Abortion ruling raises stakes in major U.S. governor races
June 25 (Reuters) – Abortion is now at the center of key November gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania and Michigan, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade who recognized a constitutional right to abortion.
Kansas residents, meanwhile, will vote on whether to protect abortion rights in a ballot measure in August, now that Roe has been overturned. And abortion will play a consequent role in other legislative races for governor and statehood across the country, with Democrats aiming to capitalize on anger over the issue ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
The Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe gave the power to legalize or ban abortion to states, setting the stage for a patchwork of policies across the country, with many Republican-controlled states having to ban it. Democrats hold too narrow a majority in Congress to pass national legislation, leaving state legislatures and governors the key players.
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Senior Democrats hope the decision will motivate their supporters in November and win over swing voters, but economic problems and high inflation are also expected to remain top concerns for voters.
“The 2022 election is going to send a clear message to elected officials across the country,” Democratic Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said on a conference call with reporters on Saturday. “We have it in our power to send a very powerful message, a message that we will not accept politicians taking rights away from Americans.”
In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a state senator, previously sponsored a “pulsed” bill that would ban abortions after about six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. He expressed support for a total ban with no exceptions, including for the life of the mother, and called abortion “genocide”.
With Republicans in control of the state legislature, a victory for Mastriano this fall would likely spur lawmakers to pass new abortion restrictions.
The Democratic candidate, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has pledged to protect abortion rights if elected.
“Our Republican Legislature will send a bill to our next governor’s office to ban abortion in Pennsylvania,” he said on Twitter after Friday’s decision. “Without Roe, the only thing stopping them is our next governor’s veto.”
LAW OF 1931
In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood both filed lawsuits to block a 1931 law that bars abortions from resuming effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
In May, a state court judge temporarily suspended the 91-year-old law while litigation continues.
Whitmer is running for re-election this fall. The top Republican candidates, who will face each other in a primary on August 2, all oppose abortion rights, and both houses of the state legislature are controlled by Republicans.
“I will fight like hell to protect every Michigander’s right to make decisions about their own body with the guidance of a medical professional they trust,” Whitmer said in a statement Friday.
Michigan abortion rights advocates are seeking to put a ballot measure before voters in November that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
In Kansas, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that abortion is protected by the state constitution. But voters will decide on Aug. 2 whether to approve an amendment removing the right to abortion from the constitution, opening the door for the Republican-controlled legislature to pass new limits.
Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, who supports abortion rights, is running for re-election. Republicans currently hold a legislative supermajority, enough to override any gubernatorial veto.
In some other battleground states, Democratic gubernatorial candidates who support abortion rights have few options in the face of pre-existing laws and Republican-controlled legislatures.
In Wisconsin, Friday’s ruling reinstated an 1849 state law banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother, though litigation challenging the law is expected.
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, called lawmakers to a special session this month to repeal the law, but Republicans adjourned the session without taking action. Evers is also running for re-election in November.
In Georgia, a “heartbeat” bill seems likely to come into force following the Supreme Court’s decision. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is challenging Republican Governor Brian Kemp in November, supports abortion rights but would have little recourse with a Republican-dominated legislature.
Some Republican lawmakers in Georgia have argued for a total ban on abortion; Kemp, who welcomed Friday’s decision, did not say whether he would support such a move.
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Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis
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