Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announced a new proposal aimed at protecting reproductive rights.
States and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade in the last 25 years would need to get clearance from the Department of Justice before any new abortion law or practice could take effect in their jurisdiction, according to details of the plan shared with HuffPost.
“I think it’s very clear that, and it has not changed, that women’s ability to have access to reproductive health is under attack in America. It’s under attack,” Harris said Tuesday during an MSNBC town hall in Spartanburg, South Carolina. “I am going to put in place and require that states that have a history of passing legislation that is designed to ... limit a women’s access to reproductive health care, that those laws have to come before my Department of Justice for a review and approval.”
The plan is modeled on a core provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibited certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination from implementing any change affecting voting without first receiving approval from the U.S. attorney general. The Supreme Court, however, gutted that requirement in 2013.
Harris’ proposal comes shortly after several states, including Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, passed anti-abortion laws. Earlier this month, Alabama’s governor signed a bill into law making it a felony in the state for a doctor to perform an abortion in virtually all cases, including rape and incest. The measure is already facing a legal challenge for violating Roe v. Wade.
The last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri, meanwhile, is set to close in just 72 hours, days after the governor signed a strict anti-abortion measure into law.
“Let’s understand what this means: Are we going to go back to the days of back alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place,” Harris said Tuesday. “So I’m going to tell you, on this issue I’m kind of done.”
Harris’ plan is meant to crack down on such restrictions, and it builds on a similar measure she co-sponsored in Congress: the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which was originally introduced in 2015, would create federal protections against state restrictions on abortion.
But Harris goes one step further, putting the onus on states to demonstrate that laws touching on abortion are in fact constitutional under Roe.
“That’s just fundamental fairness to the women in those states. I think it’s a really novel idea and I applaud her for it,” Laurie Rubiner, the former vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood, told HuffPost in an interview.
Still, her plan would require Congress passing it into law ― no easy task these days, especially when it comes to legislation pertaining to reproductive rights.
Harris has offered several new proposals in recent weeks, including ones meant to address the wage gap and increase teacher pay. She has structured her campaign around the themes of truth and justice, leaning heavily into her experience as attorney general of California as she seeks the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
This article has been updated with comments by Sen. Kamala Harris at a town hall event Tuesday night.