The Supreme Court’s apparent intent to strike down a nationwide abortion right, set out in a draft opinion leaked this week, will widen the battlefield of the nation’s busiest culture war, taking it into States where access to abortion has long been assured.
Democrats in blue states are bracing for a wave of legal attacks and other maneuvers aimed at undermining access, and some are even taking steps to enshrine abortion rights in their constitutions, making it much more difficult to impose a ban in the future.
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Republican states are supposed to ban or restrict abortion, but the tactics could also include an aggressive effort to go beyond their borders to prosecute abortion providers and find other ways to punish those who help a woman to get an abortion.
The opportunity to roll back established abortion rights has already arisen in states with divided political control, including Pennsylvania and Virginia. California and Colorado are pushing to protect abortion access in their constitutions, a step stronger than passing a law. Connecticut and Washington State have already taken steps to protect providers from potential lawsuits, as they anticipate that women seeking abortions would cross state lines.
“We will not allow the tentacles of Texas into Washington state,” said Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who has pledged to make Washington a sanctuary for those seeking abortions.
Oregon lawmakers included $15 million in their state budget to help pay people who travel to the state for abortions and California has a similar bill.
The rhetoric from both sides points to a growing struggle for access, with abortion advocates hoping to reduce the number of states where the procedure remains legal if Roe is overturned. About half of US states are expected to act quickly to ban or severely restrict abortion if it occurs.
A new law in Idaho, currently blocked by the state Supreme Court, would allow family members of everyone involved to sue abortion providers, an example of the tactic to come.
“The next chapter of conflict is really going to be very much about what’s happening with interstate conflict,” said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at Florida State University School of Law.
Many states whose government is controlled by a single party have already chosen sides. The handful of states with divided policies are up for grabs.
In Pennsylvania, abortion is legal under state law during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The survival of the law is at stake in this year’s gubernatorial race.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who vetoed recent abortion-restricting legislation, is not running due to term limits. The race to replace him is between a like-minded Democrat, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and a core group of nine Republicans who all say they would sign restrictions passed by the legislature, which will likely remain under the GOP control.
A Republican candidate, State Senator Doug Mastriano, supports a six-week pregnancy ban with no exceptions for rape, incest or saving the life of the mother.
“There is one way and only one way for us to ensure that women have the legal right to continue to make decisions about their own bodies in Pennsylvania and that is to win the race for this governor,” Shapiro said during of a conference call with reporters this week.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper and other state Democrats have framed the November election as one in which they must prevent the GOP from winning back veto-proof majorities in the Assembly. legislative. With every seat up for grabs in November, Republicans need to win five seats to restore that control.
“Our state’s Republicans are poised to win veto-proof supermajorities in Raleigh. If they are successful, you can add North Carolina to the list of states that will ban abortion,” said Cooper, who has vetoed efforts to limit abortion since 2019, in a recent fundraising letter. of funds.
Campaigns for two seats on the state Supreme Court are expected to be even more intense as the court could hear challenges to any new abortion restrictions. Democrats currently hold four of the seven seats, including two on the ballot this year.
Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement that the balance between the General Assembly and the Supreme Court “has never been more important” to ensure “pro-life majorities” are in control in a post-Roe future.
The potential to undermine access to abortion is also surfacing in Virginia, where Democrats lost their full grip on state government last November when Republicans toppled the House of Delegates and won the governorship. . Democrats control the state Senate by one vote and have a caucus member who opposes abortion and has indicated openness to further restrictions.
Governor Glenn Youngkin describes himself as “pro-life”, although he has said he supports exceptions for rape, incest or to save a woman’s life. He said this week it was premature to speculate what the Supreme Court’s final decision would be or how he and lawmakers might proceed.
In Minnesota, where control of the legislative chambers is split between parties, two anti-abortion amendments to a health and human services bill narrowly failed procedural votes in the Democratic-controlled House. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz promised in an email this week to his supporters that “no abortion ban will ever become law” while he is governor; the Republican candidates vying to challenge his re-election bid all support a ban.
Michigan and Wisconsin, states with Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, have pre-Roe abortion bans in state law. Michigan’s governor has already filed a legal challenge to the law, while Wisconsin Attorney General, Democrat Josh Kaul, said he also expects litigation.
“(The ban) wasn’t just dormant,” he said. “It was unconstitutional for 50 years.”
Some deeply democratic states are moving quickly to try to strengthen abortion rights. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic Legislature leaders have pledged to ask voters to “enshrine the right to choose” in the state constitution, steps also underway in Vermont and Colorado.
California already has some of the most extensive abortion protections in the country. But legislative leaders say the amendment would make it much harder to repeal those protections if the political winds change and future lawmakers seek to impose restrictions.
Democrats also believe it would shield the state from adverse state court rulings or federal abortion bans if Republicans were to take control of Congress.
“The unimaginable can happen,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley. “Unless we are explicit about what we are protecting…one day a court may interpret privacy as not including my right to an abortion. And that’s what we’re trying to protect ourselves against.
Colorado Democrats and advocates say they will seek a ballot measure in 2024 to enshrine abortion access in the constitution and repeal a 1980s constitutional amendment that bans public funding for abortion.
House Democratic Majority Leader Daneya Esgar said an amendment was needed “because state legislatures can change, and depending on who has a majority, they can enshrine their ideologies in law. That’s fundamental for Colorado women, no matter who is in charge.
Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City, Ramer reported from Concord, New Hampshire, and Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press reporters across the country contributed to this report.
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