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'Abortion Up to Conscience, Not Government,' Declared Bernie Sanders... in 1972

The 2020 Democratic contender, says one top aide, "has been fighting these battles for decades, even when it wasn't politically advantageous."

Just months before the crucial Roe vs. Wade decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, Bernie Sanders issued a series of comments and letters to the editor in the Bennington Banner, a local newspaper in Vermont, in support of women's right to control their own bodies. (Photo: Screenshot/Bennington Banner)

Amid intensifying focus on the overt and coordinated assault on abortion rights in the U.S. as a key 2020 campaign issue for Democratic presidential candidates, newly unearthed comments from a local Vermont newspaper in the early 1970s shows that Bernie Sanders has been a long and consistent defender of a women's reproductive rights since before he first took public office more than four decades ago.

"It strikes me as incredible that politicians think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body," Sanders told the local Bennington Banner in 1972, months before the seminal abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court the following year. "This is especially true in Vermont where we have a legislature which is almost completely dominated by men."

"It strikes me as incredible that politicians think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. This is especially true in Vermont where we have a legislature which is almost completely dominated by men." —Bernie Sanders, 1972 "Abortion is an issue which brings out deep feelings in people, and I respect the feelings of those people who are opposed to abortion on moral grounds," he added in the article.  "I feel, however, that these people should not be allowed to impose their sense of morality or religious feelings on people who hold a different opinion."

As Newsweek noted in its reporting on the archival commentary, Sanders' position in the early 1970s "reveals another stark, decades-long contrast between he and former Vice President Joe Biden's progressive stances."

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According to Newsweek, "Sanders penned a series of letters to the editor that year, including at least two supporting abortion rights to local Vermont newspapers.

Common Dreams reported on Wednesday that Biden is now an outlier among 2020 Democratic candidates when it comes to supporting the anti-choice Hyde Amendment—a law perennially approved by Congress that bars federal funds to be used for abortion care. At a town hall-style event on MSNBC Wednesday evening Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that Biden has held the "wrong" view on that issue for "a long time."

"Bernie Sanders has been fighting these battles for decades, even when it wasn't politically advantageous," David Sirota, a speechwriter and Sanders campaign aide, told Newsweek, emphasizing not only the quality of the position but the consistency that goes back more than forty years. "That tells you exactly where he will always be on these issues, even when the going gets tough—and that is important for voters to know."

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