Medicare for All has been a central part of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns since he launched his first national bid in 2015.
Since then, the health care conversation in the United States has focused increasingly on reproductive services, as Republican-controlled state governments across the country limit abortion access and Supreme Court justices are appointed to help overturn Roe v. Wade.
On Saturday in Des Moines, Sanders took part in a town hall hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national organization that opposes restrictions on abortion.
There, Sanders said, “We are here today to say as loudly and clearly as we can that we will not go backwards. We absolutely must stand up to these attacks together. We are going to make health care a right, not a privilege, through Medicare for All. And we are going to keep fighting until the constitutional rights of women are secured.”
Health insurance, including abortion coverage, will be guaranteed to all Americans through a Medicare for All, single-payer system, Sanders said.
Roe v. Wade must be respected as settled law, he added, and local organizations — such as Title X and Planned Parenthood clinics — providing reproductive health care should be supported.
On his 2020 campaign website, Sanders has promised to fully fund Planned Parenthood and the Title X program that provides federal money for family planning. Both have taken significant hits under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, serving as the political lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood, has given Sanders a 100% rating since the 1990’s, as has NARAL and other women’s advocacy groups.
At the town hall, Sanders also championed fighting against judges appointed by the Trump administration, many of whom he considered conservative ideologues.
“Finally, we must speak out,” Sanders said. “At a time when a vast majority of Americans support keeping Roe v. Wade, it is unacceptable that we now have a Republican Party that is trying to control the lives and the health of women across the country.”
Sanders’ health care policies go well beyond what he discussed at the NARAL forum.
He also advocates for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, approved by Congress in 1972, but still awaiting ratification from three states. The bulk of the amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Supporters of the constitutional amendment believe, among a myriad of impacts, it would advance women’s rights, including their access to abortion services.
The Vermont senator also wants to reinstate the 90’s-era Violence Against Women Act. This year, the bill made it through the Democratic-controlled House, but is awaiting a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
To support women, Sanders’ website also lists his proposal to expand the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program [SNAP] for Women, Infants, and Children [WIC], providing federal money for food and health care referrals, in addition to nutritional education.
“Now, I would be lying to you if I said this would be easy,” Sanders said, at the NARAL town hall. “We are facing a powerful opposition that is doing everything it can to restrict women’s rights, and I understand that things seem particularly dark right now. But as I stand here today, I am optimistic that we can win.”
By Nikoel Hytrek