Roe’s leak lends new weight to state attorney general contests

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The leaked Supreme Court draft decision suggesting that Roe v. Wade is set to be overturned has upped the ante for a number of attorney general races in states with laws that could further restrict access to abortion.

Thirteen states currently have trigger laws on the books that would automatically go into effect in the event the 1973 Supreme Court ruling is overturned. Democratic attorney general incumbents and nominees are making development a central part of their campaign messaging and hope to use it to put their Republican opponents to their defense.

With the High Court appearing to be on track to overturn the landmark ruling and federal Democrats unable to preserve it, the party increasingly sees state attorneys general as their last line of defense to protect access. to abortion.

“There is nothing more important than the bread-and-butter question that confronts us with a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, who is also co-chair of the Democratic attorneys general. Association.

“That’s why it’s so important to elect Democratic attorneys general, especially in states where it’s highly likely that an old law, a pre-Roe abortion ban, will try to be resurrected, as well than in states that have passed the trigger laws,” she continued.

Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming all have laws on the trigger. However, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the Center for Reproductive Rights, 23 states would institute bans in the event Roe v. Wade would be canceled. Meanwhile, the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group, reported that there are 26 states that it says will either definitely ban the procedure or likely ban it.

Wisconsin, which is hosting a number of high-profile federal and state elections this year, has a 173-year-old abortion ban that would go into effect if Roe were overturned, since the law predates the court ruling. Supreme Court of 1973. Wisconsin law would ban all abortions except where two doctors determine that the mother’s life is in danger.

“I think that’s going to be a central question or the central question of the 2022 election,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D), who faces re-election this year.

Kaul argued that a Wisconsin GOP attorney general would direct the state’s Criminal Investigations Division to investigate potential violations of the abortion ban instead of investigating more criminal offenses. serious.

“You’re talking about investigating people for a very private decision and potentially charging people and putting them behind bars,” he said.

The issue is also rocking Michigan politics ahead of a high-profile race for governor and attorney general in November. Michigan has a 1931 state law prohibiting abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, which was never repealed because Roe v. Wade deemed it unenforceable. Attorney General Dana Nessel said she won’t enforce the law, but she is eligible for re-election in November.

“When people go to the polls in November, it should be on many people’s minds first and foremost, because even if you’re not a woman of childbearing age, chances are you know one or you’re related to a person,” Nessel told reporters last week.

In Arizona, a 1901 law passed while Arizona was still a territory would make abortion illegal unless the mother’s life was in danger. It is unclear whether this law would come into effect if Roe v. Wade is overruled, but in March Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed an abortion ban that bars the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ban has no exceptions for rape or incest, only for the life of the mother.

Georgia is also a state that is on the verge of instituting a law that would restrict access to abortion in the state. In 2020, the state’s heartbeat law was struck down by the federal courts, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to put the matter on hold until the Supreme Court rules on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. While the law won’t automatically go into effect if Roe is struck down, the Court of Appeals would likely step in to overturn the federal court’s initial ruling that found the heartbeat law unconstitutional.

In November, Georgia will have a number of closely watched elections, marking nearly two years after Democrats successfully flipped the state from red to blue at the presidential and senatorial levels. Much of the Democratic success in the state in 2020 and 2021 has been attributed to black voters and suburban voters, who Democrats say will be galvanized by the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe.

“In terms of voters in the suburbs, the people they’re talking about are women,” said Sen. Jen of Georgia State. Jordan (D), running for state attorney general. “And of course we know that black women are the most trusted voters, Democratic voters, in the state of Georgia.”

“When we talk about taking Roe v. Wade out,” she continued, “the impact is really going to be on women of color even outside of the Atlanta metro area.”

Most Democratic attorney general incumbents and nominees in those states told The Hill the issue was politically toxic to Republicans, warning that the legality of the process should impact virtually all voters in one way or another. ‘another.

“You can’t participate in the economy if you can’t figure out when and if and how to start a family,” said Kris Mayes, a Democrat running for Arizona attorney general. “It is a fundamental part of our economy that women have freedom over their bodies and that the government should not have control over our bodies and our lives.”

Republicans, on the other hand, criticized the leak of the draft Supreme Court ruling itself, arguing that Democrats are using it as a political tactic to influence the Supreme Court and other public offices across the country.

“They are weaponizing the offices of these attorneys general,” said Rodney Glassman, Republican attorney general nominee from Arizona. “I believe with great confidence that in 2022 the majority of Arizonans do not view abortion as an appropriate form of birth control.”

Adam Jarchow, a Republican challenging Kaul for Wisconsin attorney general, called the leak “unacceptable” and added that anyone unhappy with the decision should consult the legislative process.

“It is extremely important to protect the sovereignty of states and voters from the excesses of the federal government,” Jarchow told The Hill. “As Attorney General of Wisconsin, I will enforce the laws we have on the books. If someone wants to change the law, they have to go through the legislative process.

Republicans and abortion advocates have also used the strategy of portraying Democrats as “extreme” on the issue.

“Unlike extreme Democratic GAs, who are required to support abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy, the only litmus test for Republican GA candidates is a commitment to support and defend the Constitution and the State of law,” said the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association. Peter Bisbee told The Hill.

The Susan B. Anthony List, an influential anti-abortion group, launched a poll conducted in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania earlier this week. The survey found that 50% of likely voters said they were more likely to vote for a GOP political candidate who supports a 15-week abortion ban compared to 30% who said they would support a candidate Democrat who supports the procedure until the moment of birth. .

Another 51% of voters said they believe abortion policy should be decided by the people through state legislatures, not unelected judges.

Still, Democrats point to various polls that show a majority of Americans say they support preserving Roe v. Wade. A CBS News poll released earlier this week found that 64% of respondents said the High Court should uphold the ruling, while 36% said they disagreed. A separate University of Massachusetts-Amherst survey released this week found that 50% of respondents said the decision should not be reversed, while 34% said it should be reversed.

“The majority of people in this country support Roe v. Wade, and they support abortion access,” Jennings said. “It shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it is.”

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