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The Chilling Way Abortion Rights May Rest On Governor’s Races


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HARISBURG, Pa. (AP) — All 4 leading Republicans in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race have vowed to ban abortion if given the prospect.

In Georgia, one top Republican candidate for governor desires to outlaw all abortions. The sitting Republican governor is backed by the anti-abortion lobby, but refuses to make clear his position. And in Michigan, all but one in all the five leading Republicans running for governor oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

The fight for Congress often dominates midterm elections, however the revelation this week that the Supreme Court may soon overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision has thrust candidates for governor — and their positions on abortion — into the forefront of the 2022 campaign. Some states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, have primary elections this month, but the final word fight won’t be decided until the November general election.

All 4 leading Republicans in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race — Lou Barletta, Doug Mastriano, Bill McSwain and David White — have vowed to ban abortion if given the prospect.

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In a handful of battleground states with Republican-controlled state legislatures, every GOP candidate for governor supports severe abortion restrictions, if not a whole ban with no exceptions. That’s prompting urgent warnings from Democrats that ladies’s access to abortion in some states may rest almost entirely on which party wins the governor’s race this fall.

“That is a problem that’s now front and center on this governor’s race,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, his state’s presumed Democratic nominee for governor. “The battle can be within the states.”

Thirteen deep-red states have so-called “trigger laws” that will ban abortion almost immediately if Roe is overturned, but the longer term of abortion access is less certain across several other more moderate states with Republican-controlled legislatures: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, amongst them.

In almost every case, GOP legislatures have already approved restrictive abortion laws, including so-called “heartbeat” bills that will outlaw abortions before most girls know they’re pregnant. Some laws is tied up within the courts, while others have yet to maneuver through Republican legislatures. But when Roe falls, such laws — or more restrictive bans — could only be stopped by a veto from a Democratic governor or Democrat-backed court challenge, if in any respect.

Some states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas, have decades-old abortion bans predating Roe that will presumably take effect almost immediately after a proper Supreme Court reversal of the case. But even in those states, Democratic governors would have a possibility to fight the change of their state courts.

That’s what Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is doing as she prepares for a difficult reelection this fall.

Anticipating that Roe can be overturned or weakened, Whitmer asked the Michigan Supreme Court last month to declare a state constitutional right to abortion and to strike down a near-total abortion ban that will return into effect if Roe is overruled. The law, which dates to the 1800s, has an exception when the girl’s life is in danger, but not for cases of rape and incest.

“I’m using every tool at my disposal. I’m going to fight like hell to guard this right for ladies within the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said this week. “No matter what happens with SCOTUS, we’ve a possibility in Michigan.”

The situation is different in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where there isn’t a outright ban on the books, but Republican candidates for governor have indicated they might support a full ban if given the prospect. Most refused to make clear their positions in recent days when asked directly by The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania law currently allows abortions in the course of the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But all 4 leading Republican candidates for governor have told the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania, in questionnaire responses, that they support “legal protection for all pre-born children from abortion” — in other words, banning an abortion of any diagnosed pregnancy, based on Mike McMonagle, the organization’s president.

Two of the Pennsylvania Republicans, Bill McSwain and Lou Barletta, said they support exceptions for rape, incest or to guard the lifetime of the mother. The opposite two, Doug Mastriano and Dave White, said they support no exceptions.

Only White agreed to debate his position in an AP interview this week. The others declined interview requests and didn’t answer specific written questions.

White said he would sign laws banning all abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or the lifetime of the mother if given the prospect. He noted that he’s ninth of 14 children from a Catholic family through which his parents taught him the “blessing of each child that comes into this world.”

In a televised debate last week, Mastriano said he supports banning abortion from conception, with no exceptions. He called abortion “the No. 1 issue” and pointed to the “heartbeat” bill that he has sponsored, which effectively bans abortion at six weeks.

Anticipating that Mastriano may emerge from the GOP’s May 17 primary election, Shapiro has began running attack ads against the Republican state senator this week highlighting his plans to “outlaw abortion.”

“They’re wildly out of touch with where Pennsylvanians are,” Shaprio said in an interview of his would-be Republican challengers. “This issue boils all the way down to whether or not we’re going to construct a Pennsylvania where freedom is respected.”

Polling shows relatively few Americans need to see Roe overturned.

In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters within the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; just 29% said the court should overturn the choice. On the whole, AP-NORC polling finds a majority of the general public favors abortion being legal in most or all cases.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams will face the winner of the state’s May 24 GOP primary, which pits incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp against the Donald Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue.

Kemp has declined to make clear his position on abortion in recent days. His office ignored direct questions asking whether he would support a whole abortion ban. An anti-abortion group that has endorsed Kemp rallied Friday to rejoice a possible Roe reversal. Speakers vowed to defend Georgia’s ban on abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected. Tied up in courts now, it could take effect with a Supreme Court ruling.

Perdue wants Kemp to call for a special legislative session to approve an abortion ban if the Supreme Court officially overturns Roe, a ruling expected in late June or early July.

“Georgia voters should know where their governor stands on this issue,” Perdue said on Thursday. “You’re either going to fight for the sanctity of life otherwise you’re not.”

On the Democratic side, Abrams touted herself as a defender of abortion rights in a speech this week to Emily’s List, a political motion committee that donates to Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights.

“The abomination of that leaked opinion is coming to search out every one in all us, and we’ve got to be able to fight back,” Abrams said, based on a recording provided by her campaign. “That is about our dignity and our freedom. That is about our health and our welfare. That is about our future and our lives, and we’ve the suitable to be indignant.”

The difficulty could help Abrams — and Democrats in other states — win more votes amongst college educated white voters, who’ve been probably the most frequent swing voters in recent times.

Like a growing variety of Democratic candidates elsewhere, Abrams also warned that a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade could threaten other precedents, including Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision that struck down restrictions on contraception, and Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that outlawed racial segregation in schools.

“It is a query of whether equality in America relies on geography and zip code and DNA,” Abrams said.

Peoples reported from Latest York. Amy reported from Atlanta. AP writers David Eggert and Mike Householder in Lansing, Michigan, contributed.

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