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Elizabeth Warren Just Dropped a Plan for Fighting the Alabama Abortion Ban

She pretty much wants to make Roe v. Wade federal law.

by Carter Sherman
May 17 2019, 12:01pm

Days after Alabama passed a law to ban almost all abortions in the state, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a blueprint for fighting back.

In a Medium post published Friday morning, the 2020 presidential contender declared that she wants to pass federal laws that would block states from interfering with providers’ ability to offer abortion services and patients’ access those services. She also wants to ensure that federal programs like Medicaid and private insurance are required to cover abortion.

“This is a dark moment,” wrote Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. “People are scared and angry. And they are right to be. But this isn’t a moment to back down — it’s time to fight back.”

Alabama’s law, which is not yet in effect, outlaws all abortion, save for when a pregnancy poses a “serious health risk” to the mother. There would be no exceptions for rape and incest, and doctors who perform abortions could face 99 years in prison.

It’s not the only near-total abortion ban to pass through state legislatures in recent days. Last week, Georgia passed a law to outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant; it’s the fourth state to pass such a ban this year.

Still, Planned Parenthood has dubbed the Alabama law the most extreme abortion restriction to pass since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure nationwide in 1973. And Warren isn’t alone speaking out — candidates for the 2020 Democratic primary have not held back in their attacks on the law.

“Women are half of this country, and they deserve a hell of a lot better than this,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted and urged people to donate to local abortion funds.

"This is a dark moment."

In her own Medium post on Thursday, Gillibrand also pledged to codify Roe into law and end the Hyde Amendment — a decades-old rule which prohibits the use of federal money for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. She also wants expand private insurance access to abortion and funding for reproductive health care centers nationwide.

On Wednesday, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called the ban “part of a coordinated, all-out effort to erode women’s reproductive rights and freedom nationwide” and urged men to stand up against it. California Sen. Kamala Harris compared it to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and sent out a fundraising email asking supporters to donate to abortion rights groups. (It worked.) Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called the Alabama law an “utter disgrace,” while former Vice President Joe Biden denounced it as unconstitutional.

In her post, Warren explained that she wants to protect Roe by creating federal statutes that, like Roe, would assert people’s constitutional right to abortion. These statutes would override state law and protect access to abortion, even if Roe were one day overturned by the Supreme Court’s now-conservative majority.

Warren also wants to pass federal laws that would prohibit states from enacting what abortion rights activists call “Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers,” or “TRAP” laws. These laws often require abortion providers to be able to admit patients at nearby hospitals or demand that clinics meet onerous licensing standards. And when clinics can’t meet those standards, they’re forced to close.

“These kinds of restrictions are medically unnecessary and exist for only one purpose: to functionally eliminate the ability of women to access abortion services,” Warren wrote.

So far this year, 46 states have introduced 296 abortion restrictions, according to a Planned Parenthood tally. (Though the Guttmacher Institute, which also tracks abortion access, believes there’s more than 350.)

Additionally, Warren is calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment. Every year, Congress must renew Hyde as a rider in the federal budget, but calls for that tradition to end have grown louder in recent years. In 2016, for the first time, the Democratic Party added getting rid of the Hyde Amendment to its party platform.

The federal government could help cover abortions for as many as 14.5 million women of reproductive age if Hyde were to be lifted, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It would broaden abortion access for low-income women and women of color immensely. Low-income women have historically made up the bulk of abortion patients, while women of color are more likely than white women to be insured by Medicaid and have abortions at higher rates.

If she’s elected, Warren also wrote that she plans to end a Trump administration plan to strip funding from health care providers in Title X, a federal family planning program. Under rules proposed earlier this year by the Trump administration, providers who refer patients for abortions would no longer be eligible for funding, and they must maintain “a clear physical and financial separation” between abortions and other services.

“We must crack down on violence at abortion clinics and ensure that women are not discriminated against at work or anywhere else for the choices they made about their bodies,” Warren wrote.

Warren also hinted at her approach to nominating Supreme Court justices. “The next President can begin to undo some of the damage by appointing neutral and fair judges who actually respect the law and cases like Roe,” she wrote.

Warren’s stance subtly but clearly distinguishes her from Gillibrand, who has explicitly pledged to nominate only judges who will uphold Roe.

Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a campaign stop, Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)