In the wake of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, the American public has turned its focus to reproductive legislation. During his speech, Trump introduced an allegedly healthy two-year-old child who was born prematurely at 21 weeks. Trump explained that, under current American legislation, this child could have been aborted up until the week of her birth. After drawing attention to the child, Trump then implied that later this year there would be a vote in the Senate to ban late term abortion.
While the tactic of using a child as anti-abortion propaganda is extremely manipulative, Trump — once a pro-choice advocate — has solidified his presidential stance on reproductive rights. This comes just a week after he became the first sitting president to speak at the annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.
Many think the battle for legal abortion was won after the monumental decision of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court case that used trimesters to dictate at what time during a pregnancy the state may impose regulations on a woman’s body. In the first trimester, states are prohibited from regulating abortion. In the second, states can impose regulations on abortion. In the third, states are allowed to regulate or completely prohibit abortion.
However, Roe v. Wade is just a court ruling, not a constitutional right — meaning it only implies that abortion is a legal right, but has never actually been cemented in an amendment. With a conservative Supreme Court, the future of Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion in the United States is unclear.
In this upcoming election, America needs a Democratic candidate who will treat reproductive healthcare as a central issue in their platform. Considering the current administration’s view on the topic, there needs to be a candidate who makes these rights important. Sadly, this topic has only been briefly brought up in debates and town halls. This is possibly because candidates don’t think the issue is important enough to be emphasized. Or, perhaps, candidates are scared to belabor this point purely because of its controversial nature. Many of the frontrunners’ campaigns are unclear on their plan for reproductive healthcare and are vague on their stance on choice.
This includes former Vice President Joe Biden, who once voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade. During his current presidential campaign, Biden’s opinions on choice have rapidly changed, but his plan to protect reproductive rights is only auxiliary to his central platform. Even on the former Vice President’s official campaign website, there are no plans for constitutionally approved abortion in his presidency. The only time he even mentions the procedure is when he addresses access to abortion information in developing countries.
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have also been quiet on the issue of abortion in debates, but each of their websites claim that they vow to protect Roe v. Wade and believe that we have the right to choose. While Buttigieg’s plan has universal medicare covering reproductive healthcare, he does not comment on whether he would fund Planned Parenthood, a national network of health clinics that offers abortion services.
Sanders, on the other hand, promises to fully fund Planned Parenthood and includes reproductive healthcare in his plan for universal medicare. While these men are extremely outspoken on their websites, it would reassure advocates for reproductive rights to hear them openly discuss their plans on the debate floor to prove their promises are not hollow.
As an advocate for reproductive rights herself, Elizabeth Warren echoes her feminist predecessors in saying she hopes to codify Roe v. Wade. While this plan is an important step for reproductive rights, I wish to see Warren’s feminist voice shine stronger through her central platform. Warren should stand up for those who want abortions, showing that a country without legalized abortion will constantly treat us as unequal to our male counterparts.
Even though Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in every state, 43 still preserve the right to refuse a woman an abortion after any specified point in the pregnancy, unless it’s a case of life or death. For example, Arkansas bans abortion except in cases of life or health endangerment at 20 weeks. While abortion is an extremely controversial topic in the United States, this issue ultimately boils down to giving a woman the right to make a choice for herself. American lawmakers need to start trusting us to choose for ourselves, and the American people deserve a President who will not stop until every woman in America feels as if she can make her decision unhindered by lawmakers.
Reproductive rights are human rights, and every human deserves the right to choose the course of their life. Hopefully, a presidential candidate will recognize this issue and step up to be the voice that we all need to hear in the coming year.
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A version of this article appears in the Monday, Feb. 9, 2019, print edition. Email Sam O’Donnell at [email protected]