February 22, 2023

Days before a right-wing federal judge is expected to hand down a major ruling regarding the legality of medication abortion, the Democratic governors of 20 states announced an alliance to protect access for their constituents and strengthen the ability of people in anti-abortion states to get care.

Expanding on an agreement he reached with the governors of Oregon and Washington after Roe v. Wade was overturned last June, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is spearheading the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, which is nonpartisan but has so far been joined only by Democratic leaders.

The group of states will act as "a firewall to fight for and protect providers, patients, and all who are affected by these attacks on fundamental rights" by the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court and Republican legislators.

"California has long been a leader in reproductive rights, but we can't do it alone," said Newsom. "We have gathered a coalition of bipartisan governors to commit to reproductive freedom, and a coalition this size—20 and counting—has never been done before."

He added that the alliance "is a moral obligation to what is right."

With funding secured from California Wellness Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation, the governors and their staffs will share "model statutory language and executive orders" to protect abortion access and collaborate on ways to protect providers from prosecution and manufacturers of contraceptives and abortion pills from legal challenges. They will also discuss how to maximize federal financing for reproductive care.

Govs. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Janet Mills of Maine, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico are among the Democrats who have signed on to the Reproductive Freedom Alliance.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also joined the alliance, having pushed Democratic lawmakers in his state to work to restore access to abortion. Abortion care became illegal in Wisconsin after Roe was overturned due to a state law that was written in 1849. In January, Evers and his party announced a new effort to include an advisory referendum on ballots in April, asking voters if the 19th century ban should be overturned.

"Every Wisconsinite should have the right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without interference from politicians," said Evers Tuesday. "Reproductive healthcare is healthcare, and I'm proud to join my fellow governors in continuing the fight to restore Roe and reproductive rights for every person in Wisconsin and across the country."

The rest of the states in the alliance have so far successfully protected and expanded abortion rights.

Lujan Grisham told the Associated Press that the alliance offers an opportunity for pro-abortion rights governors to "coalesce," especially as a ruling is expected as soon as this week on whether the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to approve mifepristone—a drug used in medication abortions which has been approved for more than two decades and is used in more than half of abortions in the United States.

"If there were an order issued that would cause problems with this safe and effective method," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper toldThe Washington Post, "then I know that we would be in contact with each other and would help to coordinate a quick response to it."

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk for the Northern District of Texas, who was appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, has asked both sides arguing the case to finish filing legal briefs by this Friday, February 24, and could rule shortly thereafter.

The governors could become involved in efforts to appeal Kacsmaryk's decision, and the case could ultimately go to the Supreme Court.

Healey also told the Post the alliance could help with "protecting providers from out-of-state investigations, and training and licensing providers who can perform abortions."

Lujan Grisham told the AP that while the alliance cannot change abortion access in states where restrictions or bans have been imposed, governors can communicate about methods they are using to solidify access in their states.

The New Mexico governor and Democratic state legislators are hoping to pass a statute affirming abortion rights in the state.

"We're going to codify equality on abortion rights, reproductive rights, and care in as narrow as possible way," Lujan Grisham said.

Pro-Choice Connecticut applauded Gov. Ned Lamont's decision to join the alliance.

The recent activist decision by the Supreme Court to remove a woman's constitutional right to reproductive healthcare has resulted in confusion across the country and a patchwork of radical laws in certain states that are blocking basic healthcare rights and putting the careers of medical professionals in jeopardy simply for providing essential care to their patients," said Lamont. "Now, in this new era, we must actively work to ensure that politicians do not interfere in the decisions made between a patient and their doctor."

Republished from Common Dreams (Julia Conley, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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