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How Cory Booker would bolster abortion rights

Cory Booker wants to loosen longstanding restrictions on federal funds so more low-income women would have access to abortion and other family planning programs. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic Candidates Policies

05/22/2019 10:58 AM EDT

Sen. Cory Booker on Wednesday unveiled a plan to create a new White House office focused on ensuring women have access to abortion and to end federal restrictions on funding for the procedure.

Booker’s plan comes as a wave of anti-abortion laws have taken root across conservative states in recent weeks. Republicans have passed near-total bans on abortion in Alabama, Georgia and other states, hoping they provoke a court challenge that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide nearly a half-century ago.

What would the plan do?

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Booker would set up a new White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, a sign that abortion rights and other reproductive health issues would be elevated in his administration. The New Jersey Democrat also aims to loosen longstanding restrictions on federal funds so more low-income women would have access to abortion and other family planning programs. He also wants to make it easier for women to receive free contraception under their health insurance plan.

How would it work?

Booker calls for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which only allows federal funding of abortion if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman.

Through executive action, he also plans to undo a recent Trump administration rule barring providers in the Title X family planning program from providing abortions or referring women to a separate facility that performs the procedure. The rule has been temporarily halted by federal courts amid legal challenges from mostly blue states.

What are the weaknesses in the proposal?

Booker’s plan to repeal the Hyde Amendment ultimately relies on Congress, which has reenacted the restriction in spending bills every year since 1976 — though more Democrats are calling to end the policy. His push to ensure women covered by job-based insurance receive free birth control through the Affordable Care Act lacks details. It also doesn’t explain how the plan would be insulated from lawsuits brought by religiously affiliated groups, who fought the Obama administration’s birth control coverage rules.

What have other Democrats proposed?


Elizabeth Warren


Kirsten Gillibrand

With the exception of the new White House office, Booker’s plan shares some similarities to proposals from other Democratic presidential candidates. However, other candidates have offered more detail. While Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have also called on Congress to codify Roe v. Wade and to repeal the Hyde Amendment, they also say they would prevent states from passing restrictions on abortion access and prohibit abortion restrictions in private insurance.

Who would it help?

Booker’s plan would help women who receive health insurance through their job because they would have greater access to free birth control. Repealing the Hyde Amendment would expand access to abortion for low-income women covered by Medicaid. Roughly two-thirds of adult women in Medicaid are in their reproductive years, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Who opposes it?

Republicans, who’ve sought to end taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood, would oppose Booker’s plan because it would funnel more federal dollars to clinics that provide abortion. Other religious organizations who’ve fought Obamacare’s birth control coverage rules would also oppose an expansion of that policy.

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