Women’s rights are under attack from far-right organizations and the federal, state, and local politicians that they support. Last year, Alabama’s state legislature attempted to ban nearly all abortions—even in the case of incest or rape—and the Supreme Court is considering a case that could effectively prevent the majority of abortion providers from meeting the needs of their patients.
The right-wing assault on the right to choose is escalating, with low-income women and women of color on the front lines. For women who can afford it, care may still be within reach. But with all matters of justice, justice for the few is not justice at all.
In six states, access to reproductive care has become so restricted that only one clinic remains. And even where health clinics are technically available, the cost of care often makes services inaccessible. Long work hours at low wages prevent women from taking the necessary time off to get to medical appointments, and the dwindling number of providers means that women are often forced to travel long distances to reach an abortion provider—incurring costs for transportation, lodging, and childcare in the process.
It is crucial that we protect Roe v. Wade by codifying it into law. But true reproductive freedom requires that we go further. If workers reliant on employer-based health insurance find that their insurance excludes reproductive health care, then there is no reproductive freedom or justice. If women can’t access prenatal care, there is no reproductive freedom or justice. And if after giving birth to a healthy child, that child is subsequently poisoned by lead-tainted water, there is no reproductive freedom or justice.
Reproductive freedoms and justice are fundamental to gender equality, and Americans deserve a president who they can trust to protect both the constitutional right to abortion, and the economic freedom to exercize that right. I believe I am that candidate.
I am proud to say that my record of defending reproductive freedoms pre-dates Roe v. Wade. In 1972—decades before it was popular or politically convenient—I was quoted by the Vermont press saying that “[i]t strikes me as incredible that politicians think they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.” I am the only major candidate in the race who has consistently voted against the Hyde Amendment—the legislation that aims to gut federal funding for abortion services, including Planned Parenthood—and I am proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record from NARAL Pro-Choice American and Planned Parenthood.
Joe Biden, regretfully, has a different record. Just after Roe was decided, Joe Biden believed the Supreme Court decision “went too far,” saying: “I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” As vice president, Biden worked to cut mandated coverage for contraception from Obamacare, and he supported the Hyde Amendment until last June, when his run for president brought fresh scrutiny to his long-held position.
I believe that the best way to judge a person is by their record. And when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, a candidate’s record gives the best indication of the type of Justice a president would nominate. As President, I would never nominate a federal judge, including any Supreme Court justices, who did not 100% support a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
I am also enormously proud of the plans put forward by this campaign. I have recently released a comprehensive plan to bring universal and affordable contraception and reproductive health care—from fertility treatments, to STI screenings, to abortion care—to every woman in this country. And our Medicare for All plan contains provisions specifically designed to finally bring an end to the crisis of maternal mortality in communities of color, particularly Black communities, across the country.
The freedom to control your own body is a fundamental, inalienable right. And yet, politicians on both sides of the aisle have failed to stand up to protect this freedom. I stood with women to protect that freedom in 1972, and in 2020, my position is unchanged. It’s the same place I’ve stood for the last 50 years—with you.
Bernie Sanders is a Senator from Vermont and a Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election.