She wasn’t about to let that happen again. At the CNN/New York Times debate, Harris didn’t wait for moderators to raise the issue of attacks on women’s reproductive freedom. When asked to respond to points other candidates had just made about health care, she pivoted. Harris noted that “not one word” about abortion had been said in previous debates, even as state legislatures continue to pursue an agenda that will make women’s health care harder to access and abortion available to fewer and fewer people.
“There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive healthcare,” Harris said, to cheers. “And it is not an exaggeration to say women will die. Poor women, women of color will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies.”
To raucous applause, she added: “People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”
But it wasn’t just the audience that celebrated Harris’s sense of urgency. Up on stage, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) applauded her, too. “God bless Kamala,” he said. “But you know what? Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight. It is not just because women are our voters and our friends and our wives. It’s because women are people and people deserve to control their own body.”
It shouldn’t come as such a surprise to hear presidential candidates talk about a basic, safe health care procedure—that is, abortion. It shouldn’t be a shock to hear a man defend a woman’s right to choose. When it comes to Roe v. Wade and health care access, most Americans don’t want to go back. But in our current political climate and with conservatives determined to overturn that landmark Supreme Court decision, we can’t take stands like the ones Harris and Booker made for granted.
Viewers seemed to feel the same. Social media exploded in gratitude to the candidates for their support of this essential aspect of women’s health, which, to Booker’s point, doesn’t just affect women and shouldn’t be framed as a “women’s issue.” Women are 51 percent of the population. It shouldn’t take three and a quarter debates to remind people of that inexorable fact.
Mattie Kahn is Glamour’s* senior culture editor. Follow her @mattiekahn.*
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