Although it’s been touched on lightly throughout the course of The Neverending Story, otherwise known as the process to nominate a 2020 Democratic candidate for president, the conversation about abortion rights was never so present on the debate stage as it was this past Friday in New Hampshire.
The lack of conversation on the subject during the debates is something that has been largely criticized by abortion rights advocates, especially considering moderators have made time to discuss such other obviously pressing issues as Ellen DeGeneres hanging out with former president George W. Bush—a meeting with the gravest of implications for Americans at large with repercussions that will surely impact generations to come. Thank god we know everyone was totally fine with it.
Something I’m actually glad to know the Democrats on the debate stage are all on board with is a woman’s right to choose, although the voracity of their support and the extent to which they’re willing to commit to making it a priority in their presidency varies among them.
Elizabeth Warren took one of the strongest stances of the night in favor of codifying Roe v. Wade as law in America. After acknowledging that access to abortion services is not just an issue of legality, but also of wealth, noting that even when abortion was illegal “rich women still got abortions,” she said that relying on courts to uphold the decision was not enough. “That means we should be pushing for a congressional solution as well.” she said, “It is time to have a national law to protect the right of a woman’s choice.” Go absolutely all the way off, Liz.
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Former VP Joe Biden also came out in support of asking congress to secure abortion rights in the form of a bill should the Supreme Court reverse its decision on Roe v. Wade, an ominous possibility that has loomed more threateningly over abortion access since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in a justice.
Bernie Sanders, of course, echoed the sentiments about making access to abortion part of “law of the land” as they say, but also went further in saying that he would never nominate a judge who wasn’t absolutely in favor of Roe v. Wade. “I will never nominate any person to the Supreme Court or the federal courts in general who is not 100 percent pro-Roe v. Wade.” Sanders said.
This marks a significant departure from previous election cycles where candidates have been less stringent about how they would evaluate justices. The idea of a “litmus test,” or evaluating a justice’s nomination based on their stance on certain issues, had been largely rejected by Biden during his service as vice president, although his position now has seemingly evolved. “It’s a woman’s right to do that. Period,” Biden said, “And if you call that a litmus test, it’s a litmus test.”
Amy Klobuchar seemed less enthusiastic about the idea of of a strict litmus test on Roe v. Wade but said she would take precedent into consideration, with that precedent including a judge’s history on the 1973 decision. Tom Steyer, who is still inexplicably in the race, appeared to agree, but also just seemed excited to be given a chance to talk. “We all have the litmus test.” he said, “Everybody on this row feels exactly the same way about a woman’s right to choose.” Thanks for that, Tom.
Following Friday’s debate, Democrats spoke Saturday at the Our Rights, Our Courts forum, where it became clear that while all the Democratic candidates are in support of the right to choose, not all have the same understanding of the issue or of its importance. Andrew Yang showed that he perhaps understood it least when he said, “We have to get back to the point where nobody should be celebrating abortion... it’s a tragedy, to me, if someone decides they don’t want to have a child... celebrating children, family, these are universal human values.”
The idea that abortion or abortion access is somehow counter to celebrating children and family, when in fact just the opposite is true, is exactly why candidates should be asked about these issues with more regularly and in greater detail. It is one thing to support Roe v. Wade, it is another thing entirely to understand it in its fullness and advocate for it in a way that does justice to those who it protects.