Abortion rights in some states may be based on governors’ races

HARISBURG, Pa. – All four of the leading Republicans in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race have vowed to ban abortion if given the chance.

In Georgia, a Republican candidate for governor wants to ban all abortions. The incumbent Republican governor is backed by the anti-abortion lobby but refuses to clarify his position. And in Michigan, all but one of the top five Republicans running for governor oppose abortion even in the case of rape or incest.

The struggle for Congress often dominates midterm elections, but this week’s revelation that the Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade could soon repeal has put the gubernatorial nominees — and their positions on abortion — at the forefront of the 2022 campaign. Some states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, have primary elections this month, but the final battle won’t be decided until November’s general election.


In a handful of battleground states with Republican-controlled state legislatures, every GOP candidate for governor supports strict abortion restrictions, if not outright bans with no exceptions. This prompts Democrats to issue urgent warnings that women’s access to abortion in some states could depend almost entirely on which party wins the governor’s race this fall.

“This is an issue that is now at the forefront of this governor’s race,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, his state’s presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. “The fight will take place in the States.”

Thirteen deep red states have so-called “trigger laws” that would ban abortion almost immediately if Roe is overturned, but the future of abortion access is less certain in several other more moderate states with Republican-controlled legislatures: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, among them.


In nearly all cases, GOP legislatures have already passed restrictive abortion laws, including so-called “heartbeat” bills that would ban abortions before most women know they are pregnant. Some laws are tied to the courts, while others have yet to go through Republican legislatures. But if Roe falls, such legislation — or more restrictive bans — could only be stopped, if at all, by a veto by a Democratic governor or a Democrat-backed court action.

Some states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas, have decades-old pre-Roe abortion bans that are believed to go into effect almost immediately after a formal reversal of the case by the Supreme Court. But even in those states, Democratic governors would have the option to challenge the change in their state courts.

That’s what Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is doing as she prepares for a challenging re-election this fall.


In anticipation that Roe would be overthrown or weakened, Whitmer last month asked the Michigan Supreme Court to declare a state constitutional right to abortion and reverse a near-total abortion ban that would reinstate if Roe were overruled . The law, which dates back to the 19th century, provides an exception when the woman’s life is in danger, but not in cases of rape and incest.

“I use every tool at my disposal. I will fight like hell to protect this right for women in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said this week. “Regardless of what happens with SCOTUS, we have a chance in Michigan.”

The situation is different in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where there is no outright ban on the books, but Republican nominees for governor have indicated that they would support an outright ban if given the opportunity. Most have refused to clarify their positions in recent days when asked directly by The Associated Press.


Pennsylvania law currently permits abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But all four of the leading Republican gubernatorial candidates have told the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania in questionnaire responses that they support “legal protection of all preterm infants from abortion” — in other words, banning abortion from every diagnosed pregnancy. according to Mike McMonagle, the organization’s president.

Two of the Pennsylvania Republicans, Bill McSwain and Lou Barletta, said they support exceptions for rape, incest or protecting the life of the mother. The other two, Doug Mastriano and Dave White, said they don’t support exceptions.

Nur White agreed to discuss his position in an AP interview this week. The others declined interview requests and did not answer specific written questions.

White said he would sign legislation banning all abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or mother’s life if given the chance. He noted that he is the ninth of 14 children from a Catholic family where his parents taught him the “blessing of every child that comes into this world.”


In a televised debate last week, Mastriano said he fully supports the ban on abortion. He called abortion “The No. 1 Issue,” pointing to the “Heartbeat” bill he sponsored, which effectively bans abortions after six weeks.

Anticipating that Mastriano could emerge from the GOP primary on May 17, Shapiro this week began running assault ads against the Republican state senator, highlighting his plans to “ban abortion.”

“They have absolutely no connection with the Pennsylvania locations,” Shaprio said in an interview with his potential Republican challengers. “That question boils down to whether we’re going to build a Pennsylvania where liberty is respected.”

Polls show relatively few Americans want Roe overthrown.

In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision unchanged; only 29% said the court should overturn the decision. In general, AP-NORC polls find that a majority of the public support abortion being legal in most or all cases.


In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams meets the winner of the state’s May 24 GOP primary, which pits incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp against Donald Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue.

Kemp has refused to clarify his position on abortion in recent days. His office ignored direct questions about whether he would support a total abortion ban. An anti-abortion group that has supported Kemp gathered Friday to celebrate a possible Roe reversal. The speakers vowed to defend Georgia’s ban on abortion after fetal heart activity was detected. It is now before the courts and could go into effect with a Supreme Court ruling.

Perdue wants Kemp to call a special legislative session to authorize an abortion ban when the Supreme Court officially overturns Roe, a decision expected in late June or early July.

“Georgia voters deserve to know where their governor stands on this issue,” Perdue said Thursday. “Either you will fight for the sanctity of life or you won’t.”


On the Democrat side, Abrams hailed herself as an abortion right defender in a speech this week before Emily’s List, a political action committee that donates to Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

“The hideousness of this leaked opinion will strike every one of us, and we must be ready to fight back,” Abrams said, according to a recording provided by her campaign. “This is about our dignity and our freedom. This is about our health and well-being. Our future and our lives are at stake and we have the right to be angry.”

The issue could help Abrams — and Democrats elsewhere — win more votes among white college-educated voters, who have been the most common swing voters in recent years.

Like a growing number of Democratic candidates elsewhere, Abrams also warned that a Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade could threaten other precedents, including Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision overturning contraceptive restrictions, and Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that banned racial segregation in schools.


“This is a question of whether equality in America depends on geography, ZIP code and DNA,” Abrams said.


Peoples reported from New York. Amy reported from Atlanta. AP writers David Eggert and Mike Householder of Lansing, Michigan contributed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Abortion rights in some states may be based on governors’ races

Justin Scacco

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