2020 Elections

2020 Dems scramble to denounce Alabama abortion bill

Updated

“An abomination.”

“Shameless.”

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“Appalling.”

“Dangerous and exceptionally cruel.”

In a historically diverse and expansive field of Democrats gunning for the chance to take on President Donald Trump next year, few issues have united the sprawling field as much as opposition to the passage of legislation in Alabama that would place a near-total ban on abortions in the state.

The bill, which Gov. Kay Ivey signed Wednesday, outlaws virtually all abortions, and is the latest legislation anti-abortion activists hope will spark a legal battle resulting in Roe v. Wade, the historic Supreme Court case that codified abortion rights, being overturned. GOP lawmakers in Alabama rejected amendments that would build out exceptions in the bill for instances of rape or incest, only allowing exceptions when a woman’s health is in danger, making its restrictions on abortion the most extreme in the country.

The crop of 2020 Democrats on Tuesday and Wednesday raced to condemn the bill. Others in the 2020 field called for abortion rights to be enshrined by law.

The Alabama measure is just the latest state bill targeting abortion rights that advocates say is a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe decision that made abortion legal in the U.S. Last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a so-called heartbeat bill into law that would ban abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, before most women are know they’re pregnant. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed similar legislation into law last month.

The bills have generated a groundswell of opposition among abortion rights advocates who worry that the ideological makeup of the current Supreme Court puts the precedent set by Roe in jeopardy.

Here's how the 2020 Democrats running for president have reacted to the bill:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who announced last week that she would only appoint judges who would uphold Roe, called the legislation an “outrage” in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday.

“It's nothing short of an attack on women's basic human rights and civil rights, and it's something women in America will have to fight against with everything they've got,” she said, promoting her planned trip to Georgia to hold round-table meetings on its bill.

“We need to lift up the voices of women and family across America who see civil rights and human rights being taken away from them, being decided by legislators and who know nothing about their lives, their health and their ability,” she said. “I'm telling you, this is something that is so harmful to women's ability to get basic, safe access to legal abortion. And it's something women may need in their lifetime. And it's something we should actually protect.”

Sen. Kamala Harris

Harris (D-Calif.) told a town hall audience in New Hampshire Wednesday that “women’s health care is under attack and we will not stand for it,” invoking her time as a prosecutor.

“The idea that supposed leaders have passed a law that would criminalize a physician for assisting a woman on something that she, in consult with her physician, with her God, with her faith leader, has made a decision to do, that it’s her body, that you would criminalize, and say for up to 99 years — which is a life sentence. And this is the same state and the same kind of people who also stand in the way of what women need in terms of a ban on preexisting conditions to have access to issues like prenatal care — like, they need to check their hypocrisy.” she said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Warren condemned the bill as “dangerous and exceptionally cruel,” claiming that “the bill’s authors want to use it to overturn Roe v. Wade. I've lived in that America and let me tell you: We are not going back — not now, not ever.”

She highlighted what she said was the danger in cutting off access to safe, legal abortions. “When I was growing up, people got abortions,” Warren tweeted later Wednesday. “Desperate women turned to back alley butchers or even tried the procedure on their own. Some were lucky, but others weren't. They all went through hell. Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT. Full stop.”


Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar (D-Minn.) weighed in as well, writing on Twitter that “this bill in Alabama is effectively a ban on abortion. This is wrong. This is unconstitutional.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Biden, who holds a commanding lead in early Democratic primary polling, denounced the bill, though less effusively than some of his opponents.

“Republicans in AL, FL, GA, and OH are ushering in laws that clearly violate Roe v. Wade and they should be declared unconstitutional,” he said in a tweet. “Roe v. Wade is settled law and should not be overturned. This choice should remain between a woman and her doctor.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders (I-Vt.), who leads the pack in most polling behind only Biden, pleaded with Ivey, the Alabama governor, to veto the bill. “What Alabama is doing is blatantly unconstitutional and disrespects the fundamental right a woman has to make decisions about her own body,” he wrote in a tweet.

Sanders also tied to the issue to his push for expanding access to Medicare, declaring that abortions would be covered under his single-payer plan. “Abortion is health care,” he said. “When we pass Medicare for All, we will be guaranteeing a woman’s right to control her own body by covering comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion.”

Sen. Michael Bennet

Bennet (D-Colo.) took a similar tack, saying in an interview on CNN that “I hope the governor of Alabama will think differently about this than she is today” but pledging to fight the bill if she does sign it.

“It just seems to me that we would be a lot better off hewing to what Roe v. Wade tells us, and leaving this decision in the hands of women and their families, and Alabama is doing something here that just shouldn't be part of America in the 21st century.”

Bennet also invoked his three daughters, saying that abortion rights supporters “find ourselves on the front lines of this war once again” and arguing that panic about the Alabama bill showed Democrats needed to place a renewed focus on the judicial branch.

“I also will say that this is part of a decades-long fight on the right wing to control the courts in this country. … And I think Democrats need to step up our game, and we have not been great at fighting this,” he said.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper, who left office early this year after two terms as Colorado governor, painted the stakes of the bill as especially dire, writing on Twitter that the law, if enacted, “will cost Alabama women their lives, and threatens the reproductive rights of women across the country. We must fight back, and our next president must act to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law.”

The former governor touted his record on reproductive health care during his tenure, retweeting a post that outlined his accomplishments and adding: “In Colorado, we didn't strip women of their fundamental rights, we empowered them to make their own decisions. The results speak for themselves.”


Gov. Jay Inslee

Inslee, whose campaign has focused almost exclusively on climate change, called the Alabama measure "an abomination."

“The choices a woman makes about her body should be between her and her doctor and no one else,” he said on Twitter. “We cannot go back to the dark ages of reproductive rights.”

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke

O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman whose losing Senate big against conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (T-Texas) garnered significant media attention in 2018, called the bill “not only unconstitutional” but contended “it's a radical attack on women across Alabama and America.”

“We won't back down when it comes to fully protecting Roe v. Wade, fighting dangerous efforts to roll back reproductive health care and defending a woman’s right to access an abortion,” he pledged, adding that “we will fight these dangerous efforts with everything we’ve got in legislatures across the country, in the courts, and at the ballot box.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Swalwell (D-Calif.) asserted that lawmakers in states targeting abortion rights had been emboldened by the president.

“A lawless president has inspired lawless legislatures. Our laws are crystal clear the government cannot come between a woman & her doctor early in a pregnancy,” he said in a tweet. “Yet AL & GA did this anyway, believing laws don’t matter and if pressed, Trump’s justices will protect them. #ProtectRoe”

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

Castro, another 2020 Democrat who has been open about breaking from his Catholic roots in supporting abortion rights, called it “appalling news” that Alabama’s legislature voted “to effectively criminalize abortion.”

“It’s time to stand up and speak out. We must defeat this unconstitutional and shameless attempt to strip women of their right to make health care choices,” he added.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg, a rising star in the Democratic primary and one of a few candidates to frequently invoke his Christian faith, accused Alabama lawmakers of “ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women.”

“Instead, the government's role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes safe and legal abortion,” The South Bend, Ind., mayor said in a tweet.

Rep. Tim Ryan

Ryan (D-Ohio), who has not shied away from addressing his fairly recent evolution on abortion rights, came down firmly in opposition to the Alabama legislation.

“Absolutely appalling move from lawmakers in Alabama,” he said on Twitter. “This would effectively ban all abortions -- including cases of rape & incest, punish women & threaten doctors. Government has NO place in this conversation.”

Sen. Cory Booker

Booker (D-N.J.) vowed to “fight in solidarity with women to make sure rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade will not be threatened by those who have no business making laws about their bodies,” asserting that Alabama lawmakers had “stripped women of health care rights” by passing the bill.

He also called for men to speak up about the issue — “not because women are our mothers, wives, daughters,” he said, but “because women are people. And all people deserve to control their own bodies.” Booker added that he would push for the codification of the Roe decision and called for fully funding Planned Parenthood and repealing a provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.

Mayor Wayne Messam

Messam, the longshot candidate and mayor of Miramar, Fla., said that a woman’s right to reproductive choice is settled law,” and cautioning that “this is an incredibly difficult decision for a woman and her family” and “if a medical professional believes a procedure like this is necessary, then the government should not intervene.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

Bullock, the newest 2020 challenger, and one whose strongest argument for his candidacy is his ability to govern as a Democrat in a solid-red state, also came out forcefully against the Alabama bill.

“This is irresponsible, dangerous and would make it even more difficult for women to access basic healthcare,” he said in a tweet Wednesday. “As governor, I’ve stopped every attack on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, and that’s exactly what I’ll do as president.”

Rep. Seth Moulton

The Massachusetts congressman derided the bill in an interview on CNN Wednesday, calling the measure "absolutely disgusting" and taking particular offense at the bill's lack of exemptions. He expressed confidence though that the Supreme Court would hold firm on the issue.

"According to this Alabama law, if someone rapes a woman and she gets pregnant and she goes and gets an abortion, after being raped, she could literally be put in prison for longer than the rapist. That's how backwards this law is," he said. "It's unconstitutional. It will be turned down by the Supreme Court, but we should not even be having this debate about women's rights to their own health care. Women should make their own decisions about their bodies. That was settled 40 years ago. It should still be the case today."

Former Rep. John Delaney

Delaney decried the Alabama and Georgia bills as "an all-out attack on women and their freedom. Plain and simple."

"It places control over a woman’s physical body in the hands of the state," he said in a statement, dismissing the bans as "unconstitutional and infringements on a woman’s right to privacy."

Pledging to "fight for women’s rights every single day and every step of the way," Delaney argued that "decisions regarding women’s reproductive health should be made by the woman and her doctor, not politicians" and asserted that attempting to restrict the procedures "only stops women from having safe abortions."

Businessman Andrew Yang

Yang also blasted the bill, calling it “a dramatic step in the wrong direction.” As president, he said, he would protect abortion rights, writing on Twitter that the “government should not be making decisions on behalf of women.”

Author Marianne Williamson

"A spate of state abortion bills appearing around the country are intended to overturn Roe v.Wade and intimidate women," Williamson wrote on Twitter. "Note to courts: American women cannot and will not be intimidated. We will make our own moral choices and our own biological decisions."

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