Democratic Governors Create Alliance on Abortion Rights

Democrat governors in 20 states are forming a network meant to strengthen abortion access in the wake of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to shift regulatory powers of the procedures to state governments. 

Organizers of the network, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, described the newly-formed Reproductive Freedom Alliance as a way for governors and their staff to affirm abortion rights for the 170 million citizens who live within the boundaries of the network, guaranteeing services for the remaining residents of the U.S. who live in states that have more restrictive laws. 

“We can all coalesce,” said New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in an interview before the announcement. The governor added that the court’s Dobbs decision pressured the governors to act and “horrified” them. “This is leveraging our strengths…to have more of a national voice.”

Organizers say that includes sharing model statutory language and executive orders safeguarding access to abortion, strategies to maximize funding for reproductive health from the federal government, including birth control, ways to shield abortion providers from prosecution, and support for manufacturers of contraceptives and abortion medication that face potential new restrictions. 

Lujan Grisham noted that the formation of the alliance comes as a Texas federal court considers a challenge to the availability nationwide of abortion medication, which comprises the majority of abortions in the U.S. 

In a statement by Governor Newsom, he called the effort, which he spent months organizing with his aides, “a moral obligation” and a “firewall” to guard “fundamental rights.”

The network includes leaders of heavily Democratic-leaning states like California, where voters approved abortion rights by huge margins. Additionally, it consists of every presidential battleground state led by Democrats, including Governors Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania.

Network has received funding from non-profits for public health

The alliance procured its initial funding from Rosenberg Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation, non-profits that often direct funds to public health efforts concentrating on disadvantaged communities. 

Although aides said the group would welcome Republicans, they declined to name any influential GOP executives that he or other Democrat governors may be recruited to join the group. Only a handful of Republican governors have voiced broad support for abortion rights. 

Lujan Grisham mentioned that the Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, has sent mixed signals on the issue. Gov. Sununu signed a state budget in 2021 that contained a ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy but said abortion would remain legal in his state following the Dobbs decision. Sununu endorsed candidates in the November midterms that favored further restrictions but has indicated he also supports adding exemptions to state law for victims of incest and rape. 

Lujan Grisham recognized that the alliance could not make federal policy or impose any policies across state lines. However, she said there are practical values for having executives, and their staff has a framework in which they can communicate.

“The problem is everyone keeps challenging those constitutional interpretations,” said Lujan Grisham. “We’re going to codify equality on abortion rights, reproductive rights, and care in as narrow as possible way.” She said New Mexico’s process could become a model for other states in similar situations.