Beto O’Rourke introduced a plan Tuesday to protect women’s reproductive rights and expand access to reproductive health care during a CNN town hall in Iowa.
The former Texas congressman’s plan includes increased Title X funding for women’s health care with no restrictions on federal funds for abortions, taking executive action to reverse proposed Trump administration abortion restrictions and appointing an attorney general and nominating judges who would protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“Recently, several states have introduced and passed bills that legally prohibit those with uteruses from exercising their reproductive rights,” Drake University student Olivia Welter asked O’Rourke at the town hall. “What specific actions will you take to allow us to gain back our right to our own bodies?” Her question was met by loud, sustained applause from the audience.
“For so long, women have been leading this fight, shouldering the burden of making sure that their reproductive rights are protected. It’s time that all of us join them in this fight,” O’Rourke responded.
“As President, I will make sure that every nominee to every federal bench, including the Supreme Court, understands and believes that the 1973 decision, Roe versus Wade, is the settled law of the land,” O’Rourke added.
More than 50 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America, participated in nationwide protests on Tuesday aimed at stopping a recent wave of anti-abortion laws. Several Democratic presidential candidates joined the protests and tweeted in solidarity. The protests come less than a week after Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a controversial bill that could punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison.
O’Rourke said he would reverse the Trump administration’s abortion clinic referral restriction – blocked by a federal judge last month – which prohibits taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from talking about abortion with patients or referring them to abortion providers. Critics argue that the “gag rule” would affect low-income people, communities of color, those who are uninsured and rural residents the most.
“We’ll do away with the Hyde Amendment – so that ensures regardless of your income or your ZIP code you’re able to access a safe, legal abortion, and also the other services that are provided in family planning clinics, a cervical cancer screening, family planning help,” O’Rourke said.
He said he would work with Congress “to make sure that by statute we prevent states from taking away the right that every woman should enjoy, making her own decisions about her own body and having access to the health care that makes that possible.”
O’Rourke’s campaign sent out a news release detailing his plan moments after his announcement at the town hall.
“America is facing a nationwide assault on women’s reproductive freedom – from Alabama’s near-total abortion ban recently signed into law to the dozens of states that have passed medically-unnecessary (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws designed to make it harder for women to access abortion and reproductive health care services,” the release reads.
O’Rourke would “protect the full spectrum of reproductive health care through insurance coverage” and create “a universal health care system that includes coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including access to contraception and abortion,” the release added.