By Lauren Rearick
With the continued passage and consideration of legislation that would attempt to ban abortion in states including Ohio, Alabama, and Mississippi, reproductive rights were understandably a focal point during the Democratic Primary debate on Wednesday, June 26.
The mention of abortion, particularly during a presidential debate, is especially significant as the topic has previously been considered something of a lightning rod — and only recently have Democrat lawmakers shifted their views so uniformally towards being pro-choice. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump discussed Roe v. Wade during their third and final debate in 2016, but the topic has historically been an outlier rather than a tentpole for many past candidates. All of that is changing, as reproductive rights — and reproductive justice, as Julián Castro pointed out — is top of mind for many Americans as we reach the 2020 election.
When Washington Governor Jay Inslee tried to take credit for being the only candidate at Wednesday’s debate to pass “a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health,” Senator Klobuchar corrected him. “There are three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” she noted.
Senator Klobuchar’s comment made reference to her fellow contenders for the Democratic presidential nominee: Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard. All three previously shared their opposition to a 20-week abortion ban proposed earlier this year by Senator Lindsay Graham; the bill went unpassed in the Senate.
Castro shared his support for reproductive rights that would extend to members of the transgender community. “I don’t believe in only reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice,” he said. “What that means is that just because a woman—or, let's not forget someone, in the trans community...is poor, doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to exercise that right to choose.”
But he also made an unfortunate mistake when he identified “trans female” people rather than trans men or trans nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth. Twitter was quick to pick up on that misidentification.
Senator Warren pointed to continued statewide attempts at banning abortion as reasoning for Roe v. Wade to become federal law, The New York Times reported. The 1973 ruling from the United States Supreme Court gave someone the constitutional right to choose abortion up until the point of a fetus’s viability, but state lawmakers and the Trump adminstriation have continued to challenge that precedent with bills that propose near-total bans, bans at six or eight weeks gestation, or targeted restrictions on abortion providers (known as TRAP laws), which have significantly limited abortion access to many Americans. Ostensibly, these moves are all being done in an effort to challenge Roe at the Supreme Court level, where a conservative majority may decide to overturn it.
The candidate went on to pledge that if elected, she would ensure everyone had “access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, and that includes birth control, and it includes abortion. It includes everything.”