The Corner


Kamala Harris’s Abortion Absolutism

Sen. Kamala Harris gestures during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Abortion policy is just one of several areas in which California senator Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, has sworn to abuse executive power to assert her preferences if Congress won’t legislate as she’d like. Her authoritarian instincts were frightening when she was running for president herself, and they’re hardly any less frightening now that, if she and Biden are elected, she will be just one crisis away from the presidency.

Several of my colleagues have already detailed many of the issues with Harris, but let me add another: She is without question the most radically pro-abortion candidate to run for president or vice president in the history of our country.

As a senator, Harris has cosponsored the most aggressively pro-abortion piece of federal legislation ever introduced, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would override state restrictions on abortions in the last three months of pregnancy, well after fetal viability. The bill would invalidate any state law that prohibits “abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating physician, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant woman’s life or health.”

According to reporting from my colleague John McCormack, the bill’s sponsors have said that it does not distinguish between the mother’s physical and mental health. Read in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Doe v. Bolton defining maternal health as including “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient,” the Women’s Health Protection Act would invalidate any and all state-level protections for unborn children after the point of viability — indeed, up until birth. (Harris, it is worth noting, seems to have little problem with allowing newborns to die of neglect should they survive an abortion procedure; she has twice voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide the same care to infants who survive abortions as they would to any other newborn.)

The legislation would also make it impossible for states to enact or enforce informed-consent laws and waiting-period requirements, which have often been upheld by courts as permissible under our current abortion jurisprudence. So much for federalism.

But just in case that bill doesn’t get through Congress, Harris has another plan that violates not only federalism but the separation of powers, too. During a town hall last spring, she promised that her presidential administration would enact a regime of “preclearance,” blocking state laws that her Department of Justice deems contrary to Roe v. Wade.

“We cannot tolerate a perspective that is about going backward and not understanding women have agency, women have value, women have authority to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies,” Harris said, justifying her proposed program to use her executive authority to override the democratic will and enforce Roe’s anti-constitutional reasoning on the entire country.

When asked in a New York Times candidate survey whether he’d require preclearance for state abortion laws, Biden’s campaign offered no response. He ought to be asked again. It isn’t difficult to imagine that Biden — who has been moving steadily to the left on abortion for quite some time, and drastically so over the course of this campaign — will happily defer to his new running mate on the question.


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