Planned Parenthood to host women’s health forum for 2020 Democrats

By Lisa Lerer
New York Times News Service

Planned Parenthood is set to host a forum on reproductive rights for the Democratic primary field this month, as the issue of abortion emerges as a central topic in the 2020 presidential race.

The forum, hosted by the organization’s political arm, is the first event in recent presidential campaigns singularly focused on women’s health. The candidates will be individually questioned for 15 minutes about their positions and records on issues like abortion rights, access to health care and contraception.

So far, 16 candidates have agreed to participate, and more are expected. The event will take place in Columbia, South Carolina, on June 22, the same weekend as the state Democratic Party convention, when nearly all the candidates will be in the city to woo activists and officials.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently moved left on the issue of abortion after facing sharp criticism from members of his own party, plans to attend, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesman. NowThis News, a liberal video news platform, will live-stream the event.

Organizers said the event aims not only to shape the views of the candidates but also to further energize Planned Parenthood’s own supporters.

“It’s crystal clear that access to reproductive health care — including safe, legal abortion — is a top issue heading into 2020,” said Kelley Robinson, the group’s executive director. “If the 13 million-plus Planned Parenthood supporters turn out to the polls and activate their networks, they can tip the 2020 election.”

Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to 2.4 million people nationwide, has been facing intensified attacks during the Trump administration. While polls have found that most Americans have a favorable view of the organization, Republican critics are pushing to cut its federal funding by millions of dollars and to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The forum comes toward the end of a busy legislative season in which Republican-controlled states have passed some of the strictest abortion laws in modern U.S. history.

While those laws are expected to be challenged in court, the new restrictions, combined with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, has turned support for abortion into a nonnegotiable position for Democratic candidates.

“Make no mistake — abortion is health care, and health care is a right, not a privilege,” said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

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