Governor’s Race, Legislative Sessions Preview Abortion Battle
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A governor’s race and a handful of legislative sessions this fall are expected to give an early preview of the state-level warfare predicted next year in the wake of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.
The high court’s ruling this month handing states greater authority to restrict abortions has thrust the emotionally charged issue into the New Jersey statehouse race and promises to make it a major factor in many of the 36 governor slots at stake next year.
The ruling also has galvanized anti-abortion lawmakers across the country, with the earliest battles expected in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida and several other states with legislatures scheduled to meet this fall.
Burke Balch, state legislative coordinator for the National Right To Life Committee, said a wide range of proposals to restrict abortion will come before legislatures starting in September.
″What we’ve seen here is an unshackling of the state legislatures,″ he said. ″But the assumption that ... you’re suddenly going to see all sorts of states automatically enacting protective legislation is an oversimplification of the challenges we face. There are not a lot of states that are locked up for either side.″
The National Abortion Rights Action League will try to stave off anti- abortion offensives this year at the state level and will plan a more aggressive strategy for 1990, said Nancy Broff, the group’s political and legislative director.
In New Jersey, NARAL plans to make abortion a central factor in the gubernatorial race between Reps. James Florio and Jim Courter. Florio, a Democrat, has said he would veto Webster-like restrictions while Courter, an anti-abortion Republican, has backed off and said he would not lobby the Legislature for restrictions.
New Jersey is among five states - also including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont - where state supreme courts have ruled that abortion rights are guaranteed by the state constitution. And in Florida, a doctor-legislator who performs abortions has suggested amending that state’s constitutional privacy clause to add reproductive rights.
But for the most part, the ball is in the anti-abortion court. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to have a series of bills ready when the Legislature returns Sept. 18 from its summer recess.
Rep. Stephen Freind, who has led abortion fights in the state for a decade, said he intends to introduce measures to outlaw sex-selection abortions, fetal tissue experimentation and fetal transplants. Also, he wants to require spousal notification, require waiting periods except in medical emergencies, and require extensive informed consent that includes a description of fetal development.
Other states are considering similar restrictions, Balch said.
Some of the proposals have been struck down previously by the Supreme Court or vetoed on grounds of earlier high court rulings.
But Freind said, ″A lot of things will be coming back now. That was the old court and this is the new court. The court is saying you can regulate (abortion) and restrict it and in some cases outlaw it as long as there is a rational basis for doing it.″
The 1989 legislative outlook in other key states:
-Florida: Gov. Bob Martinez says he will call a special session this fall to deal with abortion. However, this does not guarantee a change in law because the Legislature is considered about evenly split.
-Illinois: The Legislature returns in October to reconsider bills vetoed by the governor. Anti-abortion lawmakers are planning an offensive.
-Minnesota: The Legislature returns in September for a special session that Gov. Rudy Perpich wants to limit to a property tax proposal. Committee leaders could thwart efforts by anti-abortion forces, who are in the majority.
-Louisiana: The state House overwhelmingly approved a resolution asking prosecutors to enforce anti-abortion laws passed before the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion. The New Orleans district attorney asked a federal judge to reinstate a law that makes abortions illegal.
-Texas: Gov. Bill Clements says if there is a special session before the Legislature returns in January 1991, he would consider adding abortion to the agenda. The body is in special session now but is expected to leave this week without taking up abortion.