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Cory Booker unveils plan to protect abortion rights if he's elected president

2020 Dems join #NoMoreBans abortion protests

Amid a series of new statewide laws targeting abortion access, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker unveiled a plan Wednesday to protect reproductive rights, should he be elected president. 

The plan includes the creation of a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, which would be designed to advance abortion rights and expand access to reproductive health care. Another feature of the plan would be to guarantee employer based contraceptive care coverage, which Booker argues should be covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"My goal with these actions isn't just to undo the damage the Trump administration and Republican state legislatures and governors have caused, but to affirmatively advance reproductive rights and expand access to reproductive care for all," Booker said in a statement.

In November 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued two rules that granted some employers the option to deny insurance coverage of contraceptive care on the basis of religious and moral grounds. A federal judge in Pennsylvania in January 2019 blocked this mandate from going into effect nationwide by putting a hold on the case.

Booker's plan would reverse the Trump administration's prohibition of federal funding for groups like Planned Parenthood through Title X, which is a program that assists low-income women with family planning and medical services. In April 2019, a federal judge blocked the rule from taking effect. Booker would expand the Title X Family Planning Program by increasing funding.

Booker also called for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion services. In a prepared press release, Booker committed to excluding Hyde Amendment provisions in his first budget if elected president. 

Other actions in the plan include improving sex education, implementing new guidelines for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and ending the Mexico City policy. It dates back to the Reagan era prohibits international organizations that assist with family planning services from receiving U.S. funding. Presidents of different parties have rescinded and restored the Mexico City policy upon taking office.

Booker also said in a statement he would also press Congress to codify the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. Such a move would keep abortion legal at the national level regardless of whether the Supreme Court decides to reverse itself on abortion rights. 

The plan comes a day after Booker spoke at an abortion rights rally in front of the Supreme Court and encouraged attendees, especially men, to continue the fight to keep abortion legal. 

"To all the men that are here, we must wake up more men to join this fight," Booker added. "It is not because we have daughters and mothers and wives. It is because this is an issue for all people."

This year, eight states have passed laws limiting abortion access, with Alabama passing the most restrictive bill to date last week. The bill bans abortion in all cases unless the woman's health is at risk.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren – both 2020 presidential contenders – unveiled similar plans to codify abortion laws, while also advocating for an end to the "domestic gag rule."

Nicole Brener-Schmitz, the national political director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that candidates need to explain to voters on how they plan to protect reproductive rights.

"At a time when extreme anti-choice politicians are ramping up their assault on reproductive freedom in unprecedented ways, we're heartened to see Senator Cory Booker step up with a concrete plan to stand up for women and families and defend reproductive freedom. Every candidate must do more than simply call themselves pro-choice."

Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee blasted Booker's proposal in a statement: "After years of obfuscating the extreme nature of their pro-abortion positions from voters, Democrats are showing their true colors: they want abortion for any reason, up until the moment of birth, and they want to use tax dollars to pay for it — policies well outside the mainstream and long opposed by a large majority of Americans."

Kate Smith contributed to this story