Democratic governors in 20 states form reproductive rights alliance
Coalition commits to expanding access as other states introduce more restrictions
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference celebrating the enactment of Proposal 3, which enshrines abortion rights in Michigan’s state constitution, on Dec. 14, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)
Democratic governors from 20 states across the U.S., led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have formed a Reproductive Freedom Alliance to safeguard and improve abortion and reproductive health care access “in the face of an unprecedented assault by states hostile to abortion rights,” according to a joint statement.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a strong supporter of reproductive rights who last year challenged in court Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, is part of the coalition. She also supported Proposal 3 of 2022, which passed in November and guarantees abortion rights in the state Constitution.
The announcement represents another divide in the country’s ongoing debate in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and a constitutional right to abortion care. Eighteen states have either completely banned abortion or restricted it to patients who are between six and 20 weeks pregnant, while the procedure remains legal in 26 states. Six states are trying to institute bans that are blocked or under consideration by courts.
Several of the states that signed on to the alliance — including Illinois, Oregon and New Mexico — border states with abortion bans. Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, joined the coalition despite the fact that his state has a ban in place based on an 1849 law with no exceptions for rape or incest. Evers has filed a lawsuit challenging the 174-year-old statute.
“Every Wisconsinite should have the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians,” Evers said in the news release. “That’s a right I’ll never stop fighting for as long as I’m governor — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the will of the people. Reproductive health care is health care, and I’m proud to join my fellow governors in continuing the fight to restore Roe and reproductive rights for every person in Wisconsin and across the country.”
California governor calls alliance a ‘firewall’ for reproductive rights
Much of the funding for the alliance will be provided by the California Wellness Foundation, with additional support from the Rosenberg Foundation, a California-based philanthropic organization. That funding will be used for logistical purposes to support collaboration between the offices and coordinate actions such as executive or administrative orders, health and human services-related directives, budgetary requests and reproductive-related legislation.
The alliance will also serve as a resource for governors and their staff members to share best practices for their own constituents and those who live in states with bans or restrictions, according to reporting from the Associated Press.
“California has long been a leader in reproductive rights, but we can’t do it alone. We have gathered a coalition of bipartisan governors to commit to reproductive freedom, and a coalition this size — 20 and counting — has never been done before,” Newsom said in the news release. “This alliance is a moral obligation to what is right and will stand as a firewall to fight for and protect providers, patients, and all who are affected by these attacks on fundamental rights.”
The alliance so far includes:
- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis
- Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont
- Delaware Gov. John Carney
- Hawaii Gov. Josh Green
- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker
- Maine Gov. Janet Mills
- Maryland Gov. Wes Moore
- Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey
- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
- New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
- Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek
- Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro
- Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers
Planned Parenthood Northwest reacts
Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Indiana and Kentucky told States Newsroom in a statement that the coalition represents a step forward that the organization is glad to see.
“For far too long, our politicians were afraid to even talk about abortion — a safe and normal procedure that happens in our country every day. The creation of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance is a step in the right direction,” Gibron said. “In the face of coordinated attacks on our reproductive freedoms, this work is more crucial than ever. We have to do everything in our power to protect abortion care because frankly, we’re already seeing the devastating impacts that bans can have.”
The coalition is nonpartisan, according to Newsom’s news release, and the alliance welcomes other governors to join.
“Defending reproductive freedom is a racial justice issue,” said Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. “The foundation is committed to reimagining policies and systems to win fundamental rights, protections, and opportunities for Black, brown and immigrant communities. We are proud to join with Gov. Newsom and our colleagues in philanthropy in the fight to protect reproductive rights and access in California and across the country.”
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