Abortion rights may hinge on gubernatorial races in some states

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FILE – Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidate, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks after receiving endorsements from conservationists at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, April 7, 2022. Anticipating that Doug Mastriano could Emerging from the May 17 GOP primary election, Shapiro began launching an attack ad against the Republican state senator this week highlighting his plans to “ban abortion.” (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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The four leading Republicans in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race have pledged to ban abortion if given the chance.

In Georgia, a leading Republican gubernatorial candidate wants to ban all abortions. The Republican governor in office is supported by the anti-abortion lobby, but refuses to clarify his position. And in Michigan, all but one of the top five Republican gubernatorial candidates oppose abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

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

In a handful of battleground states with Republican-controlled state legislatures, every GOP gubernatorial candidate supports tough restrictions on abortion, if not a complete ban with no exceptions. That prompts urgent warnings from Democrats that women’s access to abortion in some states could rest almost entirely on which party wins the gubernatorial race this fall.

“It’s an issue that’s now at the center of this governor’s race,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, his state’s presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. “The battle will be in the States.”

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

In almost every case, GOP legislatures have already passed restrictive abortion laws, including so-called “heartbeat” bills that would ban abortions before most women know they are pregnant. . Some laws are stalled in the courts, while others have yet to go through Republican legislatures. But if Roe falls, such laws — or more restrictive bans — could only be stopped by a Democratic governor’s veto or a Democratic-backed legal challenge, if at all.

Some states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas, have decades-old abortion bans that predate Roe that would presumably go into effect almost immediately after a formal Supreme Court overturns the case. But even in those states, Democratic governors would have the ability to fight the change in their state courts.

That’s what Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is doing as she prepares for a tough re-election this fall.

Anticipating that Roe would be overthrown or weakened, Whitmer last month asked the Michigan Supreme Court to declare a state constitutional right to abortion and strike down a near-total abortion ban that would come back into effect if Roe was cancelled. The law, which dates back to the 1800s, provides an exception when the woman’s life is in danger, but not for cases of rape and incest.

“I use all the tools at my disposal. I will fight like hell to protect this right for women in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said this week. “No matter what happens with SCOTUS, we have an opportunity in Michigan.”

The situation is different in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where there is no outright book ban, but Republican gubernatorial candidates have indicated they would support a total ban if they had one. opportunity. Most declined to clarify their positions in recent days when asked directly by The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania law currently allows abortions during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But the four leading Republican gubernatorial candidates told the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania in questionnaire responses that they support “legal protection for all unborn children from abortion” – in d’ in other words, the prohibition of abortion of any diagnosed pregnancy, according to Mike McMonagle, president of the organization.

Two of the Pennsylvania Republicans, Bill McSwain and Lou Barletta, said they support exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. The other two, Doug Mastriano and Dave White, said they didn’t support any exceptions.

Only White agreed to discuss his position in an AP interview this week. The others declined interview requests and did not respond to specific written questions.

White said he would sign a law banning all abortions without exception for rape, incest or the life of the mother if given the chance. He noted that he is the ninth of 14 children in a Catholic family in which his parents taught him the “blessing of every child that comes into the world.”

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

Anticipating that Mastriano might emerge from the GOP primary election on May 17, Shapiro this week began running attack ads against the Republican state senator, highlighting his plans to “ban abortion.”

“They’re completely out of touch with where Pennsylvanians are,” Shaprio said in an interview with his future Republican challengers. “That question boils down to whether or not we’re going to build a Pennsylvania where freedom is respected.”

Polls show that relatively few Americans want to see Roe knocked down.

In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; only 29% said the court should overturn the decision. In general, AP-NORC polls reveal that a majority of the public supports the legality of abortion in most or all cases.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams will face the winner of the May 24 GOP primary, which will pit Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp against former Donald Trump-backed Senator David Perdue.

Kemp has declined to clarify his position on abortion in recent days. His office ignored direct questions asking whether he would support a complete ban on abortion. An anti-abortion group that endorsed Kemp gathered on Friday to celebrate a possible overthrow of Roe. Speakers pledged to defend Georgia’s abortion ban after fetal heart activity was detected. Tied up in court now, it could come into 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 formally overturns Roe, a decision expected in late June or early July.

“Georgia voters deserve to know what their governor’s position is on this issue,” Perdue said Thursday. “Either you’re going to fight for the sanctity of life or you don’t.”

On the Democratic side, Abrams came out as an advocate for abortion rights in a speech this week to Emily’s List, a political action committee that donates to Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

“The abomination of this opinion leak is coming to find each of us, and we must be prepared to fight back,” Abrams said, according to a recording provided by his campaign. “It’s about our dignity and our freedom. Our health and well-being are at stake. This is our future and our lives, and we have every right to be angry.

The question could help Abrams — and Democrats in other states — win more votes among white college-educated voters, who have been the most frequent voters in recent years.

Like a growing number 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 ruling that banned racial segregation in schools.

“It’s about whether equality in America depends on geography, zip code and DNA,” Abrams said.

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

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