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Here's Where 2020 Candidates Actually Stand On Abortion Rights

Got issues?

Welcome to Got Issues?, MTV News’s candidate-by-candidate breakdown of your biggest concerns and questions about the 2020 race.

Despite what buzzy headlines might tell you, abortion isn’t all that divisive an issue; the vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled a person is entitled to have an abortion before a fetus reaches the point of “viability,” and that making such a choice is their constitutional right. The percentage of Americans who have held that belief has, for the most part, remained steady for years, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to push restrictive legislation that makes accessing abortion almost impossible for millions of people.

Though people sought abortions well before the 1973 Supreme Court case, the procedures were often done in secret, and without much regulation. Untold numbers of people suffered. And even though abortion services are safer than ever, the procedure is still widely stigmatized. As more and more people speak up about their experiences and decisions, the procedure is taking up more space in a larger social and political dialogue — and if you’re running for president this year, it’s likely you’ll be asked your thoughts on abortion rights by at least one potential voter.

So where do the 2020 candidates stand on people’s abilities to make decisions for their own bodies and lives? And how does each candidate plan to bolster —  or in some cases, decimate — certain provisions and amendments related to reproductive health? Here’s your breakdown.

Editor’s note: Throughout this article we refer to pregnant people and people who can become pregnant. Many candidates refer primarily to women in their campaign and policy language, but the reproductive rights of trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer people have also been under attack for years. We have made efforts to rectify language where possible.

Michael Bennet

Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

The pro-choice Colorado Senator doesn’t have a policy on abortion on his website, but he has plenty of past work to show for it: He actually won his Senate seat in 2010 by attacking his opponent’s anti-choice stance. He co-sponsored the Women's Health Protection Act of 2015, a bill meant to “protect a [person’s] right to determine whether and when to bear a child or end a pregnancy by limiting restrictions on the provision of abortion services.” It did not pass. He called the Hyde Amendment, which stipulates that federal funds cannot be used toward abortion services except in extreme cases, “federally sanctioned discrimination” and said it is “wrong and should be overturned immediately.” He did, however, vote for a massive bill, which funded a big chunk of the government last year and included provisions that excluded any of the federal money from being used on abortions. He voted against the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would have banned abortions past 20 weeks, wants birth control covered by insurance, supports federally funding Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics, and received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Joe Biden

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Sort of?

In early June, Biden was met with plenty of blowback when the former Vice President indicated that he still supported the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which stipulates that federal funds cannot be used toward abortion services except in extreme cases. (Given the breakdown of who is most likely to receive healthcare from programs like Medicaid, the amendment largely affects lower-income people, as well as people of color.) He quickly changed his stance, making him the last Democratic presidential contender to publicly oppose the law; Vox notes that spokespeople credit the shift to the state-level push by some lawmakers to ban abortion altogether as part of the reason for the move. Biden’s healthcare plan includes language promising to “protect the constitutional right to an abortion,” and promises to repeal the Hyde Amendment, fight targeted restrictions on abortion providers (also known as TRAP laws), and dismantle waiting periods and other hoops that create an undue burden on pregnant people seeking abortion care. Such stances are a far cry from his past votes and views as a U.S. senator; in 1981, he voted in favor of allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade, and has also voted for spending bills that included the Hyde Amendment and other limitations in their language.

Cory Booker

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep!

The Senator’s reproductive-rights plan outlines his support for Roe v. Wade, and promises that if elected, he’d end the “global gag rule” that bars healthcare providers who receive Title X funding from providing patients with references to abortion services, even if they ask for it explicitly. He also said he would work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, despite voting for a massive bill in 2018 with similar provisions tacked onto it. He says he wants to reinstate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program to its original purpose of supporting young people’s sexual health. (The Trump administration has shifted the interpretation to focus on an abstinence-only model, even though such methodologies are largely ineffective at best.) As Vox notes, Booker also believes that cisgender men need to join the fight to protect abortion rights. “Don’t tell me just because you have a wife or a mother or a daughter, that that’s how you relate to this. You have a body,” he told a crowd at a Planned Parenthood forum in June. He received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Steve Bullock

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not really?

While the Montana governor says in his healthcare plan that he would support Title X funding to strengthen reproductive rights for marginalized communities, his policy does not mention abortion outright. Even so, he supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, which he indicated at an event in Ames, Iowa, this past May. He’s also done plenty of work in the efforts of protecting Title X in his home state, and supports codifying Roe v. Wade into law on its own merit. (The Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion was constitutional but politicians have yet to pass legislation affirming that jurisdiction.) “I would say that life begins at viability,” he also said in May, per The Hill, which wades into some sticky territory regarding anti-abortion rhetoric and language. He followed that personal belief up with a major caveat, however: “Either way, it's not up to people like me to be making these decisions. It's not what I think, it's what does an individual woman need to do with her body and with her healthcare.”

Pete Buttigieg

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

Buttigieg has yet to fill in the part of his healthcare policy breakdown that will seemingly be dedicated to “women’s health” and ostensibly lend space to abortion access, and he hasn’t had to do much legislating in the space as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He has been vocal about how abortion is an issue that affects people of all genders, though, and he has indicated support for Title X funding, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and ensuring that the conversation surrounding abortion access does not play into conservative gotcha-style talking points. “The dialogue has gotten so caught up in where you draw the line. I trust women to draw the line,” he said in May.

Julián Castro

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep!

Castro’s plan is rooted in the idea of “reproductive justice,” and is one of the few plans to highlight the issues that trans and nonbinary people might face if they seek abortion care, too. He also brought up trans reproductive rights during a presidential primary debate in June; while he notably gaffed on the nuances, he apologized for misspeaking soon after. He supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, bolstering other healthcare agencies so that they are free and supported in providing abortion services to marginalized groups, ending the global gag rule, and only appointing judges that respect and affirm Roe v. Wade as law. “All women should have access to reproductive care, regardless of their income or the state they live in. Abortion care is health care,” he tweeted in June.

John Delaney

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep

Did you know John Delaney has four daughters, and is thereby required to care about your reproductive rights? Because he’d like you to know, which is likely why he started off his commitment to women's rights on his website by informing you that he is, indeed, the father of four daughters. He says he is pro-choice, supports codifying Roe v. Wade, and supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, despite voting for a massive bill in 2018 with a similar provision tacked onto it. He also pledges to protect federal funding to groups like Planned Parenthood. His proposed universal healthcare system would also codify abortion care as part of reproductive healthcare, just as it would pre- and postnatal care. “Decisions regarding women’s reproductive health should be made by the woman and her doctor, not politicians,” he said in a statement released in May, after state legislatures in Alabama and Georgia attempted to force restrictive bans that undermined Roe v. Wade. “Banning legal abortions will not stop abortions, it only stops women from having safe abortions.” He received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Tulsi Gabbard

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Does she have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

Gabbard doesn’t want to tell you what to do with your body, but it took a while for her to get there; abortion is one of a few issues on which the Representative from Hawaii has had a change of heart (as Rolling Stone noted in January, she was once anti-choice). Now, she says she would support allowing federal funds to be used toward abortion services, but voted for a massive bill in 2018 that included provisions to exclude any of the federal money from being used on abortions, and this year voted for HR 2740, a massive spending bill that included the Hyde Amendment within its language (it passed 226-203, and has since been held up by the Senate). Her website points to a few quotes she’s given that stress “protect[ing] women’s right to choose,” but she has not offered more comprehensive policies as of publish time. In the past, she’s voted to protect Title X funding. She received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Kamala Harris

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Does she have an official policy on abortion? Yep

For Harris, the conversation about abortion rights exists under the umbrella of gender equality. Her website states that she would work to “protect Planned Parenthood from Republican attempts to defund essential health services, nominate judges who respect Roe v. Wade, and immediately roll back dangerous and discriminatory rules put in place by President Trump to limit access to contraception and safe abortion in the United States and around the world.” She is in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment, despite voting for a massive bill in 2018 with a similar provision tacked onto it. She supports codifying Roe v. Wade and restoring Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that offer abortion services. She has also introduced an abortion rights plan that would put states that have tried to pass restrictive abortion requirements on notice; they would have to seek approval by her Justice Department before enacting any state-level laws or policies. She received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Amy Klobuchar

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Does she have an official policy on abortion? Not really

Klobuchar’s website is vague about its promises with regard to reproductive rights, and talks about them specifically as the issue pertains to women. In her plan for her first 100 days if elected President, she promises to end the global gag rule, reinstate Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that offer abortion services, and work to codify Roe v. Wade. She has also joined Senators Harris, Gillibrand, and Warren in co-sponsoring legislation that would overturn the Hyde Amendment, but, along with all three of the Senators, voted in favor of a massive bill in 2018 with a similar provision tacked onto it. She received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Wayne Messam

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Kind of?

Messam’s reproductive-rights platform is by far the simplest of the bunch. A page of his website with the URL “respecting-women-is-simple” asserts, “I trust women to make their own decisions when it comes to their health. Period.” As the mayor of Miramar, Florida, he hasn’t had to do much legislating in the space, but he says he views Roe v. Wade as “a settled law,” and in April his campaign indicated to ThinkProgress that he supports allowing federal funds to go toward paying for abortion services, which is directly counter to the Hyde Amendment.

Beto O’Rourke

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep

The former congressman supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, and voted accordingly while he was in Congress. He has also said that if elected president, he’d task Congress with passing Roe v. Wade as law and freeing up Title X funds for Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers who also provide abortion services. He wants to block TRAP laws and champions passing federal legislation that would ban waiting periods which put an undue burden on pregnant people seeking healthcare. (Such hoops are often implemented at the state level.) But the bulk of his reproductive-rights plan is pretty heavily focused on “women” — the word appears 19 times on the whole page, while “woman” appears nine times. Abortion access affects trans men and some nonbinary people, too, and truly affirming healthcare makes space for everyone. He received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Tim Ryan

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

Ryan knows that his past stances on abortion may come back to haunt him, so he copped to them in an April interview with BuzzFeed. “I came in as a Catholic schoolkid from northeast Ohio who didn’t think a whole lot about the issue,” he said of the anti-abortion stance he took then. [Editor’s note: Ryan used the term “pro-life” in the interview, as he has in others; this term is recognized as charged anti-choice rhetoric.] Ryan added that “my opinion changed that there should not be anyone from the federal government between a woman and her doctor.” He supports funding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, repealing the Hyde Amendment (despite voting in favor of a massive bill in 2018 with a similar provision tacked onto it), and protecting Roe v. Wade. He does not currently have a policy specific to abortion rights on his website. He received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Bernie Sanders

Photo by Paras Griffin/WireImage

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep

The Senator supports both Roe v. Wade and Title X, and promises on his website that he’ll help fund organizations like Planned Parenthood “and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.” (Planned Parenthood and other reproductive-health facilities cater to patients of all gender identities, not just women, so the government providing funding to them is a matter of healthcare in general.) Sanders has said he opposes the Hyde Amendment, and received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Joe Sestak

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep

Sestak’s platform about reproductive health is so deeply entwined within the rest of his “women’s rights” policy, it raises a few flags. “Thanks to countless courageous women — and at least a few male allies — the situation for women has improved dramatically over the past century,” he says just a few paragraphs ahead of reminding everyone that he is “the son of a mother” and “the father of a teenage girl” (yes, really). To be fair, however, he has a pretty good track record: During his time in Congress, he backed legislation that expanded birth control access and sex-education programs and supported the Affordable Care Act’s reproductive-health provisions.

Tom Steyer

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

He’s pro-choice, but does not currently have an explicit stance on his campaign website. What we do have is a tweet: “Abortion is healthcare and reproductive choice is an issue that affects all gender and sexual identities. We should not stop shouting it from the rooftops,” he wrote in June 2019, with the hashtag #MenForChoice. Ahead of the 2018 election, he promised to only support candidates who supported abortion rights; at the time he was still only a donor, albeit one with his own super PAC: NextGen America. “We do not work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice. I think people like to have litmus tests,” he told Politico. “We are explicitly pro-choice. We work a lot with Planned Parenthood, we work a lot with NARAL. We are absolutely committed to it.” As he is not an elected official, he has no voting record on the issue.

Donald Trump

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Does he have an official policy on abortion? [deep sigh]

The Trump administration’s view on abortion has been both clear and horrifically misleading, far before Planned Parenthood withdrew from Title X funding because it felt the administration forced its hand. In April 2019, Trump lied about the nature of third-trimester abortions — which make up a significantly low percent of abortions performed every year and are often done because of fetal anomalies — by falsely alleging they involved the pregnant person giving birth. (They don’t.)

Trump is responsible for nominating both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court; their confirmations solidified an anti-choice majority on the court, which emboldened conservative lawmakers in states across the country to pass legislation that aims to directly undermine or invalidate Roe v. Wade. He also reinstated a “gag rule,” which bars doctors from providing their patients with the full survey of their reproductive health options, even if those patients ask for a referral for abortion services. In January, a court blocked the administration’s attempt to allow employers to exempt birth control from their employees’ healthcare plans. Trump does not currently have a policy on his campaign website about reproductive health; instead, the healthcare section on his “promises kept” website is practically a testament to every way he has undermined the Obama administration’s legacy in the healthcare space.

As the New York Times reports, however, being anti-choice is a new position for the President: In 1999, he told Meet the Press that he was “very pro-choice.” Many experts cite his growing evangelical fanbase as a reason for his switch.

Elizabeth Warren

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Does she have an official policy on abortion? You bet she does

“When I was growing up, long before Roe, people still got abortions,” Warren notes on her campaign’s Medium account. “Some were lucky. Others weren’t. They all went through hell.” To that end, her reproductive plan promises not only to protect a person’s right to choose, but will also attempt to undo the myriad jurisdictional limitations that state and federal governments have since put in place to undermine a person’s reproductive freedom. She supports repealing the Hyde Amendment; passing “federal laws that ensure real access to birth control”; passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect against Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (also known as TRAP laws); and passing statutory laws that would protect both healthcare providers and patients from potential interference by states looking to limit access. She received a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL in 2018.

Bill Weld

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Not yet

“I have always been and will always be what the political world calls ‘pro-choice,’” he wrote in an Opinion article for USA Today in May. To him, that means he respects everyone’s right to decide what is best for their own life and body, and however they reach that conclusion is OK by him. This position is one carried by many libertarians, and, while Weld is currently running as a Republican, he did run as vice president in 2016 on the libertarian ticket. “I am in favor of people making their own decisions when it comes to their religious beliefs, their political allegiances, their sexual and gender orientation, their educational options, their health care providers and just about everything else,” he added. When Weld was governor of Massachusettes in the early 1990s, he attempted to make it easier for women in the state to get abortions, Axios reported. He does not currently have an official policy for either healthcare or reproductive rights on his website.

Marianne Williamson

Araya Diaz/Getty Images for Project Angel Food

Does she have an official policy on abortion? Yep

Williamson is both pro-choice and willing to fight for the freedoms protected by Roe v Wade, per her campaign website. She has also told ThinkProgress that she supports using federal funds to pay for abortion services, which would necessetate the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Though she calls abortion a “moral” issue rather than a simple matter of healthcare, she says “I do not believe the government of the United States has the right to legislate our private morals. I believe the decision of whether or not to have an abortion lies solely with the pregnant woman, according to the dictates of her conscience and in communion with the God of her understanding.” Conversely, she also believes that “expanding a woman’s understanding of her alternatives to termination is a good thing,” which suggests support for Women’s Right to Know laws and other tactics that might delay or otherwise discourage pregnant people from receiving the care they initially sought. As she is not an elected official, she has no voting record on the issue.

Andrew Yang

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Does he have an official policy on abortion? Yep

“In a perfect world, only those who are ready for and desire a child would become pregnant,” Yang posits on his website. “But that’s not the world we live in.” Enter his plan, which would make both abortion and birth control accessible to all Americans who want or need it. He also believes his Universal Basic Income plan will help lessen the number of abortions performed each year, though there is currently no data to support that. Abortions are down likely to a rise in both comprehensive sexual education and access to birth control, as well as a lack of access to licensed abortion clinics and restrictive laws that can scare people away from receiving care. (Many people in America live over 100 miles from the nearest clinic.) Yang broadly promises that, if elected president, he would “appoint judges who support a woman’s right to choose” and “support a woman’s right to choose in every circumstance and provide resources for planning and contraception.” His plan does not offer specifics of how he might reverse abortion deserts and other laws that intentionally infringe upon or challenge Roe v. Wade. As he is not an elected official, he has no voting record on the issue.