2020·3 min read

2020 Election: Abortion

2020 Election: Abortion
Johanna Turano
May 28, 2020

The Story

Abortion has been a divisive campaign issue for decades.

The Background

In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman’s right to privacy encompasses the right to abortions. But SCOTUS left room for some state regulation, like on how late into a pregnancy women can have an abortion. And Americans have strong opinions about when abortions should be allowed, if ever. Those who are pro-abortion rights point out that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. And that women have the right to safe, legal abortions. They note that when states restrict abortions, women from poorer, rural communities tend to be affected – while wealthier women are able to afford travel to other states. Meanwhile, those who are anti-abortion rights think the arguments behind Roe v. Wade were a stretch, because the right to privacy isn’t explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.

President Trump has supported abortion rights in the past, but said on the 2016 campaign trail that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who'd overturn Roe v. Wade. Since then, he’s appointed two new conservative justices. Meanwhile, several states have passed bills that ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can happen at around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. A lot of these bills have been blocked by the courts. But that’s the point: to appeal these cases until they make their way to the Supreme Court, where a solidly conservative majority could overturn Roe v. Wade.


Abortion is a sensitive and divisive issue in the US, and provokes strongly held opinions on both sides of the aisle. Abortion rates have been going down for decades. But with the recent wave of statewide abortion restrictions, the issue has taken a front seat in the 2020 election. Here’s where all the candidates stand:

Donald Trump Republican

President Donald Trump

  • During '16 campaign, said he'd appoint Supreme Court justices who'd overturn Roe v. Wade

  • Against abortions except in three instances: rape, incest, and if the mother’s life is at risk

  • His admin implemented a rule that would've made it easier for healthcare workers to refuse to perform abortions and other services if they violate their religious or moral beliefs. A federal judge voided the rule, blocking it from taking effect

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Joe Biden Democrat

Former VP Joe Biden

  • Mixed record on abortion: in the '80s, he voted for bill that would’ve let states override Roe v. Wade – now he says he’d defend Roe v. Wade

  • No longer supports the Hyde Amendment

  • Would treat abortions as essential services during COVID-19

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