In a first-of-its-kind forum, the former vice-president claimed a ‘100% voting record’ – before his mic suddenly cut outJoe Biden at the forum in South Carolina. When the mic came back on, Biden had moved on to healthcare. Photograph: Leah Millis/ReutersIn the first presidential forum on reproductive rights in recent memory, former vice-president Joe Biden told an audience of mostly female Planned Parenthood supporters he had a “100% voting record” on reproductive rights.In fact, his record on the subject is mixed, as a question to the former vice-president suggested.“Well, first of all, I’m not sure about the mixed record part. I’ve had 100% voting record,” Biden said, before his microphone cut out. When it came back on, he had moved on to healthcare.Biden, a Catholic and a Delaware senator for 36 years, has gone back and forth on support for abortion access. In this election cycle, reproductive rights has emerged as a top issue as Republican statehouses across the US have attacked abortion rights.Biden told his audience in Columbia he would codify the right to an abortion, granted in Roe v Wade, into law “as defined by Casey” – a stance more conservative than those of many other Democratic candidates present.Casey is the 1992 supreme court decision which allowed states to severely restrict abortion access, including imposing waiting periods and medically unnecessary administrative burdens.Later in the forum, a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by her abusive husband but could not cover an abortion through her military health benefits, asked Biden how he would expand access to abortion.“A lot of you women, maybe a lot of men out here, maybe don’t realize what incredible courage it took to stand up and say that,” Biden said.Other candidates went further.“We’ve been on defense for 47 years, and it’s not working,” said the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. “An inch at a time, a piece at a time, they’ve chipped away, hacked away at the ground under our feet, so access becomes narrower, becomes more limited.She went on: “This is a democracy. In a democracy, the laws should reflect the values of the people. So I say it is time to go on offense with Roe v Wade. It’s not enough to say we’re going to rely on the courts. We need to pass a federal law to make Roe v Wade the rule of the land.”That prompted huge cheers.Elizabeth Warren on stage in Columbia. Photograph: Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty ImagesShe continued: “We can add and say: no more of this semi-repeal of Roe, another bite out of Roe, an undercut of Roe. We’re going to make it the law. Let’s make it the law for real again.”But the loudest cheers of the day went to Cory Booker, who called bans passed by states like Alabama a violation of human rights. “If they come for you in the morning, they come for me at night. This election is about winning,” said Booker, as he stepped off the stage, the only candidate to do so.“This election is about women! This election is about minorities! This election is about all of us and that’s how I’m going to fight. This election is about liberty and justice for all and we will win!”The audience presented a sea of pink Planned Parenthood shirts. Some were moved to tears. In a bathroom, a woman cried as she said she had “never been to an event like this, and it is so powerful. I want to travel the country.”The woman said she had an abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility in 1974, when she was 16. Her mother had been with her.“I was able to have an abortion,” she said, “go to college, meet my soon-to-be husband, and have a life of my choice.” She did not say her name, because her family did not know her story.On stage, each candidate was given about 10 minutes to answer questions from Planned Parenthood leaders and an audience member. Shocking stories came forth.> I have a beautiful child I love and adore. That does not mean I am grateful for the trauma I was put through> > Laurie Bertram RobertsOne audience member told the New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand that she threw herself down the stairs, drank until she vomited, took hot baths and even rode every ride at a county fair to try to induce an abortion. She was forced to carry the unwanted pregnancy to term, she said, because she lacked the roughly $600 in cash needed to pay for an abortion.“I have a beautiful child I love and adore,” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, now a doula. “That does not mean I am grateful for the trauma I was put through for the fact the Hyde amendment exists.”That was a reference to a provision of federal law that prevents the government from paying for abortion and primarily affects 17 million poor and disabled women who rely on Medicaid.Gillibrand became tearful herself. She told the audience not to vote for her but to “pick your top five” candidates, and donate.“If women and candidates of color are not included on that debate stage in September, October, you will not be represented,” said Gillibrand.Over the past few months, Republicans and conservative Christians have worked to severely limit abortions rights. Bans have passed in states including Ohio and Kentucky. The laws are patently unconstitutional and abortion remains safe and legal in all 50 states. But supporters hope the bans will be challenged all the way to the supreme court, where the conservative-leaning majority could reconsider Roe v Wade.Social conservatives have also attempted to make abortion inaccessible through administrative means. This week, political appointees in Missouri attempted to shut down the state’s last abortion clinic and a federal court decided in favor of the Trump administration allowing federal funding to go to clinics which do not offer comprehensive family planning services.The South Carolina event was organized in response to such Republican moves. It had the air of a party – a DJ blasted Lizzo from the speakers – but one whose attendees were frankly fed up. For at least some candidates, this presented a challenge.The former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper stumbled through a short history of his life in the restaurant industry before saying he could oversee a “magnificent expansion of Title X” federal funding for family planning.Planned Parenthood president Dr Leana Wen told the Guardian her group is “working with all the candidates to develop the most proactive policies that would protect women’s health and rights”.