With lawmakers stymied, much of the response to abortion rights should fall to medical and activist groups opening abortion clinics near airports and at state borders, setting up channels to distribute pills abortions in states that have banned them or are considering doing so. as well, and raise millions to help patients travel out of state for the procedure.
On Tuesday, Democratic officials did not outline a clear strategy for bills or executive action to strengthen abortion rights ahead of the decision expected in June, but instead stressed the need to leverage outrage to vote in November.
“What happened last night, I’m pissed. I’m pissed,” Kansas State Rep. Christina Haswood said at an event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “We can be in anger, but we really need your help in this election.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin echoed that message, telling reporters, “The answer is in November.”
The focus on midterms is a tacit admission that while Democrats hold power — controlling the White House, both houses of Congress, 22 governors’ mansions and 18 state legislatures — they remain largely powerless. of the country to meaningfully protect abortion rights.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion fight have assumed since the Supreme Court took down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban last year that judges would use the case to cancel Roe vs. Wade, a suspicion reinforced by the pleadings of December on the case. But the draft advisory still came as a shock to abortion supporters.
“Seeing it in black and white is different from being warned for years and decades,” said Elizabeth Nash, acting associate director of state affairs at the Guttmacher Institute. “It’s not unexpected, but it’s still a punch.”
Now, with significant government action unlikely, many Democrats are expressing frustration that their own colleagues and the public did not step up sooner to put in place greater protections.
“Nobody believed us,” the senator said. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) told POLITICO. “Women have been telling the nation for 10 years that these ultra-conservative judges always had the ambition to undermine reproductive freedom.”
Although some actions are underway, many appear to be tokenistic with little chance of bringing about change or protecting reproductive rights. Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer holds another vote on a bill that would bar states from enacting new abortion bans. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit last month challenging the nearly century-old abortion ban.
These measures are unlikely to succeed, despite continued broad public support for Roe’s retention.
Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) made it clear on Tuesday that his longstanding views on anti-abortion rights are unaffected by the possible fall of deerwhich means Democrats don’t even have 50 votes in the Senate to pass abortion rights protections, let alone the 60 they currently need to overcome a filibuster.
“I’m not shy about my position,” Manchin told reporters. “I think I’ve been clear for the past 40 years.”
And while several Democrats have responded to news from the Supreme Court by calling for an end to the Senate filibuster, Manchin and Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-Arizona) also reiterated that they oppose such a decision.
When Democrats held a vote in February on the Women’s Health Protection Act — a bill that would prevent states from enacting new abortion restrictions — it got just 46 votes. The party’s efforts to eliminate the decades-old ban on federal abortion funding also failed in the Senate after House passage, with leading Democrats backing down in the face of GOP opposition before it was introduced. .
Because the tightly-divided Congress has long been unable to pass new abortion restrictions or protections, many progressive advocates said Tuesday they instead depended on state and local officials to act before the Supreme Court rules. his final decision.
“On days like today, it feels like hope is in the United States, doesn’t it?” Emily Cain, executive director of EMILY’s List, said at the group’s annual conference. “As we think about governors and state legislatures…we will help ensure they are there to uphold women’s reproductive freedom.”
But instead of announcing ambitious new policies to protect abortion access in the wake of Monday’s news, many Democratic governors in swing states up for re-election this year – including Nevada Governor Whitmer Steve Sisolak and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers – cast themselves as the only thing standing between their constituents and restrictive abortion laws.
Several have passed the baton to Congress, writing a letter to Democratic leaders on Tuesday afternoon calling on the Senate to take action to codify deer in the law.
“It is imperative that Congress act quickly to ensure that all Americans continue to have meaningful access to reproductive health care and abortion,” the governors wrote in a letter first shared with POLITICO.
Of the 21 states with Democratic governors, a third have already finished their legislative sessions or have not met this year. And many of those states still in legislative session — including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas — have GOP-majority legislatures that aren’t interested in protecting abortion rights.
However, not all states remained inactive.
California has passed a series of bills to extend legal protections to state residents and patients from other parts of the country, expand financial assistance for people seeking abortions, and better fund clinics. and personnel performing the procedure.
New York State Democrats are pushing a bill to create an abortion access fund, which would be paid for by state taxpayers through a voluntary contribution on their tax returns personal.
Oregon created a $15 million Reproductive Health Equity Fund, Maryland and Connecticut passed legislation allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions, and Colorado passed a law on the equity in reproductive health ensuring that pregnant women in the state have the right to choose the outcome of their pregnancy.
Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said that while she supports enacting legal protections for abortion wherever possible, there are other steps states can take to increase access to abortion. abortion, including helping to increase the number of abortion providers and clinics in their states that require health insurance. plans to cover abortion and allocate state dollars directly to help fund abortion-related travel.
States “need to put their money where their mouth is because patients need it,” she said.
Yet, with most states unable to meaningfully protect millions of women who will soon face sweeping abortion restrictions, medical and activist groups are filling the void.
Whole Woman’s Health and Planned Parenthood are opening abortion clinics near airports and at state lines to receive travelers from states that are supposed to have rapid abortion bans. Plan C, Aid Access and other groups are setting up channels for the distribution of abortion pills in states that have banned them or are considering banning them, and local and national organizations are raising millions to help low-income patients pay for abortions and travel expenses.
“Abortion funds exist and have always existed to fill a void that should be filled by a basic social safety net from our government,” Debasri Ghosh, chief executive of the National Network of Abortion Funds, told POLITICO.
Ghosh’s group received such a flood of donations on Monday evening that their site crashed, although on Tuesday it was restored. She said that while the draft notice was “empty”, it was what she expected and groups like hers would not wait for the government to respond.
“People even with deer intact have not had meaningful access to abortion,” she said. “That’s literally why we exist. And we know the need has increased and will continue to increase.