In October, RH Reality Check developed a questionnaire for the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, designed to help our readers distinguish between the various contenders' positions on sexual and reproductive health and rights — beyond the sole issue of abortion. Our questions were designed to get under the surface of the candidates' rhetoric on reproductive rights and clarify how far each one was willing to go to support concrete policy changes to back up his or her stated beliefs. The campaigns of Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Gov. Bill Richardson did not respond, but, in mining through their public statements, we found out the following about their positions on sexual and reproductive health issues.
Sen. Joe Biden supports Roe v. Wade, but personally believes that life begins at conception, and voted for the Federal Abortion Ban of 2003. He voted against a law that would have made it illegal to transport a minor across state lines to obtain a safe and legal abortion, and he favors judicial bypass options in states where minors must obtain parental consent to get a safe abortion. He does not believe Medicaid should pay for abortions for low-income women, stating that this "imposes a view" because it is an "affirmative action to promote" abortion rather than a "guaranteed right." He strongly supported the Family Medical and Leave Act, and advocated for a provision that would have allowed people to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new baby or sick family member. If elected president, he has pledged to expand access to Head Start and Early Head Start and to ensure that all children have access to two years of free pre-kindergarten. He also strongly supports family planning, was a co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, and has been a leader in crafting legislation to address violence against women: he authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s. You can watch a video of Sen. Biden talking about how to address HIV/AIDS in the African-American community here.
A historic supporter of women's reproductive rights both domestically and internationally, Sen. Hillary Clinton has recently focused on seeking common ground over the divisive issue of abortion by emphasizing the need for unintended pregnancy prevention as part of an effort to keep abortion "safe, legal, and rare." To this end, she was a co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, and has given several speeches embracing a renewed focus on contraceptive access, comprehensive sexuality education, and support for working mothers. Sen. Clinton also strongly supported the Family and Medical Leave Act, supports universal access to pre-kindergarten, and co-sponsored an amendment in the Senate to repeal the Global Gag Rule (though the amendment was later dropped by the Dems when faced with the prospect of a presidential veto), and along with Sen. Patty Murray, undertook a campaign to pressure the FDA to make a decision about whether or not to make emergency contraception over-the-counter. She opposed the Supreme Court's 2007 decision to uphold the 2003 Federal Abortion Ban because it did not include an exception for women's health.
Sen. Mike Gravel "supports a woman's right to decide if and when to have children and to make the difficult decision about abortion without interference by government," and opposed the 2007 Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2003 Federal Abortion Ban. He is pro-gay marriage, supports equal adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples, and supports free pre-kindergarten. More information on Sen. Gravel's record here.
Although he was originally opposed to abortion, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's views shifted in 2002. Since then, he has stated, "I want to work to make abortions less necessary, which means sex education and birth control. I want to work to make sure that, when life is brought forward, we have prenatal care and postnatal care and childcare and universal health care and a living wage." Consistent with this view, his 2006 congressional campaign website explained, "A woman's right-to-choose must be protected as essential to personal privacy and gender equality. Only those who agree to uphold Roe v. Wade should be nominated for the Supreme Court. I have a plan to reduce abortions by encouraging family planning, including abstinence training, combined with a full economic and health care plan that would clearly alleviate the number of abortions. Voters have a choice for a real plan to reduce the number of abortions with a program of economic justice." Rep. Kucinich is the only presidential candidate who is a current co-sponsor of the REAL Act (which supports comprehensive sexuality education), and he recently voted for an amendment that repealed a ban on internationally donated contraceptives. Rep. Kucinich also supports full equal rights for gay and lesbian couples (including the right to adopt). Detailed briefings on his support for LGBTQ rights; domestic violence prevention; universal, single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare; and the urgency of addressing the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, can be found in his online issues library.
Gov. Bill Richardson's website describes him as "the only candidate that has pledged to support only Supreme Court Justices that will uphold Roe v. Wade." He voted for the Family and Medical Leave Act, and supports full funding for Head Start and the establishment of a federal pre-kindergarten program. He supports routine provision of emergency contraception to sexual assault survivors, and has promised to restore full funding to the U.S. Office of Women's Health. He supports comprehensive sexuality education and contraceptive equity in healthcare. If elected president, he has also pledged to ratify CEDAW, overturn the Global Gag Rule, and reinstate funding for UNFPA. Read his full Women's Policy Agenda here.
Want More? We've Got It!
Check out Sen. John Edwards's completed questionnaire.
Check out Sen. Barack Obama's completed questionnaire.
Read the statement from Sen. Chris Dodd's campaign.
And the Republicans? Concrete information on the Republican candidates' positions and commitments on reproductive health and rights is harder to come by, since their websites generally only include information about the issue of abortion. But here's what we were able to come up with.