With his wife standing behind him and holding back tears, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday called out the Supreme Court decision making Roe vs. Wade disgusting, beckoning women in other states to California, their “sanctuary” for free abortion treatments.
In Texas, where performing an abortion will soon be a crime, Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the ruling and vowed he will “always fight to save every child from the ravages of abortion.”
The diverging responses from the governors of the country’s two most populous states highlighted the stark political divide in America, deepened once again by radically different approaches to healthcare, gun control, the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQ rights, immigration and now reproductive rights .
“This is a serious moment in American history,” Newsom said. “That big divergence: red states versus blue states.”
Newsom clearly welcomes his rise as the dominant, echoing voice for democratic states across the country and as an opponent of governors like Abbott and Ron DeSantis of Florida, whom he condemns as supporters of Donald Trump’s far-right wing of the Republican Party. This month, Newsom joined Trump’s fledgling social media network Truth Social, he said, to shout “Republican lies.”
While launching his own offensive, Newsom has also criticized the national Democratic Party for not stepping up the fight with the conservatives.
The governor joined the govs. Oregon’s Kate Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee on Friday announced a multi-state commitment to defend access to reproductive health services and contraceptives. The states pledged to protect patients from GOP states, which have threatened to ban their residents from seeking abortions elsewhere in response to the Supreme Court ruling.
“I want people in the rest of the country, in many parts of the world, to know that I hope that we are your antidote to your fear or anxiety, perhaps the cynicism that many of you have about fate and feel the future. ‘ Newsom said.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights and left that decision to states.
Twenty states, primarily along the West Coast and in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, have policies protecting the right to abortion. Another 20, mostly in the South and Inner West, are moving fast to ban or severely limit that right. In the remaining 10 states, abortion remains hotly contested.
The gap between red and blue states has widened significantly in recent years. This reversed a long trend that began shortly after World War II toward increasing uniformity across the country, as legal segregation ended in the South and the federal government and courts expanded rights for all American citizens.
The split on abortion reflects public opinion in the States. In California, Oregon, and Washington, for example, about 60% of residents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a 2018 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in 50 states. People took that position in states that were most anti-abortion, including Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Utah, and Idaho.
Reactions to the Roe decision also revealed the gap. DeSantis said Florida, which previously passed a 15-week abortion ban law that will go into effect next week, will seek to expand its abortion restrictions.
Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker told WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station, that he plans to call the state legislature to a special session to consider ways to further protect abortion rights.
“By and large, I think we need to expand and support the number of healthcare providers who can help protect reproductive rights, perform abortions and other procedures,” he said. The state is forecasting a large influx of patients from Missouri, Indiana and other nearby states with strict abortion restrictions.
By positioning California as a beacon for abortion rights, Newsom has drawn a sharp contrast with Texas, California’s eternal rival.
When it comes to abortion, “the two states occupy polar opposites of the spectrum,” said Ken Miller, author of Texas vs. California: A History of Their Struggle for the Future of America.
Texas passed a “trigger law” that was scheduled to take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court overthrew Roe. The law prohibits almost all abortions at the time of fertilization. This makes Texas one of the 13 most restrictive states in the country.
California, on the other hand, “reaffirms abortion and reproductive rights as much as any state could be,” said Miller, professor of state and local politics at Claremont McKenna College.
Newsom also announced Friday efforts to enshrine California’s abortion protections in the state’s constitution, saying it will “codify our values.”
He also used the US Supreme Court’s decision as an impetus for signing a bill that would protect abortion providers in California from liability if they serve patients traveling from areas where the procedure is now banned or access restricted. Newsom said the law contradicts a law passed in Texas last year that allows individuals to sue anyone who “supports or encourages” an abortion in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, said that while the right to travel, including to have an abortion, is protected, he expects conservative states to pass legislation that seeks to ban women from traveling to obtain an abortion to get.
“That should be unconstitutional, but we’ll see what the court does,” Chemerinsky said.
The two countries have also taken very different paths when it comes to weapons and health care.
The day after the May 24 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Newsom announced that he would support more than a dozen additional bills to further tighten California’s extensive gun control laws. This includes allowing the Justice Department, local governments and gun violence survivors to sue members of the gun industry for violating a “firearms industry standard of conduct.”
After the Uvalde shooting, Abbott argued that gun laws hadn’t stopped shootings in states like California and said Texas should work on mental health.
“They have become representations of our national political divisions and polarization,” Miller said. “California sees itself as a frontrunner in representing progressive values on these issues, just as Texas sees itself as a defender of right-wing conservative views.”
When the response to the COVID-19 pandemic became extremely partisan last year, mask and vaccine mandates became political battlegrounds.
California was the first state to announce that all public and health care workers will be required to provide proof of vaccination or get tested weekly. In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation last year that prohibits employers from firing workers who refuse a COVID-19 vaccination if those workers claim a medical or religious exemption.
DeSantis campaigned against mask mandates in Florida and this year presented a budget that initially rewarded schools that didn’t enact universal mandates for students.
Newsom is no stranger to taking political risks, even if it means going before his party.
In 2004, as the newly elected Mayor of San Francisco, he decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of state law. More than 4,000 couples married before the California Supreme Court stopped the exhibitions; These unions were later dissolved.
The young mayor immediately became the national face of the gay marriage movement, much to the chagrin of social conservatives and some gay rights activists who feared his action would set back their cause. The National Democrats chastised Newsom at the time, and he was put on the defensive when John Kerry lost the presidential election that year.
But with Democrats eventually endorsing same-sex marriage, which was legalized nationwide following a 2015 Supreme Court decision, Newsom is now considered one of the first leaders on the issue.
“Gavin Newsom is a really brave leader who follows his North Star,” said Joyce Newstat, who was Newsom’s policy director when she was mayor. “He did it with marriage equality in 2004, and he’s doing it again.”
Times Editor-in-Chief David Lauter and Editor-in-Chief Hannah Wiley contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-25/as-blue-and-red-states-fight-over-abortion-guns-and-covid-newsom-seizes-an-opportunity As blue and red states fight over abortion, guns and COVID, Newsom seizes an opportunity