UPDATE: (10/15/19, 10:21 p.m. ET): Later on in the Tuesday night’s debate, moderators asked the packed field of candidates how they would deal with a persons’ access to reproductive health care and abortion. Most of the candidates had the opportunity to respond and each of them said they would support protecting people’s right to choose, with varying degrees of limitations. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, for example, said she would block third-trimester abortions, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary Julián Castro reminded the audience that when abortion is illegal, it’s only inaccessible for people who can’t afford it.
PREVIOUSLY: After candidates spoke about impeachment for a good 20 minutes during the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate on October 15, moderators moved the conversation over to health care. For most of that healthcare-focused debate, candidates lobbed attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her Medicare for All plan, and specifically, if such a plan would raise taxes for middle-class Americans, even though many have already pointed out that such a talking point is by and large a case of oversimplified math and false equivalencies.
It was familiar — almost like we had heard the exact same argument for the past three debates! (Oh wait, we have.) Yet the back-and-forth continued apace, and it wasn’t until Sen. Kamala Harris stepped up to talk about the healthcare issue we’ve largely been missing from the healthcare discussion: reproductive rights and abortion.
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word, with all of these discussions on health care, on women’s access to reproductive health care which is under full-on attack in America today. And it is outrageous,” Harris said. While she referred to women primarily, access to reproductive health care also effects trans and nonbinary people — their reproductive rights have been under attack for years.
“There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive healthcare,” Harris continued. “And it is not an exaggeration to say [that] women will die. Poor women [and] women of color will die.”
In addition to the slate of anti-abortion laws that conservative lawmakers have attempted to push as a means to undermine Roe v. Wade, people who can become pregnant often must navigate a byzantine healthcare system if they choose to see their pregnancies through to term. Moreover, the maternal mortality crisis currently affects Black mothers three to four times more often than any other counterparts, and the Trump administration has gutted Title X funding as well as pregnancy prevention programs in favor of abstinence-only education that has never been proven to be effective.
“These Republican legislators in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with our bodies,” Harris added. “Women are the majority of the population in this country. People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decision about their own lives.”
You’ll never guess what happened after that! Other candidates moved directly past abortion access so that candidates could continue focusing on Medicare For All. That is, until Sen. Cory Booker had his time.
“I’m having deja vu all over again because we have another healthcare debate and we’re not talking about the clear and existential threat in America that we are in a state that has [seen] two Planned Parenthoods close,” Booker said, noting that in early September two Planned Parenthood clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio, closed as a result of undue regulations on abortion providers, according to ABC News. “We are seeing all over this country women’s reproductive rights under attack. And God bless Kamala. But you know what? Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight. And men? It is not just because women are our daughters and our friends and our wives, it is because women are people and people deserve to control their own bodies.”
A majority of Americans support the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal in the U.S., according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll.
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