Sen. Kamala Harris announced a plan on Tuesday to keep rogue state legislatures in line, preventing them from continuing to pass unconstitutional abortion bans that will inevitably face court challenges.
If elected president, Harris said she would require states and localities with a pattern of violating Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, in the preceding 25 years, to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Justice before enacting any new abortion laws, according to a senior campaign official. The plan would have to be enacted by Congress, which may prove a challenge if the Senate is still Republican-controlled.
Harris’ proposal is modeled after a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required states that implemented discriminatory voting measures to obtain Justice Department approval before enforcing additional ones. As a result, the department has been able to block hundreds of voter-suppression measures, like literacy tests and photo ID laws, that could disenfranchise marginalized communities, according to Harris’ campaign.
The announcement comes on the heels of a wave of anti-choice legislation in states including Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, and Ohio. Just a few days ago, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a measure into law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a measure that bans abortion at any stage of gestation, except in cases in which the woman’s life is in danger. These early abortion bans are unconstitutional due to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. (Researchers say a fetus is not considered viable until around 22 weeks of pregnancy.) In the first three months of 2019, anti-choice lawmakers in 41 states introduced over 250 bills restricting access to abortion care.
In order to challenge the unconstitutional bans, the burden is currently on legal activists to put up court challenges. But Harris’ plan would go a step further and put the burden on the states to show the Justice Department that their laws don’t violate the precedent of Roe.
“What is different about this is that she’s really going on the offense,” Laurie Rubiner, a former vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood, told Vox. “The onus would be on the states and the anti-choice legislators who are passing these laws.”
The other 2020 presidential candidates, particularly the women, have their own plans to help stave off the draconian bans. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed a platform that calls for Congress to pass a group of federal laws protecting access to reproductive care even if Roe falls, including codifying access to abortion in the federal statute, repealing the Hyde Amendment, reversing the Trump administration’s gag rule, and passing a bill blocking states from enacting onerous anti-abortion restrictions such as the targeted regulations on abortion providers (TRAP) laws. Along with codifying Roe and ending Hyde, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand promised she would only nominate judges willing to uphold Roe and "create a funding stream to ensure reproductive health center access in every state and every region of the country."
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Source: Refinery29 – Natalie Gontcharova