Debate Explainer: Here’s What Could Happen to Abortion, Birth Control if Trump Becomes President

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Many of the judges on Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees would restrict access to abortion and birth control. (Photo: Trunk Archive)

During the second presidential debate on Sunday night, both Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee and former reality television personality Donald Trump spoke on their priorities in terms of appointing justices to the Supreme Court. And in doing so, the candidates touched on reproductive rights — albeit barely — for the first time in a debate since entering the general election.

“I want a Supreme Court that will stick with Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose,” said Clinton, who also spoke about the importance of appointing nominees who would uphold marriage equality, overturn Citizens United, and, in general, “understand the way the world works, who have real-life experience.”

Clinton also pointed to the way that Trump himself had spoken in the past of appointing judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion care in the U.S.

“Now, Donald has put forth the names of some people that he would consider,” she said. “And among the ones that he has suggested are people who would reverse Roe v. Wade and reverse marriage equality. I think that would be a terrible mistake and would take us backwards.”

When given his opportunity to respond to the question, Trump replied, “Justice Scalia. Great judge. Died recently. And we have a vacancy. I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia. I’m looking for judges and I’ve actually picked 20 of them. So that people would see highly respected, highly thought of, and actually very beautifully reviewed by just about everybody.”

But what does this really mean for women and reproductive rights?

“Donald Trump would take women back decades into the past, threatening everything we have fought for, including safe, legal abortion,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told Yahoo Beauty following the debate.

Indeed, while Trump has no political record of which to speak, his record of how he has discussed abortion care speaks volumes.

To begin with, the list of 20 judges to which Trump referred during the debate includes those who have records of not only being opposed to legal abortion, but opposed to contraception access, according to Mother Jones.

Judge William Pryor is one of the men on Trump’s list and is someone who has referred to Roe v. Wade — the 1973 case that guaranteed the constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion in the U.S. — as “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law,” according to the Associated Press, and as a decision that created “a constitutional right to murder an unborn child,” according to Mother Jones. Pryor also was part of the panel of judges in 2014 that kept the Obama administration from enforcing the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — that is, the requirement that all insurance plans see women’s contraceptive services as a form of preventative care, and thus one that needs to be provided to patients without a copay — on EWTN, a Catholic TV network.

Judge Steven Colloton, also on Trump’s list, is yet another judge who has opposed the contraception mandate in the ACA. Colloton has taken the judicial opinion that even the opt-out options given to religious organizations to work around the mandate — while still ensuring that their employees were not denied this insurance benefit — were in and of themselves a burden on these groups’ religious freedom. His decision on this issue was part of what ultimately kicked this question to the present Supreme Court — which ultimately responded by sending the cases back to the lower courts.

Another judge in consideration, Judge Raymond Gruender, wrote the circuit court’s opinion in a 2006 case whose ruling determined that a company’s insurance plan could exclude birth control pill coverage and that such an exclusion was not a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, according to the New York Times.

And Judge Neil Gorsuch was a part of establishing the precedent set by the Hobby Lobby case and concluded that corporations have the right to deny their employees birth control coverage through company insurance plans.

But wait, there’s more.

Trump himself has said that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, that being antiabortion would be his litmus test for potential Supreme Court nominees, that the fastest way to see abortion banned in the U.S. would be by electing him president, and that women who have abortions should be punished.

There’s also the whole matter of Trump having named Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate.

Pence, after all, is the man who signed a state law earlier this year that bans abortions because a fetus has been diagnosed with a disability or genetic abnormality or because of a fetus’s sex or race. The Pence-backed law also requires women to view an ultrasound of their fetus and hear its heartbeat 18 hours before having an abortion performed. (Pence’s signing of this bill into law also triggered an onslaught of activity from local activists, who took to calling the governor to tell him about their menstrual cycles — something they are now ensuring he knows about at Trump HQ.)

While a member of Congress, Pence was the first congressman to introduce a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007 and got onboard the “legitimate rape” bandwagon in an attempt to redefine rape to further ban abortion access. Pence cosponsored a “personhood” bill during his time in the House — a measure that, if made into law, would define life as beginning at fertilization and would outlaw all abortion, some forms of contraception, and the practice of in vitro fertilization (IVF), which many people rely on to have children.

Pence is also the man who, as governor of Indiana, signed into law — law that was eventually blocked by a federal judge — a requirement that all fetal tissue must be buried or cremated, even that resulting from a miscarriage. So yes, Pence tried to ensure that women who had a miscarriage but did not save the fetal tissue and bring it to a hospital for verification and then burial would be criminally charged.

Kaylie Hanson Long, the national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, puts it this way: “Donald Trump claims he can sexually assault women and "grab ’em by the p***sy” just because he’s famous,” Long tells Yahoo Beauty. “He doesn’t believe women should have autonomy over our own bodies. That belief extends to the selection of his running mate, Mike Pence — one of the most antichoice politicians in the country — and to the people he’d nominate to the Supreme Court. He threatened that if elected president, he would appoint individuals to the bench who would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking away our right to make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care.”

Long adds: “His disdain for women knows no bounds, and it’s clear a Donald Trump presidency would have the impact of endangering women’s lives.”

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