One of the most intense moments of the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami tonight came early on, when Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee basically bragged that he was the only lawmaker on stage who has signed a law protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion. "I am the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health, and health insurance,” he said. "And I respect everybody's goals and plans here. But we do have one candidate that's actually advanced the ball."
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar begged to differ.
"There’s three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose." Klobuchar then added that all of the Democrats on stage agree that women should have full control of their reproductive healthcare.
Klobuchar, the "senator-next-door" who has been dogged by complaints from her former staff, is right: All of the 25 Democrats running have vocalized support for the legal right to get an abortion. This is important as we're seeing a startling uptick in the passing of blatantly unconstitutional abortion bans, like those in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio.
However, it is true that there are differences between the candidates. There is a lot more to protecting abortion rights than simply keeping the procedure legal; if a woman can't access the procedure due to barriers like cost, inability to find a provider, or the bevy of other, onerous restrictions that can add up to make actually getting the procedure insurmountable, then that is also a way to stand in the way of a person's choice. And reproductive healthcare is not just an issue that affects people who identify as women. At tonight's debate Julian Castro, who served in the Obama administration before his 2020 presidential run, was quick to add that he would appoint federal judges who understand Roe v. Wade, while adding that access to abortion concerns not only women, but transgender men and non-binary folks as well, signaling that he understands this.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was able to squeeze in that she supports codifying access to abortion in federal statute, a nod to her broader plan to protect reproductive rights and access, including the Women's Health Protection Act.
Gov. Inslee was referring to his signing of a measure that requires all health insurers in Washington state to cover abortion services as well as maternity care, which is an example of one way to remove certain barriers to access. But unfortunately, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for abortion services, preventing low-income women who depend on Medicaid for their health insurance from easily accessing abortion services, did not come up. Here's hoping tomorrow night's debate moderators bring it up.
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