Everyone knew the latest Democratic debate on Oct. 15 was going to be a wild ride, but leave it to fiery California Senator Kamala Harris to roll in with the first answer that will have you saying, "oh damn!" During a series of questions on health care, Harris jumped in to address the elephant in the room, and Kamala Harris' quote about reproductive rights at the debate is some pure fire. Your streaming cable fees just became worth it, everyone.
"This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle, and not nearly one word, with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to reproductive health care which is under full on attack in America today," she started, appearing to include in her count the split debates early in the cycle in which one debate was split between two nights. "And it’s outrageous."
There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women for having access to reproductive health care. And it is not an exaggeration to say women will die. Poor women, women of color, will die because these Republican legislators in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with our bodies. Women are the majority of the population in this country, people need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make decisions about their own lives. And let’s talk about that. That is a significant health care issue in America today.
Do I have time to take a deep, fortifying breath? I think I need it after that.
In a statement to Elite Daily, Republican National Committee (RNC) Assistant Press Secretary Allie Carroll responded to Harris' comment, saying, "If Democrats get their way on health care, their government takeover would kick close to 200 million people off their preferred health care plan — undoubtedly affecting access to care for women and families across this country, particularly in rural areas." The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on abortion restrictions specifically.
The past year has been, let's just say, not friendly, to reproductive rights and health care in many areas of the country. In late March, Georgia passed a bill which banned abortion after six weeks, a point before many people even know they're pregnant. Gov. Brian Kemp signed it in May. Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, and other states also passed wildly restrictive abortion bills this year, which would severely limit — if not outright block — many pregnant people's access to abortion services.
That's not even mentioning the changes America has seen to other types of reproductive care in recent months. In February, the Trump administration announced changes to family planning grant program Title X, which provided contraception and other family planning services to low-income people. Under the new rules, any organization receiving Title X money was not allowed to refer patients for abortion, which advocates referred to as a "gag rule." (A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told Elite Daily at the time that providers may include “nondirective counseling” on abortion.) The change forced major reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood to leave the Title X program, losing funds to the tune of an estimated $60 million, per The New York Times.
Clearly, it's drawn attention. Harris wasn't alone in bringing up reproductive health care, either. A few minutes later, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker swung in to back her up. During questions on jobs and the economy shortly after moderators moved past health care, Booker pivoted back to the issue. "We have another health care debate, and we’re not talking about the clear and existential threat in America — that we’re in a state that has had two Planned Parenthoods close," Booker pointed out. In early September, the reproductive health care provider shuttered two clinics in Cincinnati, and the clinics ceased services on Sept. 20. Booker used the closures to call for men to speak up on reproductive rights as well. He said,
We are seeing all over this country, women’s reproductive rights under attack. And god bless Kamala, but you know what? Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight. And men, it's not just because women are our daughters, and friends, and our wives, it’s because women are people, and people deserve to control their own bodies.
A lot of people were really, really here for it.
Many people were happy that candidates had finally spoken out about the subject of reproductive health, as previous debates had drawn for criticism for not addressing it. It was apparently something moderators were aware of too, as later in the debate candidates were asked a specific question on abortion and reproductive rights. Asked about how candidates would deal with abortion restrictions at the same level — surprise! Harris had a lot to say, again. "The reality is that this is still a fundamental issue of justice for women in America," she said, adding that it is a person's "right" and "decision" to decide what to do with their bodies.
The debates may be dramatic and occasionally over the top, but let's just say that this is one piece of drama I'm here for.