Fact Checking Senator Sanders on Women’s Rights Claim

Women's Rights

Senator Sanders made an interesting claim during the second night of the Democratic presidential debates, which aired earlier this week.

In a discussion about each candidate’s support for Medicare for All, a healthcare policy proposal that Senator Sanders helped to bring into the mainstream in 2016, Senator Sanders made the claim that women would retain the right to have an abortion under his Medicare for All plan, even if the Supreme Court would later rescind all or major parts of Roe Vs. Wade.

That controversial claim by Senator Sanders was met by a wave of raised eyebrows and skepticism by conservatives and liberals alike. The pundits say that Senator Sanders may be slightly mistaken insofar as states would retain the right to severely restrict the right for women to have abortions. As Senator Sanders proposal is now written, the states would have the final call in determining whether women could pursue an abortion, irrespective of what the Supreme Court wound up deciding. Sanders’s belief that a Medicare for All bill could override the states’ decisions is a fiction.

Senator Sanders responded to a question from debate moderator Rachel Maddow (“What is your plan if Roe v. Wade is struck down while you’re president?”) by first musing on the possibility of stacking the court with progressive judges. From there, Senator Sanders said that, “Medicare for All guarantees every woman in this country the right to have an abortion if she wants it.” It turns out that might not ultimately be the case. The truth is that, if Roe Vs. Wade were redecided by the Supreme Court, the states would be the arbiters of whether to provide abortion services in their states.

Medicare for all, according to insurance experts, simply protects the insurance rather than the procedures themselves. If Roe Vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that essentially decriminzalized abortions nationwide, were rescinded, then a Medicare for All plan would not magically protect the procedure from obsolescence. Remember that Medicare for All simply protects the insurance aspects of healthcare – Medicare for All does not enshrine the right of women to have complete reproductive autonomy for all time.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, astutely noted that Medicare for All could potential defray the cost of abortion, but the issue of whether a women could get one in tomorrow’s America is an entirely different issue.

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