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Campaign Week in Review: Pete Buttigieg Opposes the Anti-Choice Helms Amendment

Ally Boguhn

This week, Pete Buttigieg's campaign said he backs ending the anti-choice Helms Amendment, and Sen. Kamala Harris spoke about her plan to safeguard abortion rights.

Join Rewire.News for a weekly look at how reproductive health, rights, and justice issues are popping up on the 2020 campaign trail.

Pete Buttigieg Supports Ending the Helms Amendment

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020, supports ending the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funding for abortion care.

A spokesperson for the Buttigieg campaign confirmed the candidate’s stance on the issue in an email to Rewire.News, noting he had recently included the promise in his plan to build power for women. “A Buttigieg administration will not only restore and increase investments in global health, but also end all policies meant to restrict access to family planning and abortion services abroad,” the plan states. That includes the global “gag rule,” also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” as well as the Helms and Siljander Amendments.

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The Helms Amendment, passed by Congress as part of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973, states, “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” 

The campaigns of ten candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination confirmed their candidates’ opposition to Helms to Rewire.News in August. Many of those candidates remain in the race, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Cory Booker (NJ), former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang.

The presidential campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)—two other leading candidates who did not initially weigh in on the Helms Amendment—did not return requests for comment from Rewire.News about where they now stand on the issue.

Kamala Harris Is Prepared to Go ‘On the Offensive’ for Abortion Rights

It was Harris’ turn to speak with Cosmopolitan’s “Candidates Come to Cosmo” series this week, and she came prepared to talk about her plan to safeguard abortion rights. Jessica Pels, the publication’s editor in chief, asked Harris about what she would say to women from states with restrictive abortion laws who couldn’t afford to travel for an abortion given the senator’s  “deep respect for the law.” 

“So one of the reasons I’m running for president is because I have a long-standing commitment to fighting for women’s rights,” Harris replied. “And this is a constitutional issue, as outlined by Roe v. Wade.”

Harris pointed to her plan, modeled on the Voting Rights Act, to require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for states where legislators want to pass laws restricting reproductive rights. “[A]ny state that passes a law that restricts a woman’s constitutional right to make decisions about her own body, that law is going to have to be reviewed by my Department of Justice to determine, does it comply with the constitution in Roe v. Wade? And if it does not, it will not go into effect,” she said. 

While Harris told Cosmo that policy would be “tak[ing] it on the offensive,” she also said she would combat reproductive rights restrictions “on the defense” by supporting “nonprofit organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL and others who are doing the work on the ground to support these women and their families. We’re going to support the nonprofit legal organizations that are challenging these laws, these unconstitutional laws, in court.”

What Else We’re Reading

“Elizabeth Warren hits back at Biden ‘angry’ criticism: ‘I am angry and I own it,'” the Guardian reported.

Ray Levy-Uyeda wrote about what Julián Castro’s people-focused campaign brings to the 2020 presidential race.

Speaking of Castro, the former Obama administration official is the latest candidate to release a disability rights platform.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) got a populist challenger in his re-election run in Kentucky, Ryan Grim reported for the Intercept.

Also in Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin finally conceded to Democrat Andy Beshear. Bevin during his time as governor sought tirelessly to end abortion access in his state.

Mother Jones asked: “Is There Still Room for an Anti-Abortion Hardliner in the Democratic Party?”

What’s wrong with the Iowa caucuses? “As leading Democrats fight for ballot access, voting rights and diverse representation, their marquee presidential contest is hard to participate in and takes place in a state that is 90 percent white,” the New York Times reported.

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