Elections Could Impact Abortion Access in These States

(The hill) – When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, she propelled abortion to the center of many midterm races.

Many Democrats have made abortion rights a central issue in their campaigns, calling the GOP-backed restrictions out of step with the majority of Americans, who generally support some legal access to the procedure.

Most Republican House and Senate candidates have steered clear of proposals for a federal abortion ban while saying the issue should be left to state-level voters.

Some states will do just that in November, with direct-vote initiatives that will determine the future of abortion access in the state.

But in a handful of races, the November outcome could decide whether abortion remains legal in the state by shifting the balance of power in state governments.

Pennsylvania

Republicans currently hold the majority in the Pennsylvania State House and Senate, and in recent years have tried to introduce legislation that would further restrict abortion.

But Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf thwarted those efforts with his veto pen.

The outcome of the race to replace him could have dramatic implications for access to abortion in the state.

Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro, the incumbent attorney general, has pledged to protect abortion if elected, while Doug Mastriano, his opponent backed by former President Trump, said following the decision to the Supreme Court that “Roe V. Wade is rightly relegated to the ash heap of history”.

He is also before said people who have abortions should be charged with murder.

And as a state senator, Mastriano was a key sponsor of a bill in 2019 that would have made abortion illegal in Pennsylvania once a fetal heartbeat was detected, which happens usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

“We really believe that if Doug Mastriano wins and Republicans maintain control of the state legislature, they will definitely pass an abortion ban,” said Ianthe Metzger, director of state advocacy communications at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Republicans are expected to keep control of both chambers, while Shapiro holds a comfortable lead over Mastriano.

Katie Glenn, who is the director of state policy for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said if Mastriano can cause upheaval, a 15-week abortion ban is “definitely on the table.”

If Shapiro wins, she expects the status quo. “Shapiro came off as being very pro-abortion, so I think it would be more or less the same,” she said.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin was among the states with a pre-Roe abortion ban on the books, and following the June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the abortion precedent, the ban dating of 1849 has been reinstated.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special legislative session to try to repeal the ban, but Republican opposition to the state legislature resulted in the session ending with the law still in effect.

Since then, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has refused to use his department’s resources to prosecute abortion providers and has encouraged Wisconsin district attorneys to follow suit.

Kaul is running for re-election against Republican Eric Toney, who has promised to enforce the pre-Roe ban if elected, and even pleaded for district attorneys to be able to prosecute abortion cases across counties.

So far, no one has been prosecuted under the law, as state abortion providers have stopped performing the procedure due to the lack of legal clarity.

The ban has narrow exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger, with violators facing up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Kaul has filed a lawsuit challenging the 1849 law which is expected to eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, which could decide whether it is enforceable.

“For abortion to come back to Wisconsin…one of two things has to happen. One, the courts must declare the law unenforceable or two, our state legislature must repeal the criminal ban on abortion,” said Tanya Atkinson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the gubernatorial race would become crucial to the future of abortion in the state, with Republicans currently holding 57 of 99 seats in the state Assembly and 21 of 33 in the Senate.

Evers is up for re-election and in a close race against Republican challenger Tim Michels, who largely supports the pre-Roe ban

“If Tony Evers loses, I think the Republican governor along with the Republican legislature would decide to ban, pass a new ban,” Metzger said. “So even though the 1849 ban is still in dispute, and we’re still waiting to see if it’s enforceable or not, I think if they have full power they’ll pass a new ban and not even bother of the pre-ban of deer.

North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is the only major obstacle preventing Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature from restricting abortion in the state.

Since Roe’s overthrow, Cooper has been adamant in his defense of abortion access, even the signing of a decree protecting patients who traveled to North Carolina from states where abortion was banned from being sued at home.

Republicans in the state legislature only need to flip five seats to gain a supermajority, which would render Cooper’s veto pen powerless. Three additional seats in the House and two in the Senate would give the GOP the necessary three-fifths majority.

Abortion in North Carolina was previously legal up to the point of fetal viability, about 24 weeks gestation; however, a 20-week abortion law that had been discontinued came into effect after the Dobbs decision.

Metzger said if Republicans get a non-veto majority, she expects them to pass a ban.

“I think they would try to push through a ban and the governor wouldn’t be able to reverse it,” Metzger said. “I think it’s a real possibility.”

Carol Tobias, chair of the National Right to Life Committee, was hopeful, though less certain of this outcome.

“If we have the votes to protect unborn children, I hope they do,” Tobias said.

State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) said he would support restricting abortion after the first trimester, while House Speaker Tim Moore (R) said he would support a fetal heart rate bill.

Metzger said a ban in North Carolina could have repercussions for neighboring states where abortion is restricted, such as Tennessee, which has a total abortion ban.

The chances of the GOP winning additional seats have also been bolstered by new district maps making previously strong Democratic seats more competitive for Republicans. according to The Charlotte Observer.