Two political facts emerged in the wake of the batch of stringent abortion bans passed by states such as Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and Ohio. First, this is going to be a big issue for Democrats — because it is potentially a big issue with millions of women, whose votes Democrats will need to eject President Trump from the White House. Second, non-candidate Stacey Abrams may keep herself in the news and in possible contention by highlighting the issue.
On Saturday, Abrams came out with this message featuring four female presidential candidates:
Abrams’s prominent role as a non-presidential candidate makes a certain amount of sense. Without endorsing anyone, she can in effect coordinate joint messages from the female presidential candidates. Moreover, given that Georgia is one of the most economically and politically prominent states to pass a ban, the former gubernatorial candidate, who would surely have vetoed the bill had she won, would an appropriate figure to lead the charge to block the bans.
Wherever she goes, Abrams is peppered with questions about whether she will run for president. Right now she has all the benefits and none of the downsides of staying out of the race. She can make news and retain a platform focused on voting rights and other issues of concern to the Democratic progressive base, but without the expense, scrutiny and attacks that actual candidates must endure.
Could she still get into the race, as she insists, in the fall? Perhaps. Much depends on whether former vice president Joe Biden continues to soar above the crowd. If so, she may bide her time, retaining the prime position for a VP nod. If, however, Biden stumbles, the race may in effect start anew. Rather than select from a slew of candidates in single digits who’ve been running for months, voters might just welcome a fresh face. And here is an issue tailor-made for her to champion.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) remains the policy champ. Before other candidates moved beyond condemning the bans, she rushed forward with a multipronged plan.
First, she’d pass a federal law to preempt antiabortion state laws. (“Under the Supremacy Clause of our Constitution, federal law preempts state law. For this reason, the establishment of these federal statutory rights would invalidate contradictory state laws, such as the Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio bans. They would also end the political games being played by right-wing courts to try and narrow Roe’s protections.”)
Second, she’d pass a federal law to end the persnickety regulations that bit by bit impose costs and eventually force closure of abortion clinics. (“States have passed countless Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which are designed to functionally limit and eliminate women’s access to abortioncare while not technically contravening Roe. Geographical, physical, and procedural restrictions and requirements. … A bill already proposed in Congress, The Women’s Health Protection Act, would provide the mechanism to block these kinds of schemes concocted to deny women access to care. Congress should pass it.”)
Third, she’d do away with Hyde Amendment that limits abortions to cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life for women covered by federally programs such as Medicaid, the VA, and the Indian Health Service.
Finally, she pledges to “undo the current Administration’s efforts to undermine women’s access to reproductive health care — including ending Trump’s gag rule and fully support Title X family planning funding.” She adds, “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.”
Whether by grass-roots fundraising or through intricate policy solutions, the top female presidential candidates’ work in unison on this issue is noteworthy and unprecedented. It’s hard to imagine all the male candidates would band together on a specific issue. While the women remain competitors, perhaps in working in tandem they can equalize the media coverage for female candidates, elevate issues on which they can speak authoritatively and thereby present themselves as every bit as electable as the male contenders.