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Dobbs anniversary finds Democrats still on offense on abortion policy

Multiple events planned ahead of anniversary of landmark decision

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks during the Senate Democrats’ news conference on the Dobbs abortion decision anniversary on Wednesday.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks during the Senate Democrats’ news conference on the Dobbs abortion decision anniversary on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats believe they are clearly on offense this week ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

“Last November, in every single place abortion rights were on the ballot, abortion rights won. Americans do not want politicians making health care decisions for them, and they want their fundamental rights and freedoms to be protected, not taken away,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the president pro tempore, said at a Wednesday morning news conference flanked by Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Democratic women senators.

Inside the Capitol, Senate Democrats made unanimous consent requests to get GOP senators to object to a number of pieces of targeted abortion rights-related legislation in response to the 5-4 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That includes a bill spearheaded by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., that would ensure women have the ability to travel across state lines for abortion services.

“One year after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, we need this bill more than ever. Our legislation reaffirms that women have a fundamental right to interstate travel and makes crystal clear that states cannot prosecute women or anyone who helps them for going to another state to get the critical reproductive care that they need,” Cortez Masto said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected to Cortez Masto’s request, saying there are no current laws restricting such travel for adults.

“We’re dealing with a phantom problem, phantom law, that does not exist,” Lee said. “There’s not a single state law out there that restricts an adult’s right to travel out of state for an abortion or otherwise.”

Lee said this was different from laws restricting the ability of minors to travel out of state to obtain abortion care without parental consent.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pointed to a number of races in which abortion access may have particular significance, including several in New York as well as the Wisconsin congressional districts currently held by Republican Reps. Bryan Steil and Derrick Van Orden, based on the results of an April state Supreme Court election that saw the majority on the court flip to the Democratic side.

“The Republicans started off saying things about this was only going to be a … states rights issue,” DelBene told reporters. “Well, clearly that’s not true — they are pursuing a nationwide abortion ban.”

The Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it would be running digital ads and posting billboards in key battleground markets ahead of the anniversary on Saturday. DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said the party would “continue to make sure that the American people understand what is at stake in this election, and how extreme Republicans are, so we’re going to do that in whatever medium … is necessary.”

Pence backing Graham ban

Some Republicans, meanwhile, were praising the Dobbs decision and pressing to go further. That includes presidential hopefuls such as former Vice President Mike Pence.

“A lot of people are saying this was returned only to the states, but look, no. The Dobbs decision returned the power to the states and to the American people,” Pence said Tuesday on Fox News Channel, highlighting his support for a proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to prohibit abortions nationally in most cases after 15 weeks.

Several Senate and House Republicans also gathered outside the Capitol on Tuesday evening to laud the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Now, multiple states are making different decisions on this, but we’re grateful to be able to have the dialogue at least happening around the country so that, once again, we’re not talking about legal issues, we’re talking about heart issues, and we’re talking about the value of every single child. I’m a firm believer that every child is valuable,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. “There aren’t some children that are disposable and some children that are valuable; every child is valuable.”

‘A labor force’

Appearing with Lankford, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., also offered what he framed as an economic argument, citing statistics on abortions that were prevented in North Dakota.

“We estimate based on the data that lives saved every month amount to over 90 a month, over 90 a month. Not only is that a beautiful face, a smiling baby, a soon to be a young, playful toddler, but it’s … a labor force. It’s … productivity. It’s people who are at the very essence of our economy,” Cramer said.

SBA Pro-Life America, a group that advocates for policies against abortion, circulated a polling memo Wednesday saying it was finding 59 percent would support a bill “that would prohibit abortions after a baby can feel pain at fifteen weeks of pregnancy” with a number of exceptions, including rape, incest and risk to the mother’s life.

The conservative group is pushing for Republicans to be on offense even as other polling, including a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll, shows support for positions like those espoused by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

In that recent poll, 63 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in either all or most cases.

Harris reiterated Tuesday that the president would sign legislation to establish the abortion rights protections as they existed under the Roe v. Wade precedent as the law of the land.

“The bottom line is this: We have got to understand the connection between this issue and elections,” Harris said on MSNBC. “We need a United States Congress that understands and appreciates the exact point that has been made at this table. It is the individual right, the privacy right of people to make this decision, not have their government make this decision for them.”

The vice president is scheduled to travel to Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday for what’s billed as a major speech and rally with supporters of abortion rights, according to a White House official.

“The Vice President will push for national legislation to protect reproductive rights, and she will draw contrast between the Republicans’ extreme approach to reproductive health and that of the Biden-Harris Administration. The Administration stands with the majority of Americans in supporting women’s freedom to access reproductive health care,” the official said.

That will be one day after she joins Biden and supporters, including those from the DNC and groups that will help Democrats in the campaign such as EMILY’s list, NARAL and Planned Parenthood, for a political event Friday in Washington.

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