(WASHINGTON) — 2020 White House hopefuls opposed to new state abortion bans joined protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday as other abortion rights supporters converged on state capitols, town squares and courthouses nationwide seeking to counter bills sweeping across state legislatures.
Among the 2020 candidates who joined the political battle at the court were Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I don’t think anyone thought we were going to have this debate again but we are right in the middle of this debate because these guys think they’re going to take women’s health care backward and are we going to let them,” Klobuchar shouted into a bullhorn as protesters shouted “No!” in response.
“The legislators in Alabama will not have the last word,” Booker said when it was his turn to speak. “Those legislators in Georgia will not have the last word. And just as it was in the Civil Rights Movement, a governor from Alabama will not have the last word on our rights.
Ryan, who was once anti-abortion but flipped his stance as he’s moved further left over the years, recalled his change of heart on the issue.
“I met women for the first time in my life that had an abortion,” he began. “I met women who had to deal with very difficult, complicated circumstances in their pregnancies. And overtime, because of the courage of the women who came into my office and who wanted to help craft legislation, I changed my position. And I came to realize that it is stories of the women, it is the courage of these women, especially in the last couple of weeks, who have stood up bravely and told their stories and told your stories.”
Gillibrand took direct aim at President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who, she said, “has emboldened state legislatures across the country to do the unthinkable — to do an all-out attack on women’s reproductive freedom — to not just overturn Roe v. Wade but literally turn back the clock decades — decades — on women’s basic civil rights.”
“This is the beginning of a long march,” Gillibrand said. “This is the beginning of President Trump’s war on women. If he wants this war, he will have this war and he will lose.”
Moulton echoed those sentiments when he spoke, asserting, “Women still are under assault for the basic right to choose and that is wrong… We’re here today because of Brett Kavanaugh. That is why we’re here. Let’s get him out.”
But Buttigieg, who did not appear on stage, reinforced his support for reproductive rights during an interview with ABC News at the protest.
“I’m here to stand with the majority of Americans who believe in women’s reproductive freedom,” he said. “Look I’m a Democrat who lives and governs in Indiana so I understand that people come at this issue differently. Some of my supporters view it differently than I do but most Americans believe that these decisions ought to be left to the woman who is faced with these sometimes unthinkable medical situations.”
“When you see the roll back of rights that is happening from Alabama, to Missouri, and I’m sure there’s more where that came from, it’s a reminder of how important it’s been that for as long as I’ve been alive, the Roe vs. Wade framework established here at the Supreme Court has protected that autonomy and those rights,” he added.
Although he did not stand at the podium during the protest, Sanders told ABC News that he believes the best way to push back against the controversial laws is to “educate, organize and bring millions of people together to demand that women in this country on the right to control their own body. That’s what this issue is.”
Abortion-rights advocates sought to “fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women,” according to the #StopTheBans website. The slew of protests were triggered by GOP-led efforts to pass restrictive anti-abortion measures aimed at fomenting a larger battle over Roe v. Wade in the nation’s highest court.
Several states are seeking to mount legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Those states, include including Missouri, which on Friday passed the most recent ban — state lawmakers charged ahead with an eight-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest or survivors of human trafficking. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the restrictive bill into law in the coming days.
Missouri followed a wave of conservative states passing restrictive abortion bans, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia. Lawmakers in those states approved “heartbeat” bills, which ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
Alabama’s ban, signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey last week, imposes the harshest limitations of any state in the country — a near-full ban on the procedure, not providing for any window of a pregnancy when abortion is legal.
“Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access,” states the event’s website, which hosted by groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, All* Above All Action Fund, the ACLU and the Women’s March. “This is Trump’s anti-choice movement … and it’s terrifying, particularly for women of color and low-income women who are most affected by these bans. … Politicians shouldn’t be making decisions best left to women, their families and their doctors.”
Amid the toutrage from abortion-rights groups, many among the field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls vying for the White House immediately condemned the anti-abortion efforts last week.
“Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT. Full stop,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on Twitter.
“The Alabama legislature is ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women,” Buttigieg tweeted. “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.”
Despite not being in Washington for the rally, former Vice President Joe Biden released a Twitter video condemning the new laws restricting abortion access in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.
“It’s wrong, it’s pernicious, and we have to stop it,” he said. “It’s important that we know and everybody else knows what these guys are about, what they’re trying to do and a woman actually signed one of these piece of legislation. It’s wrong it must be stopped. This is a choice under Roe between a woman and her doctor, and it lays out the circumstances. We must protect that right.”
On Tuesday, as he stood across the street from Capitol Hill, Buttigieg struck a more optimistic tone about his ability to bridge the divide over this issue, signaling his willingness to work across the aisle.
“There are a lot of pro-choice Republicans, and even people who maybe view themselves as more conservative, who are pretty shocked by for example, the law passed in Alabama…reasonable Republicans are as shocked by some of these extremist actions as Democrats who have been concerned about protecting choice all along. And it’s one more opportunity to build on the American majority that we have for progressive causes, ranging from women’s reproductive rights to raising wages in this country.”
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.