Health Care

Dem governors set up abortion rights coalition

The Reproductive Freedom Alliance will share model bill language and executive orders meant to protect access to abortions.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom leaves the stage after delivering his budget proposal in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Democratic governors in 20 states on Tuesday launched a first-of-its-kind coalition to protect reproductive rights across the country in an effort to share best practices and protections for patients and providers.

The Reproductive Freedom Alliance, spearheaded by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), will be funded by the California Wellness Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation, two nonprofits that promote public health. The group will share model bill language and executive orders meant to protect access to abortions.

Governors will also share ideas about maximizing federal financing for birth control and supporting manufacturers of abortion-inducing medicines and contraceptives, at a time when some red state legislatures are threatening to criminalize or ban those medicines.

“The 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,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the coalition.

Though organizers said they would welcome governors from either party, all 20 of the founding members — from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin — are Democrats.

Blue states have moved to codify abortion and reproductive rights in state law and constitutions since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which struck down the right to an abortion established half a century ago in Roe v. Wade.

The Court’s decision threw authority over abortion rights back to the states, which have now had to consider issues such as patient privacy, exceptions for certain pregnancies and other issues that never came up during pitched battles over abortion rights under the Roe regime.

“The Supreme Court’s wrongheaded decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has left more than half the people in America without access to safe abortion, and it has unleashed unprecedented waves of new threats to reproductive health care,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said in a statement. “While we have strong abortion laws in Maine, this moment requires that states come together to stand for and safeguard reproductive freedom wherever and whenever possible.”

Legislators have introduced measures supporting or opposing abortion rights in most states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, though few of those bills have advanced beyond initial committee hearings. North Dakota lawmakers approved a near total ban on abortion, while South Carolina legislators are debating competing measures passed by the House and Senate.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed legislation last month adding funding or crisis pregnancy centers. Wyoming lawmakers are debating a bill to ban abortion medication. Montana’s legislature is working on a bill that would weaken abortion protections under the state constitution.

On the other side of the ledger, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill in January that will expand abortion coverage under Medicaid and private insurance plans. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) approved a law establishing the right to an abortion in state law.