure during former Gov. John Kasich’s term. Kasich vetoed the proposal, but the new Republican governor, Mike DeWine, has indicated he will support the bill. The measure passed the Ohio Senate last week.
State TRAP laws, like requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, proliferated in the years after 2010, when Republicans took over many state legislatures. Abortion opponents have argued that they are necessary to protect womens health, but many doctors say they serve no medical purpose.
In 2016, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the laws, ruling in Whole Womans Health v. Hellerstedt that two such laws in Texas did not have the medical benefit necessary to outweigh the burden they placed on patients seeking abortions. But that was before the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, and a new Court could reverse the decision in Whole Womans Health.
To prevent a resurgence of TRAP laws, Warren is calling for the passage of an existing bill, the Womens Health Protection Act, which bars states from passing restrictions on abortion clinics that do not significantly advance womens health or the safety of abortion services.
Warren calls on Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment, allowing federal programs like Medicaid to pay for abortion care. She also calls for the passage of the EACH Woman Act, which would ban abortion restrictions in private insurance. And, she writes, we should ensure that all future health coverage — including Medicare for All — includes contraception and abortion coverage.
Advocates of reproductive justice, a holistic approach that considers abortion access as part of a spectrum of health and other issues, have long pointed out that the right to an abortion doesnt mean much if a person cant afford the procedure. Warrens recommendations on insurance are aimed at ensuring abortion is affordable as well as legal.
The Trump administration in March released a rule barring groups that provide or refer patients for abortions from receiving funding under Title X, which provides family planning funds aimed at low-income Americans. The rule would strip funding from Planned Parenthood, which currently serves about 41 percent of patients who get services under Title X, and reproductive health advocates say it will jeopardize low-income Americans ability to get contraception.
“First, 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, D-N.Y., said.
The rule has been blocked by the courts for now, but Warren calls for getting rid of it. We must undo the current Administrations efforts to undermine womens access to reproductive health care, she writes — including ending Trumps gag rule and fully support Title X family planning funding.
She also mentions the reproductive justice movement directly, writing that the women of color who founded that movement teach us that we must go beyond choice to ensure meaningful access for every woman in America — not just the privileged and wealthy few.
At the time, the Center for Reproductive Rights called the bill “blatantly unconstitutional,” and has threatened to sue the state to block the law from going into effect on July 1.
We must build a future that protects the right of all women to have children, the right of all women to not have children, and the right to bring children up in a safe and healthy environment, she adds.
Warrens recommendations are similar to those issued by Gillibrand on Thursday. Gillibrand also called for codifying Roe into statute and repealing the Hyde Amendment. And she went further by pledging to create a funding stream to ensure reproductive health center access in every state and every region of the country.
Much of what Warren and Gillibrand propose cant be accomplished with the current makeup of Congress. But both have set themselves apart from much of the rest of the Democratic field by calling for specific and far-reaching changes in response to a growing push, from legislatures around the country, to overturn Roe.
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