- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2022

Josh Shapiro is a staunch pro-choice Democrat and Doug Mastriano is a staunchly pro-life Republican.

The abortion views of the two gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania are now going to get more attention with the Supreme Court’s decision to kick the issue back to the states.

”The governor’s race becomes paramount because of the governor’s veto power,” said John Cordisco, former chairman of the Bucks County Democrats in Pennsylvania. 

“It is one thing to have a court decision, it is another to have legislation,” Mr. Cordisco said of the pending battle. “Now the issue of abortion is going to be front and center in the governor’s race.” 

President Biden and congressional Democrats said the landmark ruling puts “Roe on the ballot” in the midterm elections, where they are defending their fragile hold on the House and the Senate and facing significant headwinds.

Odds are, though, that the most pressing abortion-related battles will play out at the state level now that governors can sign off on or reject efforts to expand abortion access.

The ruling had an immediate impact in about a dozen red states that passed “trigger laws” to reduce abortion just in case the justices overturned Roe, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

In Wisconsin, the ruling could reinstate a state law passed in 1849 that banned Wisconsin doctors from performing abortions unless the pregnant person’s life is at risk.

Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, who is running for reelection in a “toss-up” race, said the “grim news” left him heartbroken.

“It’s now up to the states to protect access to abortion,” Mr. Evers said. “I’ve already vetoed nine extreme Republican bills. As long as governor I will do everything in my power to protect reproductive health care.”

“Can you join my team in this fight to protect choice?” he said.

In Georgia, the decision cleared the way for an anti-abortion law that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed in 2019, sparking criticism from his Democratic rival Stacey Abrams.

“This callous decision proves once again that Georgians cannot afford four more years of a governor who puts his personal politics ahead of Georgians,” Ms. Abrams said. 

She vowed to work with the state legislature “to reverse the draconian law that will now rule our state.”

That is easier said than done. 

Even if Ms. Abrams wins, Republicans are still expected to keep calling the shots in the state legislature, which they’ve controlled for nearly two decades.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, another vulnerable Democrat, faces a similar situation in Michigan, where Republicans rule the legislative roost.

There is a good chance the best hope Democrats have of changing a 1931 state law that bans abortion, except if the pregnant person’s life is at risk, is an initiative pro-choice activists are trying to get on the ballot that would enshrine the right to an abortion in Michigan’s Constitution.

In a fundraising appeal, Ms. Whitmer said the ruling was “devastating” and warned that “Michigan’s dangerous abortion ban could go back into effect — making abortion a felony in Michigan.”

“I am running against a slew of opponents who want Michigan’s abortion ban to stay in place. With abortion access on the line this November, every contribution is critical,” she said.

It is a different story in states like Pennsylvania, where state law dictates abortions are legal for up to 24 weeks and if the pregnant patient’s life or health is endangered. 

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, now stands as the last line of defense for pro-choice advocates against the Republican-controlled state legislature. His successor will determine what happens next.

“It is in all likelihood going to be a Republican legislature and depending on who gets elected governor, the impact on reproductive rights is going to be incredibly significant,” said Christopher P. Borick, a political science professor and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “The conditions are in place in Pennsylvania — perhaps more so than any place in the country — to make this decision front and center in the race for governor.”

“We know the Republican-led legislature is going to put a bill on the desk of the next governor to ban all abortions,” Mr. Shapiro, a former state attorney general, said in a social media post. “I will veto that bill and protect abortion rights here in Pennsylvania, but my opponent he will sign it into law.”

Polls show that most voters are more concerned with inflation, the economy and other issues than they are about abortion access.

“Those who are really concerned about abortion — especially liberal women — already vote Democratic anyway,” said Steve Mitchell, a Michigan-based GOP strategist. “So the question becomes: What will the impact be on independent women?”

Still, Mr. Mitchell said voter attitudes could change now that the long-anticipated ruling is a reality.

“It is one thing to be told a decision is coming down, it is another thing to have the decision come down,” he said. “Now voters have to deal with the reality that in Michigan unless there is a concern about the life of the mother, you can’t get an abortion.”

Mr. Borick said the abortion issue could help Democrats close the enthusiasm gap heading into the November election.

“Democrats are not energized in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Borick said. “Like in a lot of places, they are down right now. Republicans are incredibly energized, so now they have an issue that could help energize Democrats in a way that they otherwise would not be.”

Others said the ruling will show how out of step Democrats are with voters.

“The Democrats think of this as an issue that will help them, but I don’t believe it will,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based GOP strategist and former gubernatorial candidate. “They are grossly misreading the electorate because even the folks in Pennsylvania who consider themselves pro-choice want abortion to be ‘safe, legal and rare.’” 

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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