Enterprise-Record (Chico)

Dem governors form alliance on abortion rights

- By Bill Barrow and Geoff Mulvihill

Democratic governors in 20 states are launching a network intended to strengthen abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision nixing a woman’s constituti­onal right to end a pregnancy and instead shifting regulatory powers over the procedure to state government­s.

Organizers, led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, described the Reproducti­ve Freedom Alliance as a way for governors and their staffs to share best practices and affirm abortion rights for the approximat­ely 170 million Americans who live in the consortium’s footprint — and even ensuring services for the remainder of U.S. residents who live in states with more restrictiv­e laws.

“We can all coalesce,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in an interview ahead of a Tuesday announceme­nt. She added that the court’s Dobbs decision that ended a national right to abortion “horrified” and put pressure on governors to act. “This is leveraging our strengths ... to have more of a national voice.”

That includes, organizers said, sharing model statutory language and executive orders protecting abortion access, ways to protect abortion providers from prosecutio­n, strategies to maximize federal financing for reproducti­ve health care such as birth control, and support for manufactur­ers of abortion medication and contracept­ives that face potential new restrictio­ns from conservati­ves.

Lujan Grisham noted the launch comes as a federal court in Texas considers a challenge to the nationwide availabili­ty of medication abortion, which now accounts for the majority of abortions in the U.S.

In a statement, Newsom called the effort, which he and his aides spent months organizing, “a moral obligation” and a “firewall” to protect “fundamenta­l rights.”

Political fault lines

The group includes executives of heavily Democratic states like California, where voters overwhelmi­ngly approve of abortion rights, but also involves every presidenti­al battlegrou­nd state led by a Democrat, including Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvan­ia and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

The alliance has secured its initial funding from the California Wellness Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation, not-for-profits that often steer money to public health efforts focused on disadvanta­ged communitie­s.

While the organizati­on is billed as national and nonpartisa­n, the makeup underscore­s that abortion access since Dobbs has settled essentiall­y into two Americas that broadly track the platforms of the nation’s two major parties. That means greater access in states controlled by Democrats, tighter restrictio­ns or practicall­y outright bans in those controlled by Republican­s.

For example, 22 Democratic-run states have weighed in on the Texas challenge to medical abortions that was filed by many of the same litigant states that worked together to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. A similar contingent of Republican-led states has filed briefs in the Texas case urging a judge to reverse a decades-old approval by the Food and Drug Administra­tion of medical abortions.

Still, Newsom aides said the group would welcome Republican­s, though they declined to name any GOP executives that Newsom or other Democratic governors might be recruiting to the consortium. Indeed, a handful of Republican governors support abortion rights broadly.

Lujan Grisham mentioned New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who has sent mixed messages on the issue. Sununu signed a state budget in 2021 that included a ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy but also said after the Dobbs decision that abortion would remain legal in his state. He endorsed candidates in the November elections who favored further restrictio­ns but also supports adding exemptions to the current law for victims of rape and incest.

Lujan Grisham acknowledg­ed that the alliance cannot make national policy or even impose policy across state lines. But she said there’s practical value in having executives and their staffs have a formal framework to communicat­e.

She noted that New Mexico lawmakers now are considerin­g how to affirm abortion access with a statute, even though she and others believe the state’s constituti­on already establishe­s the right.

“The problem is everyone keeps challengin­g those constituti­onal interpreta­tions,” she said. “We’re going to codify equality on abortion rights, reproducti­ve rights and care in as narrow as possible way.” New Mexico’s process, she said, could become a model for other similarly situated states.

Leading on access

Governors’ offices in the alliance also have started working with advocacy groups that back abortion access.

Jeanné Lewis, the interim CEO of Faith in Public Life, a progressiv­e multistate faith-based organizati­on, said having states work together to ensure abortion access is essential as states and federal lawmakers continue to consider bans and deeper restrictio­ns.

“It is important for governors to be in conversati­ons now about shared solutions across state lines,” she said.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, said states should be working together to protect abortion access, especially given the pending Texas case.

 ?? JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in Sacramento on Jan. 10.
JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in Sacramento on Jan. 10.

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