Kamala Harris plans for DOJ to block state abortion laws that violate Roe v. Wade

May 28, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat, released Tuesday a plan that would require the federal government to block strict abortion laws such as those passed this year in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.

Her proposal, the Reproductive Rights Act, would require states and localities “with a history of unconstitutionally restricting access to abortion” to “pre-clear any new law or practice with the Department of Justice,” according to a press release on her presidential campaign site.

“Kamala Harris believes we need to fight back and block these dangerous and deadly laws before they take effect,” the release said. “That’s exactly what she intends to do as president.”

The California Democrat, one of 23 contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is expected to announce the plan at an MSNBC live town hall at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“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,” the release said.

A woman’s constitutional right to an abortion is under attack. Today I announced a plan as president to block these dangerous and deadly state laws before they take effect. https://t.co/zKJtsgwQUM Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 28, 2019

Eight states have passed sweeping pro-life laws this year restricting abortion access, including fetal-heartbeat bills, which prohibit abortion procedures after a heartbeat can be detected, or at about six weeks’ gestation.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed earlier this month a bill banning abortion after two weeks’ gestation, except in cases of a “serious health risk,” a measure aimed at overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Indeed, many of the bills have been described as Roe challenges, with the expectation being that they would be stayed immediately upon taking effect as the legal battles play out in court.

Under Ms. Harris’s plan, however, any state law would “remain legally unenforceable until DOJ determines it comports with the standards laid out 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.”

Her proposal would constrain if not eliminate the ability of state legislators and local officials to challenge the Roe decision in court. Only states with a “pattern of violating Roe in the preceding 25 years” would fall under the plan.

If the Justice Department fails to block a law or ordinance limiting abortion, ”[w]omen 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,” the release said.

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