If the Supreme Court follows through on its stunning draft opinion and strikes down Roe v. Wade, the fight for abortion access in the immediate future will hinge on several competitive gubernatorial races ahead of the midterm elections.
Since each state would get to set its own rules on abortion in a post-Roe world — and many red states have already passed legislation that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court reverses the nearly 50-year precedent — control of state capitals will be more critical than ever.
Battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were already expected to hold high-profile races for governor, with bitter partisan fights emerging over education, transgender rights, COVID-19 restrictions and the economy. But the issue of abortion could take things to another level entirely.
This is especially true in states with GOP-controlled legislatures, like Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Michigan still has a 1931 law on the books that bans abortions, including in cases of rape and incest, that would go into effect if the Supreme Court struck down Roe.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic Lt. Gov. Dana Nessel have said they wouldn’t enforce the law even if Roe were struck down. But several of their potential GOP challengers have said they would.
Pennsylvania does not have a similar law on the books, but that could change if a Republican wins the gubernatorial election and the state’s GOP legislature passes an abortion ban.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is prohibited from seeking a third term in office, tweeted Monday he would veto any such legislation. The Republicans running to replace Wolf include a host of conservative Donald Trump supporters.
The draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is already galvanizing abortion opponents into action.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), for example, said she would “immediately” call for a special session of the state legislature to introduce abortion regulations if the court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
It’s important to note that the court’s official ruling isn’t expected until June and justices can change their votes up until that point, meaning nothing is officially decided yet. But the draft opinion does signal that the majority of the justices have voted to significantly weaken Roe, which would leave it up to the states to regulate abortion access.