#AskAboutAbortion: Reproductive Rights Discussed for First Time in Democratic Debate

For the first time in this election cycle, the issue of reproductive health care and rights was brought to the forefront of the Democratic debate on Oct. 15. Senator Kamala Harris, who is currently polling nationally at four percent, brought attention to the topic, saying, “This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word, with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to reproductive health care, which is under full-on attack in America today. And it’s outrageous.”

Harris’ statements, which went on to describe the restrictive laws that have been passed concerning abortion and the harmful effects they hold for women, garnered applause from the audience and a positive response on social media. President of NARAL Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue tweeted the following during the debate:

Courtesy: Twitter

Harris was referring to the bills passed in Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, and Mississippi this past year that prohibit women from having an abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy.  Most women do not even know they are pregnant before this time period ends. These laws are considered the most restrictive laws concerning women’s reproductive health since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Fellow candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, pictured below, also spoke on the subject, stating that, “Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight. It’s not just because women are our daughters and our friends and our wives. It’s because women are people.” Booker is currently polling nationally at two percent, and much of his campaign is focused on equality.

Courtesy: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Reproductive rights and abortion have long been a point of contingency in presidential elections. But although it is a highly decisive issue for many voters in elections, it has largely been ignored as a major part of candidates’ policy. Despite its importance to the majority of Democratic voters, moderators failed to ask candidates abortion-related questions in the previous 2020 debates, up until now.

The frustration of abortion-rights activists prompted them to bring back the #AskAboutAbortion campaign that first came along during the 2016 election. By bringing up the issue during the debate, Harris and Booker both recognized how potentially dangerous restrictions on reproductive rights could be for women’s health as well as the major stake it has in the election.

The topic appeared again later in the debate when CNN moderator Erin Burnett asked Harris what she would do if states succeeded in restricting abortion further. Harris responded that the Department of Justice would review those laws and determine if they were in line with Roe v. Wade, and if not, they would not go into effect. Harris also stressed the importance of women having the right to make their own choices about their bodies, saying, “Women have been given the responsibility to perpetuate the human species. Our bodies were created to do that, and it does not give any other person the right to tell a woman what to do with that body. It is her body. It is her right. It is her decision.”

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