The real abor­tion fights won’t be held in D.C.

Pawtucket Times - - OPINION - By KAREN TU­MULTY The Wash­ing­ton Post · Karen Tu­multy is a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist cov­er­ing na­tional pol­i­tics.

In Rhode Is­land, Gov. Gina Rai­mondo,a Demo­crat run­ning for a sec­ond term, has called for a spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion to cod­ify abor­tion rights into state law.

In Wis­con­sin, for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kelda Roys, bat­tling in a crowded Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary, has de­clared that if fed­eral pro­tec­tion of abor­tion rights is elim­i­nated, she would par­don any­one charged with vi­o­lat­ing the state’s 169-year-old law crim­i­nal­iz­ing the pro­ce­dure.

In Florida, ex-con­gress­woman Gwen Gra­ham, in a five-way con­test for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for gov­er­nor, has put re­pro­duc­tive free­dom front and cen­ter in her cam­paign, say­ing she would veto any leg­is­la­tion that re­stricts abor­tion – and not-so-sub­tly re­mind­ing vot­ers that she is the only fe­male can­di­date of ei­ther party in the race.

Most of the at­ten­tion sur­round­ing the Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion of Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh has fo­cused on the fire­works tak­ing place in the Se­nate.

But the truth is, Repub­li­cans prob­a­bly will have the votes they need to con­firm a stal­wart orig­i­nal­ist from the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia Cir­cuit and give the high court a sharper right­ward tilt. That means big con­se­quences out­side Wash­ing­ton, where the pol­i­tics of this Supreme Court choice are heat­ing up the gover­nors’ races un­der­way this year in 36 states.

“This is an is­sue for all of us, and the states are ob­vi­ously where the ac­tion is,” said Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown, who is up for re-elec­tion. She has blasted her GOP op­po­nent, state Rep. Knute Buehler, for say­ing that “abor­tion in this coun­try is mostly set­tled as a le­gal mat­ter.”

Not any­more.

If Roe v. Wade is over­turned – or, as is more likely, chipped away – states will have more lee­way to im­pose re­stric­tions or out­right pro­hi­bi­tions.

That has been hap­pen­ing al­ready, of course. Ac­cord­ing to the Guttmacher In­sti­tute, a re­pro­duc­tive rights re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion, 19 states last year adopted 63 new re­stric­tions on abor­tion rights and ac­cess.

But some are poised to go much fur­ther. Four states have “trig­ger laws” that would au­to­mat­i­cally out­law abor­tion if Roe were re­scinded. An­other 10 – such as Wis­con­sin, where Roys is run­ning – re­tain un­en­forced bans that were on their books when the Roe de­ci­sion was handed down in 1973. Courts have blocked five states’ ef­forts to ban abor­tion af­ter six or 12 weeks ges­ta­tion, or in all but a lim­ited num­ber of cir­cum­stances.

All of these seemed like hy­po­thet­i­cals un­til June 27, when Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy, who had been the court’s swing vote on abor­tion, as well as a host of other highly charged so­cial is­sues, an­nounced his re­tire­ment.

Democrats have long strug­gled to mo­ti­vate their base in years when there is no pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on the bal­lot, and to en­er­gize their vot­ers about state-level races, which have been the ba­sis for so much Repub­li­can ac­tivism. “We’ve been asleep at the switch for two decades on this,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., who heads the Demo­cratic Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion.

This is­sue could spark hard-to-mo­bi­lize vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly younger ones who have never lived at a time when abor­tion was not freely ac­ces­si­ble. With Roe the law of the land, nearly all the leg­isla­tive mo­men­tum has been on the other side. Only nine states cur­rently guar­an­tee the right to an abor­tion be­fore fe­tal vi­a­bil­ity, or when nec­es­sary to pro­tect the life or health of the woman.

An­other fac­tor: A record 38 women, two-thirds of them Democrats, are run­ning for gov­er­nor this year, ac­cord­ing to the cur­rent tally by Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity’s Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics.

“You have long his­to­ries of lead­er­ship on this is­sue, be­cause it has im­pacted us per­son­ally, or peo­ple that we know,” said Ore­gon’s Brown, who re­called that her own po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism was awak­ened in 1984, when she was in law school and vol­un­teered to es­cort women into an abor­tion clinic. The first leg­is­la­tion she in­tro­duced as a leg­is­la­tor in 1993 was a bill to re­quire health in­surance com­pa­nies to cover con­tra­cep­tives – some­thing that took 16 years to get passed.

With the com­ing shift in power on the Supreme Court, abor­tion-rights forces across the coun­try are about to learn two things the other side fig­ured out a long time ago: This is a bat­tle that must be waged over the long haul. And it is one where the fight be­gins at home.

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