Democrats scramble to protect abortion rights in liberal US states | Top news

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – In New York, lawmakers have introduced a bill to increase funding for abortion care. California lawmakers will soon vote on measures to increase the number of abortion providers. And Connecticut just passed a law to protect providers from lawsuits in states where abortion is banned.

With new urgency, Democratic lawmakers are acting to protect abortion access in their states after a draft leaked last week showed the U.S. Supreme Court was set to overturn the Roe ruling. v. Wade of 1973 which legalized abortion nationwide.

“There is no longer a critical issue,” said California Senate Leader Toni Atkins, a Democrat who ran reproductive health clinics before entering politics. “I hope this becomes a key issue of importance to everyone.”

Efforts to strengthen abortion rights stand in stark contrast to those in conservative states, where lawmakers promise to continue restrictions. Abortion will be banned or restricted in about 26 Republican-led states if the Supreme Court overturns federal constitutional protections in a ruling expected by the end of June.

U.S. Senate Democrats plan to force a vote on Wednesday on legislation codifying women‘s nationwide abortion rights, a protest move nearly doomed to failure.

At the state level, however, liberal and moderate politicians succeeded in enacting laws to expand and protect access to abortion in anticipation of the court ruling.

In Connecticut last week, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation to protect providers who perform abortions for patients traveling from states where the procedure has been banned or restricted, as well as the patients themselves.

A constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion will be presented to voters in Vermont in November, and similar constitutional proposals are being considered in Washington state and California.

Some of the most aggressive steps to protect abortion rights have been taken in New York and California, two Democratic strongholds.

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers in New York announced a new bill to establish a program that would fund uninsured abortion care and provide grants to groups that help women traveling from other states to have an abortion.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, on Tuesday ordered the state Department of Health to create a $25 million fund to support abortion providers. The Criminal Justice Division would offer an additional $10 million for security grants for reproductive health centers, she said.

Next week, the California legislature will hear a series of abortion bills that include a measure that would protect providers and patients from civil suits and financial retaliation for obtaining legal process in the state.

The legislation would also allow nurse practitioners to perform some abortions, expanding the ranks of providers at a time when thousands of women would have to travel to California from other states seeking care.

But actions to increase abortion protections in Democratic-led states have been overshadowed by new restrictions enacted in Republican-controlled states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group. .

Conservative lawmakers passed 37 bills to restrict abortion access in 10 states this year, while only 14 measures to protect abortion were approved in eight states, Guttmacher data shows. Restrictive measures also far outpaced protective laws in 2021, the institute said.

Some conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion activists have said they want to go further — eliminating medical abortions via pills often obtained online and finding ways to extend abortion bans to states where the procedure remains legal.

Not all Republicans oppose abortion rights. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, said last week he was “open” to discussing protections for women who come to his state for abortions.

Sue Dunlap, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles, said policymakers need to go beyond general state laws to consider the specifics of how women will actually be able to access abortion if they live in states where it is prohibited.

Much of this will be done at the local level, she said, as city officials will be called upon to provide services such as police protection for patients and providers.

“California and Los Angeles and others across the country have taken some very important first steps,” Dunlap said, “but I don’t feel like we’ve really tackled what’s to come.”

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Rosalba O’Brien)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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