The Supreme Court’s apparent plan to remove a nationwide right to abortion, as outlined in a draft opinion published this week, will broaden the scope of the country’s most contentious culture war, bringing it to states where abortion access has long been guaranteed.
Democrats in blue states are ready for a barrage of legal challenges and other maneuvers aimed at stifling access, with some even moving to entrench the right to abortion in their constitutions, making it far more difficult to impose a ban in the future.
Republican states are anticipated to ban or restrict abortion, but methods could include a concerted attempt to sue abortion providers and find other ways to punish anyone who would help a woman have an abortion outside of their boundaries.
In states with mixed political power, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, the possibility of reversing established abortion rights has already surfaced. California and Colorado are pressing for abortion access to be protected in state constitutions, which is a more powerful step than enacting legislation. Because they expect women seeking abortions to cross state lines, Connecticut and Washington state have already taken steps to protect providers from potential litigation.
“We will not allow the tentacles of Texas to enter Washington state,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee stated, vowing to make Washington a haven for abortion seekers.
Oregon lawmakers added $15 million in their state budget to help people pay for abortions in the state, and California has a bill identical to Oregon’s.
Both sides’ rhetoric speaks to a rising battle for access, with anti-abortion activists wanting to reduce the number of states where abortion is still legal if Roe is reversed. If this happens, over half of the states in the United States are likely to act immediately to prohibit or severely restrict abortion.
A new law in Idaho, which is presently being challenged in the state Supreme Court, would allow family members of all parties involved to sue abortion doctors, setting a precedent for future methods.
“The next chapter of the conflict will essentially be about what happens with interstate conflicts,” Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at Florida State University’s law school, predicted.
Many states with one-party rule have already decided which side they will support. The few states with a splintered political landscape are up for grabs.
Abortion is lawful in Pennsylvania for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy under state law. In this year’s governor’s campaign, the law’s existence is at stake.
Because of term restrictions, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who has vetoed recent bills banning abortion, will not run. The battle to succeed him is between state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a like-minded Democrat, and a primary field of nine Republicans, all of whom say they will sign limits imposed by the Legislature, which is likely to remain under GOP control.
State Senator Doug Mastriano, a Republican contender, supports a six-week pregnancy ban, with exceptions for rape, incest, or saving the mother’s life.
“There is only one way to ensure that women in Pennsylvania have the legal right to continue to make decisions about their own bodies, and that is to win this governor’s race,” Shapiro said on a conference call with reporters this week.
Gov. Roy Cooper and other state Democrats in North Carolina have portrayed the November election as a battle to keep the GOP from regaining veto-proof majorities in the legislature. Republicans need to gain five seats in November to reclaim control, with every seat up for election.
“In North Carolina, Republicans are on the verge of gaining veto-proof supermajorities. In a recent fundraising letter, Cooper, who has rejected proposals to limit abortion since 2019, wrote, “If they win, you may add North Carolina to the list of states that would ban abortions.”
Because the court could hear objections to any new abortion restrictions, campaigns for two state Supreme Court seats are expected to be significantly more intense. Four of the seven seats are now held by Democrats, with two more up for election this year.
The balance of the General Assembly and the Supreme Court “has never been more crucial” to ensuring that “pro-life majorities” are in command in a post-Roe future, according to Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley.
The potential to stifle abortion access is also rising in Virginia, where Republicans captured the House of Delegates and gained the governorship last November, ending Democrats’ absolute control of the state.
Democrats hold a one-vote majority in the state Senate, and one member of their caucus opposes abortion and has expressed openness to increased limits.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin calls himself “pro-life,” but has stated that he supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. He said this week that speculating on the Supreme Court’s final decision or how he and lawmakers would proceed was premature.
Two anti-abortion amendments to a health-and-human-services bill narrowly failed on procedural votes in the Democrat-controlled House in Minnesota, where control of the legislative chambers is split between the parties.
In an email to supporters this week, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz promised that “no abortion ban will ever become law” while he is governor, despite the fact that all the Republican candidates running to unseat him support a ban.
Pre-Roe abortion laws are in place in Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures. The bill has already been challenged in court by Michigan’s governor, and Wisconsin’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Kaul, has predicted that it will be challenged as well.
He explained, “(The) prohibition wasn’t just inactive.” “For 50 years, it was unconstitutional.”
Some states with strong Democratic ties are moving quickly to protect abortion rights. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic legislators have pledged to ask voters to “enshrine the right to choose” in the state constitution, a move that Vermont and Colorado are considering.
California already has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation. However, lawmakers fear the amendment will make it far more difficult to rescind the protections if the political winds change and future legislators attempt to impose limits.
Democrats also feel that if Republicans take control of Congress, they will protect the state from any negative state court verdicts or federal abortion laws.
“The unthinkable can happen,” warned Berkeley Democrat state Sen. Nancy Skinner. “Unless we’re clear about what we’re protecting, a court could one day interpret privacy to exclude my right to an abortion.” And that’s what we’re attempting to avoid.”
Colorado Democrats and abortion rights advocates say they will seek a ballot issue in 2024 to entrench abortion access in the state constitution and overturn a constitutional provision passed in the 1980s that prohibits public funding for abortion.
“Because state legislatures may change, and depending on who has the majority, they can legislate into law their views,” Democratic House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar said. This is critical for Colorado women, regardless of who is in power.”