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Abortion-Rights Supporters Brace for State, Federal Battles After Midterm Election

Abortion-Rights Supporters Brace for State, Federal Battles After Midterm Election

November 6, 2014 — Abortion-rights supporters expect opponents to make a renewed push for abortion restrictions in Congress and state legislatures after Tuesday's conservative victories in the midterm election, the New York Times reports (Eckholm, New York Times, 11/5).

Republican-Led Senate Likely To Consider Antiabortion-Rights Bills

On the federal level, abortion-rights opponents said they will pressure Senate Republicans to hold votes on antiabortion-rights measures now that they have the majority of seats in the chamber, the Los Angeles Times reports (La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, 11/5).

According to the Huffington Post, current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is expected to become majority leader, earlier this year promised to hold a vote in the Senate on legislation (S 1670) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation if the GOP gained control of the Senate. A similar measure (HR 1797) passed the House in 2013 (Bassett, Huffington Post, 11/5).

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said abortion-rights supporters' strategy to counter such legislation would focus on lobbying members of Congress who have moderate views on abortion rights by explaining that abortions after 20 weeks of gestation account for a small portion of procedures, as well as emphasizing the "very persuasive" stories of women who obtain such abortions and why the government should stay out of those decisions.

Further, Senate Democrats would likely filibuster such a measure and, if it were to pass the Senate, President Obama would "almost certainly" veto it, the New York Times reports (Eckholm, New York Times, 11/5).

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards noted that many Republican candidates who won their Senate races did so "by significantly moderating their positions on women's health," adding that such candidates "won as moderates [on women's health], and the American people expect them to govern as moderates [on women's health]" (Huffington Post, 11/5).

Potential for State Antiabortion-Rights Restrictions

According to the New York Times, abortion-rights opponents who won elections at the state level could try to pass abortion restrictions such as mandatory 48-hour delays before abortion care, 20-week abortion bans and legislation requiring abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers (New York Times, 11/5).

One state where lawmakers are expected to push additional restrictions is Tennessee, where voters approved a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) that amends the state constitution to specify that there is no right to an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/5).

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said that because Tennessee's state "Legislature is very conservative and so is the governor ... it would not be surprising to see multiple restrictions passed in 2015" (Los Angeles Times, 11/5).

However, Hogue noted that many Republicans who won gubernatorial elections moderated their rhetoric on abortion while campaigning.

She said that as a result, the governors "will be held to account" more than in prior years if they push antiabortion-rights legislation. "We're going to be tracking state bills and asking loud questions of governors who said they were running to expand opportunities for everyone, but then spend taxpayer resources trying to shrink our [reproductive health] choices," she said (New York Times, 11/5).