Whitmer pursues abortion law as governors prepare for free-for-all state policy

But with the Supreme Court set to rule this summer on Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, both sides in the abortion debate predict the justices will either backtrack completely or backtrack. in a significative way. deer. This would allow to pre-deer bans in Michigan and a swath of other states coming back into effect and giving states the green light to enact new ones, which is causing abortion access to vary widely from state to state .

In anticipation of that moment, and with a tightly divided Congress unable to pass new federal abortion legislation, the battle over procedure is already playing out in the states. Blue states are rushing to strengthen protections for those who terminate a pregnancy, while red states are imposing a new wave of restrictions.

Whitmer, one of the most vulnerable Democratic governors up for re-election this fall, is using an extraordinary power granted to Michigan governors to ask the state Supreme Court to take the abortion case directly, without going through the lower courts. By challenging the nearly century-old law, Whitmer hopes to establish a proactive right to abortion under the state constitution, regardless of developments. on a national level.

“No matter what happens to deer, I will fight like hell and use every tool at my disposal as governor to ensure that reproductive freedom is a right for all women in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement. “If the Supreme Court of the United States refuses to protect the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court of Michigan should intervene.”

Although the case over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban remains pending before the Supreme Court, states on both sides, well aware that abortion is likely to inflame the electoral base both at left and right, are already taking action.

Idaho recently followed Texas’ lead by passing a ban on abortions at six weeks pregnant – a point at which many don’t know they’re pregnant – and giving citizens the power to sue for enforce this ban, a new legal construct to circumvent any potential legal challenges.

An even more sweeping state abortion ban was passed earlier this week and currently sits on the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma. This legislation would completely ban abortion and make performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Abortion rights groups noted Oklahoma was a destination for thousands of people traveling from Texas for the procedure, meaning signing the bill would have ripple effects beyond state borders.

Republican officials in several other key states, including Florida, West Virginia, Arizona and Kentucky, have taken a path they see as politically and legally safer: banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Meanwhile, blue states are bracing for an influx of abortion patients if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns deerand these states are working to put in place legal protections and financial resources for them.

On Monday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act — a law to protect abortion rights within the state.

“No matter what the Supreme Court does in the future, the people of Colorado will be able to choose when and if they have children,” said Polis, who is running for re-election against several Republican challengers who have vowed to curtail the access to abortion.

California and Illinois have also advanced new abortion rights protections in recent weeks, both for their own residents and for doctors performing the procedure on people from out of state who might face a wave of lawsuits and subpoenas from anti-abortion groups.

“States are moving in wildly different directions,” observed Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute of Reproductive Health. “With the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision expected to exacerbate this trend, the need for state action to extend access to as many people as possible has never been clearer.”

In Michigan, Whitmer’s attempt to proactively get the state to recognize the right to abortion is the first time during her tenure as governor that she’s used her power to try to bring an important case directly to the table. the state Supreme Court.

Ahead of November’s midterm elections, advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion fight are pouring millions into ballot campaigns, including abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL and anti-abortion organizations Susan B. Anthony List and Students for Life of America.

Mallory Carroll, vice president of SBA List, wrote in an email that her organization is “increasingly focused on governors and supporting them in their role” ahead of the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. She noted that the SBA’s voter contact program includes seven states with competitive races for governor in 2022, including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The group also has a substantial budget for the electoral cycle: 72 million dollars.

While abortion and the Supreme Court have always been a bigger motivator for conservative voters, many think the impact of Roe’s fall and the rush of red states to enact sweeping bans could also ignite a fire. under left-wing voters.

Roshni Nedungadi, a pollster at HIT Strategies who has worked with abortion rights groups like NARAL and state chapters of Planned Parenthood, said the issue is particularly motivating among voters of color, “especially women of color” and young progressive voters.

“They constantly overindex in favor of ballot measures and pro-reproductive justice candidates,” she wrote in an email. “They are also extremely motivated by abortion access issues and can be activated to be the drivers of the issue in the next election.”

But it came with a caveat: voters are keenly aware of Texas law, but the biggest challenge to deer did not sink.

“They are largely unaware of the threat to Roe, and those in ‘blue’ states consider themselves safe even if it were to be canceled due to the short-term protections of their legislatures,” Nedungadi wrote.

Democratic campaigns and organizations across the country are trying to change that, publicly positioning themselves as bulwarks against new abortion restrictions in their states, should deer be overthrown, and major organizations signaled that the impending Supreme Court fight will play into their midterm message.

The issue of abortion access will also be directly on the ballot in at least one state: Kansas. In the state’s August primary, voters will decide whether to overturn a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that the state’s bill of rights protected women’s access to ‘abortion.

And the state’s battle over abortion has slipped onto the airwaves, especially during the Republican primaries. A recent example is Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who is locked in a primary with several Trump-inspired challengers bragging in an ad about signing “America’s strongest pro-life law”. Jim Pillen, a Republican from Nebraska who is in a hotly contested gubernatorial primary in May, is currently running an ad declaring “abortion is murder.”

The Supreme Court’s expected decision this summer could potentially be a jolt for Democrats, they hope, with their party lagging seriously behind Republicans in voter enthusiasm ahead of the midterms.

“There are always one or two surprising turns an election takes, and this could be one of them,” said Jared Leopold, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked at the Democratic Governors Association. “Getting the Democrats excited and getting a little closer to the 2020 coalition is going to be key, and the choice is something that could get people excited, especially if there’s a threat of deer that hasn’t existed in most people’s lives.


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