Abortion remains in the spotlight as a central issue for the 2020 presidential election, and the crowded Democratic field has repeatedly faced questioning on it.
And the positions that the Democratic candidates are espousing on the campaign trail appear out of step both with the views of the majority of Americans and with their party’s historical stances.
While the media has focused on the increasing number of state pro-life laws attempting to restrict abortions to before a fetal heartbeat is detected, none of the 24 Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have come out in favor of any abortion restriction, and, when asked about late-term abortion, the candidates have voiced support for its legality even through the third trimester.
South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg recently told Fox News that he trusted “women to draw the line” when he was asked about restrictions for late-term abortion. Similarly, fellow Democratic presidential hopeful and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is Catholic, has told reporters that third-trimester abortions should be “a decision that the woman makes.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also recently said on NBC that any limit on abortion should be between “a woman and her physician.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris echoed the mantra that “it’s up to a woman to make that decision” when asked if there was ever a point at which abortion would be considered immoral. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York all similarly stated that any choice on abortion should be left up to the woman when they were asked about late-term abortion. Gillibrand is also Catholic.
That position is at odds with the views of the large majority of American voters who believe in restrictions on abortion past the first trimester. Marist polling from January, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found that 75% of Americans and even 61% of those identifying as “pro-choice” would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy. Gallup polling has also found that while 60% of Americans support abortion in the first trimester, that number drops to just 28% in the second trimester and to 13% by the third trimester.
It is also noteworthy that all six of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in the Senate voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in February. That measure would have ensured legal protections for infants born alive after a failed abortion attempt, including a requirement of basic medical care and criminal penalties for doctors that failed to comply.
Abortions Using Taxpayer Funds
In addition to the 2020 Democratic candidates’ refusal to agree to any legal restrictions on abortion, they are also backing the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion through the repeal of the long-standing Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer-funded abortion.
Sanders has included and proudly promoted taxpayer-funded abortion in his “Medicare for All” plan. The proposal would even force health care professionals to perform abortions, with no exceptions for any moral or religious objections, something House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., recently pointed out.
Former Vice President Joe Biden recently flipped on this issue, telling an American Civil Liberties Union activist that the Hyde Amendment “can’t stay,” after previously declining to provide his position on taxpayer-funded abortion.
Warren, Klobuchar, Gillibrand and Harris are all co-sponsors of the “EACH Woman Act” that would repeal the Hyde Amendment without addressing any moral objections taxpayers might have to funding abortion. U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell of California, Tim Ryan of Ohio, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and former Rep. O’Rourke are all presidential hopefuls who were co-sponsors in the House of a similar measure to repeal Hyde.
That position is also out of step with the majority of Americans, as January polling from Marist found that 54% of Americans oppose any taxpayer funding of abortion.
The push for taxpayer-funded abortion is also fairly new to the Democratic Party, as the party changed its platform in 2016 to include a call to repeal the amendment. Before that, the ban on taxpayer-funded abortion was widely regarded as bipartisan. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., flipped on the issue in 2016 when he became Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
Judicial Litmus Test
Some of the 2020 Democrats not only back late-term and taxpayer-funded abortion, but also have insisted that any judicial nominee be required to agree to uphold the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion.
Gillibrand announced this month that as president she would “only nominate judges — including Supreme Court justices — who will commit to upholding Roe v. Wade as settled law and protect women’s reproductive rights.” She acknowledged that “traditionally, presidents and presidential candidates haven’t drawn lines in the sand on judicial appointments” but argued that her move was warranted by President Donald Trump’s appointment of judges whom she regards as “extreme.”
Ryan, who was formerly a pro-life Democrat but changed his stance in 2015, told NBC that he would “definitely” have an abortion litmus test for judicial nominees. Sanders also told NBC recently that he would not appoint a Supreme Court justice who would not uphold Roe v. Wade.
Joe Biden argued this week that legislation should be pursued by Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. Other presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Gillibrand and Warren, have released policy plans also arguing that Roe v. Wade should be codified.
Many of the 2020 Democrats appeared Tuesday at “Stop the Bans” rallies organized by Planned Parenthood and the abortion advocacy group NARAL to protest the pro-life legislation introduced recently in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and elsewhere.
Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told the Register that the 2020 Democratic field would benefit from a presidential contender who held views that were in line with the beliefs of a significant number of those in their party.
“We need a pro-life Democrat to step up to challenge the current candidates on embracing the abortion extremism currently being pushed by the abortion lobby,” she commented. “With one-third of Democrats opposing abortion, it would be smart of one of the candidates to offer a branch to that wing of the party; Joe Biden could have been that moderate voice to promote an actual party of diversity and inclusion. Instead, he flipped on his long-standing position of supporting the Hyde Amendment.”
Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.