Let's just say these Democrats did not agree on the topic of reproductive rights.

By Laura Bassett
Updated: Jul 01, 2019 @ 3:14 pm
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The Democratic primary debate Wednesday night marked the first time in history that multiple women appeared on stage in a presidential contest — Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Tulsi Gabbard. And on that stage a male candidate took the opportunity to claim credit for leading the fight for women’s reproductive rights. 

Cutting in on Warren’s answer about health insurance companies, Washington Governor Jay Inslee asserted, “It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for their exercise of their right of choice." Okay, strong start. But then...

“I am the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s reproductive rights in health insurance and the only candidate who passed a public option," he continued. "I respect everyone’s goals and plans here, but we have one candidate who advanced the ball.” 

Inslee, who has centered his entire campaign around climate change, probably thought that touting his record on abortion rights would win him big points with female voters. Instead, Klobuchar dunked on him. 

“I just want to say, there are three women up here who fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” she fired back, drawing huge cheers from the crowd. 

Inslee was trying to point out that he was the only candidate on stage who had enacted proactive abortion rights legislation. In 2018, he signed the Reproductive Parity Act, which requires insurance companies that cover maternity care to also cover abortion. 

This is important and relevant to discuss at a time when Roe v. Wade is under threat by a Conservative-leaning supreme court, and Democrats are recognizing the need to play offense on abortion. But having signed a reproductive rights bill in a blue state doesn’t make Inslee a leader on the issue. 

Warren and Klobuchar, in particular, who are in the Senate minority party, have waged a much harder, longer, and more high-profile fight for abortion rights than Inslee, even if they were never in a position to sign a state bill. Both women have called for Roe v. Wade to be codified into law, and Warren has laid out a detailed plan to expand reproductive rights access, promising to repeal the Hyde Amendment banning federal funds for abortions and guaranteeing the private insurance coverage of abortion. 

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Gabbard joined the women in voting to block a Senate bill that would have banned abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and they’ve all three fought to uphold the women’s health protections in the Affordable Care Act. (Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, who take the stage Thursday night, have also laid out detailed, proactive plans on women’s health care, and Cory Booker has been very outspoken about the issue as well.) 

Of course, no one has a problem with Inslee or any male candidate speaking up about reproductive rights — it’s important to know where a candidate stands on that issue. They just have to find a way to do so without minimizing their female peers' records in the process. 

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Klobuchar reflected on that brief, tense moment with Inslee in an interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews after the debate. 

“When he comes out and says, ‘I’m the only one on the stage that’s led on reproductive rights,’ I literally looked at the other women on the stage,” she said. “Uhhhh… [we’ve] done something on this too.” 

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