Twelve candidates were onstage last night, and of the eight who were asked a direct question about abortion, six avoided using the word, preferring euphemisms such as “reproductive rights” or “a woman’s right to choose.”
The question went down the line: As president, how would you, Kamala Harris, stop recent state laws that have banned abortion after six or eight weeks of pregnancy? How would you do it, Amy Klobuchar? Cory Booker?
Their answers were largely the same: They will pass laws that protect the right to abortion, above and beyond the principles the Supreme Court laid out in Roe v. Wade. They will intervene in southern states. They will push back against President Donald Trump’s anti-abortion policies. They will, in other words, act as steadfast defenders of abortion rights. They just can’t, or won’t, use the word abortion.
Only two people, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, said the word outright. While these Democrats have been willing to go further in embracing abortion rights than virtually any past presidential candidates, they also went to extreme lengths to talk around the actual issue: when and under what circumstances a woman should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy in the United States. Perhaps these progressive candidates are aware of how morally mixed Americans are on abortion, especially in crucial swing states such as Ohio that they’ll be looking to win in 2020.