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Moore joins 20 governors in reproductive rights alliance, while lawmakers consider constitutional amendment

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D), Gov. Wes Moore (D), and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) stood with nearly 100 lawmakers on Feb. 9 to show support for a package of reproductive rights legislation. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) joined governors from 19 states across the U.S. in a new Reproductive Freedom Alliance to safeguard and improve abortion and reproductive health care access “in the face of an unprecedented assault by states hostile to abortion rights,” according to a joint statement.

The formation of the alliance, led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, was announced Tuesday.

The announcement represents another divide in the country’s ongoing debate in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and a constitutional right to abortion care. Eighteen states have either completely banned abortion or restricted it to patients who are between six and 20 weeks pregnant, while the procedure remains legal in 26 states. Six states are trying to institute bans that are blocked or under consideration by courts.

Several of the states that signed on to the alliance — including Illinois, Oregon and New Mexico — border states with abortion bans, and Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, joined the coalition despite the fact that his state has a ban in place based on an 1849 law with no exceptions for rape or incest. Evers has filed a lawsuit challenging the 174-year-old statute.

“Every Wisconsinite should have the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians,” Evers said in the news release. “That’s a right I’ll never stop fighting for as long as I’m governor — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the will of the people. Reproductive health care is health care, and I’m proud to join my fellow governors in continuing the fight to restore Roe and reproductive rights for every person in Wisconsin and across the country.”

Moore, in a statement on Tuesday, said he supports bills pending in the Maryland General Assembly that “will protect abortion access, privacy, and out-of-state patients,” including a bill from House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution.

“I am proud to stand with other governors in the fight to protect and expand reproductive freedom. While some states have decided to move toward restricting women’s rights, I can assure you that here in Maryland, we will protect them,” Moore said.

Jones’ bill received a hearing Tuesday afternoon at the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

The measure would ask state voters in 2024 to amend the Maryland Constitution to include a new amendment that says every person “has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

Jones said the Supreme Court’s June decision left Maryland’s existing law guaranteeing the right to abortion vulnerable, unless it is recast as a constitutional right which would “ensure that the right to reproductive freedom can never be chipped away or used as a bargaining chip.”

“Nearly half of the states in the nation are positioned to ban or heavily restrict abortion including our neighbor, West Virginia. It makes Maryland health care providers targets for overzealous out-of-state organizations and prosecutors. They will use every tool at their disposal to close our providers and restrict access to health care,” Jones said.

The measure attracted an hour of opposition testimony in committee; similar legislation passed the House of Delegates last year, but stalled in the Maryland Senate.

‘Firewall’ for reproductive rights

Much of the funding for the 20-state governors’ alliance will be provided by the California Wellness Foundation, with additional support from the Rosenberg Foundation, a California-based philanthropic organization. That funding will be used for logistical purposes to support collaboration between the offices and coordinate actions such as executive or administrative orders, health and human services-related directives, budgetary requests and reproductive-related legislation.

The alliance will also serve as a resource for governors and their staff members to share best practices for their own constituents and those who live in states with bans or restrictions, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

“California has long been a leader in reproductive rights, but we can’t do it alone. We have gathered a coalition of bipartisan governors to commit to reproductive freedom, and a coalition this size — 20 and counting — has never been done before,” Newsom said in the news release. “This alliance is a moral obligation to what is right and will stand as a firewall to fight for and protect providers, patients, and all who are affected by these attacks on fundamental rights.”

Other members of the alliance are: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Delaware Gov. John Carney, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

While only Democrats have signed on so far, the coalition is nonpartisan, according to Newsom’s news release, and the alliance welcomes other governors to join.

“Defending reproductive freedom is a racial justice issue,” said Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. “The foundation is committed to reimagining policies and systems to win fundamental rights, protections, and opportunities for Black, brown and immigrant communities. We are proud to join with Gov. Newsom and our colleagues in philanthropy in the fight to protect reproductive rights and access in California and across the country.”

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Moore joins 20 governors in reproductive rights alliance, while lawmakers consider constitutional amendment