The Corner


Gillibrand: Repeal the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sen. Michael Bennet during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Miami—Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand told National Review following Thursday’s Democratic debate that she would repeal the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban if elected president. “Yeah,” Gillibrand said when asked if she’d repeal the 2003 law, “the decision-making for reproductive rights should always rest in the hands of women.”

Gillibrand has been targeting Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden for his past compromises on the issue, including his support for banning federal funding of abortion. Biden recently abandoned that long-held position, but he has not commented during the 2020 presidential campaign about whether he still supports the partial-birth abortion ban and other restrictions on late-term abortion. 

Biden was one of 17 Senate Democrats who voted for final passage of the partial-birth abortion ban in 2003 before it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The law, upheld in a 2007 Supreme Court decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, prohibits a particular late-term abortion procedure in which a child’s body is mostly delivered breech before her skull is punctured and crushed.  (Illinois recently repealed its statewide ban on partial-birth abortion as part of its sweeping new law establishing abortion as a “fundamental right” throughout all nine months of pregnancy.)

In 2003, other pro-choice U.S. senators, including Pat Leahy of Vermont and Tom Daschle of South Dakota, joined Biden in voting for the measure. Pro-choice New York Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also supported the ban in the 1990s, calling partial-birth abortion “too close to infanticide.” 

Gillibrand now occupies the seat that Moynihhan once held. She is currently polling at 0.5 percent in the average of national polls and has been running aggressively on the issue of abortion in an attempt to improve her standing in the race. 

In the course of explaining that she would only appoint judges who support a right to abortion, Gillibrand made news last month by comparing pro-life Americans to racists and anti-Semites. But when asked Thursday night if opponents of legal abortion would be excluded from all jobs in a Gillibrand administration, the New York senator told National Review: “It’s not about individuals’ views. It’s about judges and justices.” 

Gillibrand’s comment would seem to suggest she wouldn’t actually treat pro-lifers the same way as racists, whose views alone would be disqualifying in any administration.


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