Shapiro Teams With Other Democratic Governors to Protect Abortion Rights

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference regarding ghost guns, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Ewing, N.J. His salary will rise to $177,000. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Associated Press

February 21, 2023

Led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Reproductive Freedom Alliance aims to enable governors and their staffs to share best practices and affirm abortion rights not just in their own states, but in states with more restrictive laws.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is joining Democratic governors in 19 other states to launch a network intended to strengthen abortion access in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision nixing a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy and instead shifting regulatory powers over the procedure to state governments.

Organizers, led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, described the Reproductive Freedom Alliance as a way for governors and their staffs to share best practices and affirm abortion rights for the approximately 170 million Americans who live in the consortium’s footprint — and even ensure services for the remainder of US residents who live in states with more restrictive laws.

“We can all coalesce,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in an interview ahead of a Tuesday announcement. She added that the court’s Dobbs decision that ended a national right to abortion “horrified” and put pressure on governors to act. “This is leveraging our strengths … to have more of a national voice.”

That includes, organizers said, sharing model statutory language and executive orders protecting abortion access, ways to protect abortion providers from prosecution, strategies to maximize federal financing for reproductive health care such as birth control, and support for manufacturers of abortion medication and contraceptives that face potential new restrictions from conservatives.

Lujan Grisham noted the launch comes as a federal court in Texas considers a challenge to the nationwide availability of medication abortion, which now accounts for the majority of abortions in the US.

In a statement, Newsom called the effort, which he and his aides spent months organizing, “a moral obligation” and a “firewall” to protect “fundamental rights.”

The group includes executives of heavily Democratic states like California, where voters overwhelmingly approve of abortion rights, but also involves every presidential battleground state led by a Democrat, including Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, and Shapiro in Pennsylvania.

During his campaign for governor last year, Shapiro vowed repeatedly to defend access to abortion, which is currently legal up to and through 24 weeks in Pennsylvania.

But it’s the recently solidified Democratic state House majority that really guarantees continued access to abortion care in Pennsylvania. 

While holding the majority last year, House Republicans passed a bill that would amend the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion or taxpayer funding of abortions under the Pennsylvania constitution. 

Because the GOP bill sought to amend the constitution, it had to win support in the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions before it would be placed on voters’ ballots — a process that would have allowed Republicans to effectively bypass the governor’s veto pen. A Democratic majority ensures that won’t happen during this legislative session.

Keystone managing editor Patrick Berkery contributed to this story.

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