Furor on the trail


Alabama law moves abortion to the center of 2020 campaign

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Alabama’s new law restricting abortion in nearly every circumstance has moved one of the most polarizing issues in American politics to the center of the 2020 presidential campaign.

The state’s legislation – the toughest of several anti-abortion measures that have passed recently, with the only exception being a serious risk to the woman’s health – prompted an outcry from Democratic presidential candidates, who warned that conservatives were laying the groundwork to undermine the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The White House, meanwhile, didn’t comment on the Alabama bill, signed into law Wednesday by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, as President Donald Trump tries to balance his conservative base against the potential of antagonizing women who are already skeptical of his presidency.

The furor over abortion quickly took over on the Democratic campaign trail. Rallying supporters in New Hampshire, Sen. Kamala Harris said she would back a legal challenge to Alabama and Georgia’s restrictive abortion laws. She also vowed to make a commitment to upholding the Roe decision a “significant factor” in any Supreme Court nominees she might choose as president, though she declined to go as far as presidential rival Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has promised to only nominate judges ready to preserve the 1973 ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

“I respect every woman’s right to make a decision about what’s in the best interest of herself and her family,” Harris said.

Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved abortion bans once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. None of these laws are yet in force, either because of later effective dates or legal challenges that have blocked them. But supporters have openly predicted that the laws could spark court fights that will eventually lead the Supreme Court to revisit its Roe decision.

Gillibrand plans to fly to Atlanta today to meet with women protesting Georgia’s state law.

Sen. Cory Booker told The Associated Press that backers of the Alabama measure are “saying that they designed this bill with certain provisions – like not having any exceptions for rape or incest – specifically designed so that they can lead a fight to the Supreme Court” to “undermine other freedoms and liberties of women to control their own bodies.”

Booker said it’s not enough to hope that Roe will be upheld, adding: “We cannot wait to see if this gets worse.”

Several Democratic presidential candidates sought to use their high-profile positions to boost organizing against the state-level abortion laws. Harris emailed her campaign supporters offering to “split a donation” to four advocacy groups working to defend abortion rights. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., directed his supporters by email to the abortion-rights group NARAL.

Among the other Democratic candidates who took to Twitter to blast Alabama’s law and other state-level restrictions were Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

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