Blocking Dangerous and Deadly Abortion Restrictions Before They Take Effect
We are living through an all-out assault being waged on women’s health and reproductive rights. From Alabama to Ohio, and Missouri to Georgia, the goal of Republican politicians is clear: Overturn Roe v. Wade and end safe and legal abortion in America.
With the specter of a hyper-partisan Supreme Court, these attacks have laid bare the pressing need to pass federal legislation protecting reproductive rights, including access to abortion. But the truth is, simply codifying Roe v. Wade isn’t enough. Extreme politicians in state legislatures have been working to systematically chip away at Roe for decades, enacting over 1,000 measures since 1995 designed to wipe out access to abortion.
States have mandated that women submit to invasive ultrasounds, passed laws requiring survivors of sexual assault to carry their rapist’s child to term, and placed onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions on health clinics. These restrictions do nothing to make people healthier or safer. Their sole purpose is limiting access to abortion.
Kamala Harris believes we need to fight back and block these dangerous and deadly laws before they take effect. That’s exactly what she intends to do as president. Similar to the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, Harris will require, for the first time, that states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade obtain approval from her Department of Justice before any abortion law or practice can take effect.
HERE’S HOW WE’LL DO IT
States and localities with a history of unconstitutionally restricting access to abortion will be required to pre-clear any new law or practice with the Department of Justice.
- Under the plan, states and localities will be subject to the preclearance requirement if they have a pattern of violating Roe v. Wade in the preceding 25 years. For example, violations will include settlements or final findings by a court that a law or practice runs afoul of Roe, such as rulings in South Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia.
- While the Supreme Court’s partisan majority gutted the Voting Rights Act on grounds the preclearance formula was purportedly “outdated,” it explicitly invited Congress to update the formula along these lines.
- From 1965 to 2013, preclearance under the Voting Rights Act prevented hundreds of discriminatory laws and practices from going into effect. Just as states and localities enacted facially neutral measures to suppress the right to vote – including literacy tests, poll taxes, photo ID laws, and the closure of polling locations – states have similarly done so to limit reproductive rights – including placing targeted restrictions on abortion providers, requiring waiting periods, and imposing medically unnecessary doctor supervision requirements. A preclearance requirement will make it harder for states to implement these dangerous and deadly laws and practices. Like the blatant voter suppression the Voting Rights Act was designed to prevent, these restrictions on abortion fall disproportionately on people of color.
No abortion law or practice will take effect until the Department of Justice certifies it comports with Roe v. Wade.
- Under the plan, any change with respect to abortion in a covered jurisdiction will remain legally unenforceable until DOJ determines it comports with the standards laid out by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, as applied in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which Harris co-sponsors in the Senate.
- More than just codifying every woman’s federal right to an abortion, this will shift the burden to jurisdictions with a pattern of violating Roe to prove any new law or practice does not deny or abridge the fundamental right to access abortion.
- Jurisdictions will be required to submit any proposed change to DOJ. If the jurisdiction is unable to prove the change comports with Roe and the Women’s Health Protection Act, DOJ must object to the change.
Guardrails will ensure DOJ enforces the law even under an administration that’s hostile to women’s rights—and patients and providers will have standing to sue if they don’t.
- DOJ will have an affirmative duty to review submissions and make formal determinations, which will be posted publicly.
- Women and health care providers will have the ability to challenge DOJ’s approval of a law or practice in federal court, serving as a check on hostile administrations.
This is just one way Harris will fight back against the all-out assault being waged on women’s health and reproductive rights. She’ll also protect Planned Parenthood from Republican attempts to defund essential health services, nominate judges who respect Roe v. Wade, fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment, reverse the Trump Administration’s illegal attempts to cut evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants, and immediately roll back dangerous and discriminatory rules the Administration put in place to limit access to contraception and safe abortion in the United States and around the world.
Throughout her career, Harris has fought for women’s access to health care and reproductive rights. As Attorney General of California, she petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse unconstitutional abortion restrictions, protect women’s access to contraception, and ensure women have access to essential health care regardless of their for-profit employer’s beliefs.