Presidential hopeful and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told BuzzFeed News Wednesday that if he becomes president, he wants Congress to pass a law that would make abortion legal nationwide, no matter what the Supreme Court decides.
Booker’s comments come amid an uproar from Democrats and abortion rights supporters over hyper-restrictive abortion laws being passed on the state level in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“The injustices we're seeing in Alabama right now with this legislation,” Booker told BuzzFeed News, “it's important that all of us understand that this is a threat to women's freedoms and women's rights all over our country, not just there.”
Alabama passed a highly controversial bill Tuesday night, banning nearly all abortions in the state with no exceptions for pregnancy in the cases of rape or incest. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law Wednesday evening, though it’s not slated to take effect for six months. This law — like the others passed in Ohio and Georgia in the past few months that ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — is unlikely to take effect, because abortion rights groups will sue the state and block it. This is in fact the intention of anti–abortion rights advocates pushing these bills; the states will appeal the court’s decision until it reaches the Supreme Court, which they see as the most likely court to overturn Roe v. Wade in decades.
Many of the 20 Democrats who have announced their bid for president have been vocal about supporting abortion and contraception rights, and have come out against state and federal attempts to weaken or dismantle Roe v. Wade. But one of Booker’s opponents in the Democratic presidential primaries, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, went further than others, taking a written pledge in early May saying that if she is elected president, she will only appoint Supreme Court justices who vow to uphold Roe v. Wade.
Booker told BuzzFeed News Wednesday (while in a car driving in Gillibrand’s state) that he “absolutely” also takes that pledge, but wants to take it further by vowing as president to sign legislation passed by Congress that would codify Roe v. Wade, making it national law, even if the Supreme Court has already overturned it.
“Right now I am calling for it, even though obviously with Mitch McConnell and a [majority Republican] Senate, we would not see a vote” if it were introduced in Congress today, he said, adding that this is one of the reasons why motivating Democratic voters to help the party win back the Senate and win the presidency is so essential. “We need to pass it through the House and Senate, and I look forward to signing that law when I become president."
Though he wouldn’t stop there, Booker told BuzzFeed News. He said that as president he would take a litany of actions to expand reproductive health care, including ending the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law that prevents federal funding from paying directly for abortions that had largely bipartisan support before the past few years. He said he would also overturn rules implemented by President Donald Trump that allow organizations to opt out of providing their employees with insurance coverage for contraception and would “expand Medicaid and Medicare to find a way to help low-income women not only have access to reproductive care but have access to prenatal care and postpartum care.”
One in four women in the US will have an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. When asked if he knew someone personally in his life who had an abortion, Booker said yes, but wouldn’t elaborate more, telling BuzzFeed News that having an abortion is “a very personal decision made by women and it should be between women and their doctors and their loved ones.”