ATLANTA—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said there was room for pro-life voters in the Democratic Party on Thursday, but she said "imposing faith on other people" was "against Christian faith."
As president, she said she would ensure that states couldn't pass anti-abortion laws and criticized President Donald Trump's Supreme Court Justice appointments as "anti-choice extremists," saying Trump would lose any fight with America's women on abortion.
It was just some of the strong rhetoric employed by Gillibrand in the Georgia State Capitol, as she used a newly signed pro-life bill to promote her struggling 2020 candidacy.
"I am sick and tired of being on the defensive," she said. "I am sick and tired of taking one step back every day. I am sick and tired of more and more women across the country losing their access to basic health care, so today I am making it clear that enough is enough."
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R.) signed a bill into law last week that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected—usually around the six-week mark, before many women are aware they're pregnant—with exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's life. Alabama passed a stricter law this week, which effectively banned all abortions except for when the mother's life was in danger. Georgia's law isn't scheduled to go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020, while Alabama's won't take effect for six months.
The new laws are already being challenged, and some pro-life advocates hope it will go to the Supreme Court, resulting in Roe v. Wade being declared unconstitutional.
Gillibrand, a strident supporter of abortion rights, saw her chance to stand out in the gigantic 2020 field and flew down to Atlanta. After listening to a roundtable discussion at the Capitol of abortion rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers, she reiterated her promise to create a pro-choice litmus test for any Supreme Court justices she nominated.
She also vowed as president to codify Roe v. Wade, end the Hyde Amendment, and guarantee access to abortion, no matter where a woman lived.
"I would ensure that no state can pass laws that chip away at access to reproductive care or criminalize reproductive health care providers. Federal law should supersede harmful state laws that take away women's reproductive freedom," she said.
Asked if there was room for pro-life Democrats in the party, she said she would "represent all voters."
"But if you are a person of deep Christian faith, one of the tenets of our faith is free will," she said. "One of the tenets of our democracy is that we have a separation of church and state, and under no circumstances are we supposed to be imposing our faith on other people, and I think this is an example of that effort. It's against our Constitution and it's against Christian faith."
Gillibrand likely seized on the abortion bills in a hope to generate interest in her flagging campaign, as she's polling at one or zero percent in most national and early-state primary surveys.
She ignored questions from the Washington Free Beacon as to whether she felt Kemp was the state's legitimately elected governor. Other 2020 candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) have backed claims by Kemp's opponent Stacey Abrams that Kemp's victory was unfair.
Gillibrand was joined by abortion rights advocates and several Georgia Democratic lawmakers, as well as Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates and Laura Simmons of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia. They took turns at the microphone to blast Kemp, Trump, and Republicans as dangerous extremists.
"A death warrant has been signed by Governor Kemp for all women of Georgia," State Rep. Sandra Scott (D.) said.
"If we do actually care about life, we should care about the living women of this state," State Sen. Jennifer Jordan (D.) said.
"Seventy percent of Georgians support safe and legal access to abortions, yet here in our state, our body, many of whom are white men, voted this harmful legislation into law," State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D.) said, citing a left-leaning PPP poll that surveyed "swing districts" in Georgia.
No men spoke during the press conference, although one did at the round table: State Rep. David Dreyer (D.). He apologized for the majority-male General Assembly passing the law in the first place.
"If we just let the women of Georgia vote, it would fail overwhelmingly," he said. "We don't need men like myself with limited information. My colleague reminds me that in our society, women often are able to speak about reproductive health, menstrual issues, and men are ignorant. And to think that men can make a decision is offensive."
Pro-choice advocates were out in force in support of Gillibrand. One held a sign reading: "GOP: Women R Not Your Property." Three women wearing Handmaid's Tale costumes also attended the event, a reference to the dystopian Margaret Atwood novel where women would likely not be able to protest an abortion bill in the middle of a Thursday.
One of them, a former Republican named Tamara Stevens, told the Free Beacon that Gillibrand had "laid down the gauntlet" on abortion policy. Stevens also rejected the idea that being pro-choice equaled being pro-abortion.
"Being pro-choice means that you recognize that women should choose, and that does not mean you're necessarily pro-abortion," she said. "I'm not going to force anyone to have an abortion, and no one should force me to keep a child."