Democrats push to expand abortion access in blue states

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Abortion rights for millions of people will be at risk if the Supreme Court this summer overturns the Roe v. Wade decision — a likelihood given the lead of a draft decision suggesting a majority of five justices are ready to do so.

Yet Democrats in a number of states are actually moving to expand access to abortion services.

Here are some examples from across the county.

Expanding providers and abortion care

Maryland passed the Abortion Care Access act into law in April, overriding a veto from Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

The new law establishes a training program to increase the pool of abortion care providers to allow senior nurses and other medical professionals to provide abortions. The effort was passed to ensure enough medical professionals can staff abortion centers.

The law also added a $3.5 million annual fund to the program and ensures insurance providers cover the cost of an abortion at no cost to patients.

In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced on Wednesday legislation similar to Maryland’s.

The bill would allow senior nurses and physician assistants to provide abortions and require insurers to cover the entire cost of most abortions.

The governor also announced his intent to create a Reproductive Health Access Fund to pay for various efforts related to protecting abortion access.

Murphy is adding on to a measure passed in January that codified Roe v. Wade and the right to use contraception into law.

“Revoking the fundamental right to abortion is dangerous and reprehensible, yet the U.S. Supreme Court is nevertheless prepared to proceed with this plan,” Murphy said in a statement. “We refuse to go backwards on this critical issue and, today, our state moves forward in working to secure reproductive rights and ensure access to the reproductive health care every woman deserves.”

After Texas passed a six-week abortion ban into law by allowing citizens to sue abortion providers, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed into law a measure prohibiting legal action against providers or patients. The new law in Washington also allows physician assistants and senior nurses to provide abortion care.

Delaware also moved to expand access to abortion care medication last month, passing a law that allows medical staff besides physicians to prescribe medication to terminate pregnancies.

Connecticut passed a law this month that allows advanced nurses to perform certain abortions and protects patients who travel from other states to get abortion care.

Codifying abortion rights into law

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) promised he would not “sit idly by” while the Supreme Court moves to lift abortion rights, saying immediately after the leak of the draft decision that he would work to codify reproductive rights into the state constitution.

“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution,” Newsom said in a statement. “Women will remain protected here.”

Newsom also proposed $125 million for a Reproductive Health Package to expand abortion access to the uninsured, develop a website for trustworthy abortion care information and provide grants to reproductive rights outreach organizations.

The proposal, which will have to be approved by the state legislature, builds on a $68 million package the governor proposed in January.

Last month, Colorado codified abortion rights into law for the first time when Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act.

Polis told NPR that his state would be a safe haven for patients seeking abortion care.

The governor said stripping away abortion access would result in “lives that are lost because of people who turn to under-qualified services in states where it’s no longer officially available.”

“It’s very alarmist that the Supreme Court is going to micromanage what a woman does with a fetus that’s in her body,” Polis said. “I mean, there’s no more micromanaging than that. It’s very scary.”

Other expansion efforts

Vermont lawmakers approved a ballot measure in February that would codify abortion access into statute. The measure will be voted on in November.

Oregon codified abortion rights into law in 2017 and even expanded access for immigrants and other groups. This year, state lawmakers added $15 million to a reproductive rights fund.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced an effort to expand abortion access with a $35 million fund.

“New York has always been at the forefront of the fight for abortion rights, and as the first female Governor of New York, I will not let us go backwards,” Hochul said in a statement.

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