Kamala Harris proposes federal restrictions on state abortion laws
May 30, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the two dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls, announced Tuesday a plan that would bar some states from changing their abortion laws without federal approval.
“As President, I will stop dangerous state laws restricting reproductive rights before they go into effect,” Harris, California's junior Senator, wrote May 28 on Twitter.
Harris announced her proposal during a town-hall on MSNBC.
Her plan would require that states and municipalities that have restricted abortion rights in the past to get permission from the Department of Justice before any new laws regarding abortion can take effect.
Under Harris' proposal, the Justice Department would have to determine that a law complies with the standards of Roe v. Wade and the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill she is co-sponsoring which would bar any government from imposing a wide variety of limitations on abortion, and which is stalled.
The senator's plan would require 60 votes in the Senate.
It is modeled on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which disallowed nine states and many counties and municipalities from modifying their electoral laws without federal sanction. Major parts of the law, which mainly affected southern states, were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2013.
Her proposal is in response to legislation in states such as Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia. Earlier this month Alabama adopted the Human Life Protection Act, making the the attempt or performance of an abortion a felony.
On MSNBC Harris, who was California's attorney general from 2011 to 2017, said, “I got a real problem with that.”
“We cannot tolerate a perspective that is about going backward and not understanding … women have authority to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies,” she stated.
Harris' proposal was welcomed by NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Along with Sen. Mazie Hirono, Harris raised concerns in December about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian Buescher, who has been nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.
Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” which is “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and against “marriage equality.” In the light of his Catholic faith and membership of the Knights, both senators questioned Buescher’s ability to apply the law fairly and objectively as judge.
Democratic presidential candidates are vying to codify protections for abortion amid the wave of pro-life laws being passed across the US.
Joe Biden's campaign said May 21 he would support federal laws protecting abortion rights “should it become necessary,” and he called recent state pro-life laws “pernicious” and “wrong.”
And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said May 29 she disputes Church teaching on the priesthood, sexuality, and abortion: “I think [the Church] is wrong on those three issues. And I don’t think they’re supported by the Gospel or the Bible in any way. I just – I don’t see it, and I go to two Bible studies a week. I take my faith really seriously.”
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