Why I went to the frontlines of the assault on abortion rights—and what I’ll do about it

Georgia and Alabama’s new abortion bans represent the greatest threat to reproductive freedom in our lifetimes

Kirsten Gillibrand
Published in
6 min readMay 16, 2019


Right now, entirely too much of the conversation about what women can do with our own bodies is being driven by a group of right-wing male politicians. It’s time for that conversation to be led by the actual experts: women and doctors.

As a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, I know that I have a platform to raise issues to the national level — and I intend to use it to lift up voices and issues that are too often ignored. And I intend to lead that fight. So today, in the wake of Georgia and Alabama enacting some of the most extreme abortion bans we’ve seen since Roe v. Wade, I went to Atlanta to hear from people who are most directly affected by these horrifying attacks on women’s human rights.

The fight happening in Georgia, Alabama, and states across the country represents the greatest threat to reproductive freedom we have faced in our lifetimes.

Enough is enough. The decision about if and when to start a family should be made by a woman and her doctor — not Republican legislators, not Governors Kemp or Ivey, and certainly not Donald Trump.

That is why we must come together to declare, loud and clear, that reproductive rights are human rights. They are civil rights. And they are nonnegotiable.

What’s at stake

Georgia and Alabama are not alone in this fight — not by a long shot. Republican lawmakers across the country, emboldened by President Trump and his two Supreme Court appointments, have escalated their efforts to end safe and legal abortion as we know it.

Already this year, Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky have all passed six-week abortion bans, with similar bills introduced in 10 other states. Missouri is not far behind. These are just some of the over 250 bills filed across the majority of state legislatures to restrict abortion access — just this year. And 90% of U.S. counties currently lack an abortion provider.

We need to call this what it is: An all-out assault on women’s constitutional rights, by ideological extremists who have no right to make these decisions.

These attacks disproportionately affect the most marginalized among us: low-income families, people of color, young people, our LGBTQ community, and people in rural areas with already limited access to health care.

And they have one end goal: Overturning Roe v. Wade, and turning back the clock on women’s civil rights in this country.

As a candidate, Donald Trump said he would punish women for accessing abortion, and as president, he’s made good on that promise by stacking the Supreme Court with anti-choice extremists Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

In Alabama, the lieutenant governor said the quiet part out loud: He fully admitted that the abortion ban is intended to challenge Roe in the Supreme Court.

It’s not a coincidence that just this past week, the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year precedent in another case. Justice Breyer warned that, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”

This is a battle being waged on all fronts, and that’s where we have to fight it: in the courts, in the states, in Congress, and in the White House.

How we fight back

There are two key ways we need to fight back: at the ballot box, and by standing up for an unequivocally pro-reproductive rights agenda.

State elections matter. The people who represent us in our state houses are making important decisions that affect our lives just as much as Congress — and we need to vote so that decisions aren’t being made about us, without us.

But let’s be very clear: In order to make sure all of our voices are heard, we have to fight attempts to suppress the votes of people of color and young people. We can’t defend the rest of our civil rights if we don’t protect our right to vote. Case in point: If we had not seen the level of voter suppression we did in Georgia last year, Stacey Abrams would be governor and this abortion ban would never have been signed into law. We must fully restore the Voting Rights Act, fight to end partisan gerrymandering and voter roll purging, and create fair districts so that state laws reflect the will of the people, not just a few extreme politicians in a rigged system.

And we need to step up our fight to protect women’s civil rights. We need to treat this crisis like the existential threat it is to the basic humanity and equality of women.

As president, I will both defend reproductive rights from political attacks and make guaranteeing and expanding those rights a priority.

Last week, I announced that if elected, I will only nominate judges — including Supreme Court justices — who will commit to upholding Roe v. Wade as settled law and protecting women’s reproductive rights. I also became the first presidential candidate to release a robust reproductive rights agenda, which includes proactive measures to protect access to not only abortion, but also birth control, sex education, and other basic health care.

Now I’m going a significant step further — because as Republicans continue to attack our rights, it’s no longer enough to play defense. I’m sick and tired of more and more women across the country losing access to basic health care.

So today I’m laying out a plan to truly go on offense to guarantee women’s civil rights. Here are the steps I’d take as president to ensure that everyone in America has access to safe, legal abortion:

  1. I will codify Roe vs. Wade into law to make it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that women in this country have a guaranteed right to abortion.
  2. I will end the Hyde Amendment, which disproportionately blocks low-income women and women of color from getting an abortion, and has effectively kept safe and legal abortion out of reach for millions of women for decades.
  3. In the most sweeping step I’d take as president, I will guarantee access to reproductive healthcare — including abortion — no matter what state you live in. I would ensure that no state can prevent private insurance from covering abortion as reproductive health care. I would create a funding stream to ensure reproductive health center access in every state and every region of the country. And I would ensure that no state can pass laws that chip away at access to reproductive care or criminalize reproductive healthcare providers. Federal law would supersede those harmful state restrictions.

I believe access to abortion is a constitutionally protected right, and I’m not afraid to follow through and guarantee it with the power of the federal government. With the threat level this high in so many states, I don’t think women can afford anything less.

This is about the fundamental question of whether we value women and see them as human beings equal to anyone else — and any Democrat who expects to win the presidency must answer definitively.

And while we raise this fight all the way up to the presidential level, we must continue to support the local organizations on the frontlines of this fight. They are putting everything on the line to provide this deeply necessary health care to people who need it — women of color, low-income women, young people and LGBTQ people in particular. You can support three of those organizations protecting abortion access in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi here.

I know that this struggle can be exhausting, heartbreaking, and terrifying. It feels like we’ve been waging the same battle for our rights for years — because we have been. But we cannot give up. We stand on the shoulders of women and allies who’ve come before us. And we can win if we join together.

So now’s our time to fight like hell. This isn’t just a fight for equality — it’s a fight for our lives. And it’s one I refuse to lose.



Kirsten Gillibrand

Mom to Theo, Henry and dog Maple. Wife to Jonathan. U.S. Senator from New York. She/her.