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Monday October 3rd, 2022 3:25AM

Live updates | Senate Democrats fume over abortion draft

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — Furious Senate Democrats are vowing to vote on legislation to protect abortion access for millions of Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday angrily denounced the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, is holding firm to his refusal to end the filibuster, saying Tuesday that “The filibuster is the only protection we have for democracy.”

So without Republican support, Congress is essentially powerless to prevent the unraveling of the abortion access.

Schumer stopped short of promising to change Senate filibuster rules to overcome Republican obstruction to salvage the abortion law.

Key Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said if the draft holds, “it rocks my confidence in the court.”

Democrats signaled they will fight it out on the campaign trail this fall.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ABORTION STORY:

— Biden says if Roe v. Wade is overturned, other rights could be next

— Chief Justice John Roberts launches an investigation into the leak

— Several state abortion bans would kick in if Roe is overturned

— The leak of the draft opinion came as a shock to Supreme Court watchers

— California voters might get to add abortion protections to the state's constitution this fall

Find all AP stories on abortion: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed a law last year that overturned the state’s long-dormant ban on most abortion procedures, took to Twitter on Tuesday and promised to safeguard local access to abortion services.

Grisham, a Democrat who signed that law in anticipation of a new approach from the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote that “The moment so many of us feared is upon us.”

New Mexico voters in 2020 ousted several socially conservative Democratic legislators who were supportive of the state’s 1969 ban.

New Mexico already receives many patients from neighboring states such as Texas that have tightened restrictions on abortion procedures. Albuquerque is home to one of only a few independent clinics in the country that perform abortions in the third trimester.

Republicans in the legislative minority vowed to revisit the state’s abortion laws, while Democratic activists scheduled an evening women’s march in support of abortion rights outside a federal courthouse in the state capital, Santa Fe.

Democratic state House Speaker Brian Egolf said Tuesday on Twitter that “the trend in this country is dangerous. Today, it’s loss of access to care; next it’s contraception.”

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Dr. Iman Alsaden, the medical director for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said her organization has already had a glimpse of what a post-Roe v. Wade landscape would look like.

Texas’ ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy took effect in September, resulting in a 2500% increase in the number of patients from Texas at her group’s clinics in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

“Since that day, my colleagues and I have regularly treated patients who are fleeing their communities to seek care,” Alsaden, who is based in Overland Park, Kansas, told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday.

She said many of these patients are forced to drive hours to make appointments on time and to scramble to make travel and childcare arrangements.

“They’re taking time off of work, taking time out of school and taking time away from their family responsibilities to get the care that until September 2021 they were able to get safely and readily in their communities,” Alsaden said.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California voters could get a chance to add abortion protections to the state’s constitution this fall.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and top legislative leaders committed Monday to putting an amendment on the November ballot that would “enshrine the right to choose.”

Newsom has pledged to make California a sanctuary for people having abortions. State legislative leaders have endorsed 13 bills to fulfill that pledge, including proposals that could use taxpayer money to pay for people from other states to visit California for abortions.

Monday night, Newsom and legislative leaders added another proposal to their list: an amendment to the state constitution. They provided no further details, other than saying it would preserve the right to choose.

Newsom’s office says its goal is to put the amendment on the ballot this November.

It takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Democrats control so many seats they could muster the necessary votes without relying on Republicans.

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FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s only abortion clinic is reassuring patients that their appointments will stand, for now.

Tammi Kromenaker, who owns and operates the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, said Tuesday that she posted a notice on the clinic’s website letting women know that abortion is still legal and that their appointments at the clinic are safe.

Politico published a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion late Monday showing that a majority of the court is prepared to overrule the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

Kromenaker says she also talked to staff about the draft opinion, emphasizing that this is not yet the final ruling. It’s a message she’s seen from abortion providers across the country.

She says she already had a plan to open a clinic just across the river in Minnesota if a 2007 North Dakota law outlawing abortion was triggered by any Supreme Court decision, and the leak just made that move all the more urgent.

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AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas Republican who authored the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. says he looks forward to Roe v. Wade ending up on “the ash heap of history.”

State Sen. Bryan Hughes carried Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions in Texas after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. The law is enforced solely through private lawsuits and the guarantee of at least $10,000 for successfully suing a doctor or anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

State data shows abortions in Texas’ roughly two dozen clinics plummeted by about 50% in the three months after the law took effect in September, compared to a year earlier.

Hughes told the Associated Press in a text message: “When the travesty of Roe v. Wade is finally on the ash heap of history, more little lives can be saved, and more mothers can be helped.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, says her four clinics in Texas have spent months preparing for Roe to be overturned. She says her staff is telling patients and callers that abortion is still legal, for now.

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People on both sides of the abortion divide have been expecting that this summer the Supreme Court would reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

On Monday night, a leaked draft opinion written in February that would overturn Roe began reverberating around the world. Even those anticipating the undoing of Roe said it was still staggering to see the words in print, forcing them to reckon with the likely reality the nation will soon enter.

The draft opinion doesn’t represent the court’s final word, and the language could change before the court issues its ruling. But if the heart of the draft remains the same, it would give states the power to decide the legality of abortion. More than half are likely to quickly ban abortion.

“I can’t stop crying,” said an elated Mississippi state Rep. Becky Currie, who sponsored the 2018 law that is the basis for the Supreme Court case. “I am not quite sure I have the words to express how I feel right now, but God has had his hands on that bill since the beginning.”

The leaked draft, published late Monday by Politico, is a 98-page majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged the constitutionality of Currie’s bill that banned abortion after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Dalton Johnson, the owner of an Alabama abortion clinic, said that as he read the leaked draft, he was struck by the harshness of the language that would end the constitutional right to an abortion, shuttering clinics in about half of the states, including his.

“I’m still in shock,” Johnson said Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON — Police have erected a low metal fence outside of the Supreme Court blocking access to all but the lowest level of the building’s steps and separating demonstrators into separate pens.

Anti-abortion rights protestors carried signs Tuesday that said “Ignore Roe” and “In God We Trust,” while their pro-abortion-rights counterparts held placards declaring “Bans off our Bodies” and “Impeach Kavanaugh” — a reference to Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

One man with a bullhorn shouted, “Before the United States, before the constitution, there was God’s law.”

The crowds were expected to build throughout the day as people finished work. Multiple pro-rights groups called for a mobilization and mass gathering at the court at 5 p.m.

Politico published a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion late Monday showing that a majority of the court is prepared to overrule the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts verified Tuesday that the leaked draft is authentic but cautioned that it doesn’t represent any justice’s final opinion.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Abortion rights opponent Barbara Beavers stood outside Mississippi’s only abortion clinic Tuesday next to two signs with the slogans: “Ask me about free pregnancy tests & ultrasounds” and “You don’t have to do this today.”

Beavers, who retired from a crisis pregnancy center, which tries to persuade women not to have abortions, prayed and tried to talk to people as they got out of cars to go inside.

“I’m offering help and alternatives to abortion,” said Beavers, who lives in Jackson. “Abortion hurts women as well as unborn children, and so I want to offer them kind of a last — before they go in — place of respite, help and hope.”

Asked if she thought she would ever see Roe v. Wade overturned, Beavers said: “Dred Scott was overturned. It was a bad law. Roe v. Wade’s bad law. We need to be defending our children, unborn or born. We need to be defending them. We need to be supporting them. We don’t need to be killing them.”

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted as “radical” the draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that protected abortion rights.

“It concerns me a great deal that after 50 years we’re going to decide that a woman doesn’t have the right to choose,” Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Alabama.

If the decision is issued, he said, “a whole range of rights” that are based on the presumption of privacy will be in question, including access to contraception and same sex marriage.

“It’s a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence,” Biden said.

Biden said he wanted Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade, but he wasn’t prepared to say whether the Senate should sidestep the filibuster to do so.

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WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court may be be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Roberts also ordered an investigation into what he called an “egregious breach of trust.”

In the high court’s first public comment since the draft was published late Monday, Roberts said, “Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” he said in a written statement.

He added: “I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

___

If the U.S. Supreme Court follows through on overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, it would immediately split the country into states with abortion access and those that outlaw it.

Some states had already been preparing for the potential that the high court could weaken or overturn Roe, but the bombshell leak of the draft opinion appeared to accelerate that drive Tuesday, setting the country on course for an even more jumbled landscape of abortion rights even before the court actually issues its ruling.

Almost immediately after Politico released the draft Monday night, Republicans who had fostered a decades-long push to end abortion rights cheered the prospect while Democrats vowed to fight the possible overturning of a constitutional right that has been in place for nearly a half-century.

In California, Democrats who wield control of the state Legislature and the governor’s office issued a joint statement late Monday announcing they would seek to amend the state’s constitution to enshrine abortion rights.

About half of U.S. states are already expected to ban abortion if Roe falls, according to the abortion-rights think tank Guttmacher Institute. Twenty-two states, largely in the South and Midwest, already have total or near-total bans on the books. Aside from Texas, all are now blocked in court because of Roe.

Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe is overturned and would presumably go into effect if the Supreme Court majority votes for the draft in late June or early July.

___

The Supreme Court is known for keeping secrets. Year after year, in major case after major case, there’s little beyond what the justices say during oral arguments that suggests how they will rule.

That’s what makes the leak of an apparent draft of an opinion in a major abortion case a shock to court watchers.

The draft published by Politico says that a majority of the court is prepared to overrule the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

There have been leaks before, but not of such magnitude. Only a handful of people have access to decisions before they’re published.

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