Kamala Harris for the People
May 29 2019

Kamala Harris Proposes New Plan to Stop Unconstitutional State Abortion Restrictions Before They Are Implemented

Reproductive Rights Act Would Require States With History of Violating Roe v. Wade Get Preclearance from U.S. Department of Justice and Prove Their Laws Are Constitutional

Senator Kamala Harris proposed a new plan, the Reproductive Rights Act, to stop unconstitutional state or local abortion restrictions before they are implemented. As president, she would institute a pre-clearance requirement for states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade. The announcement Tuesday came as recent anti-abortion laws in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri have sparked a renewed national conversation about women’s health and access to safe, legal abortion.

Similar to the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, under this plan, states and localities with a history of violating Roe in the preceding 25 years would have to prove the constitutionality of their plans and obtain clearance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before any abortion law or practice can take effect.

“Women’s ability to have access to reproductive health is under attack in America,” Harris said at a televised MSNBC town hall on Tuesday. “When I’m elected, states that have a history of passing legislation designed to prevent or limit women’s access to reproductive health care will be required to come before my Department of Justice. Until we determine their laws are constitutional, they will not take effect.”

Under the plan:

  • States and localities will be subject to the preclearance requirement if they have a pattern of violating Roe v. Wade in the preceding 25 years. For example, violations will include settlements or final findings by a court that a law or practice runs afoul of Roe, such as rulings in South Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia. Since 1995, states have implemented more than 1,000 abortion restrictions.

  • Any change with respect to abortion in a covered jurisdiction will remain legally unenforceable until DOJ determines it comports with the standards laid out in Roe and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which Harris co-sponsors in the Senate. This proposal goes further than just codifying a woman’s federal right to an abortion; it will shift the burden to states with a pattern of violating Roe to prove any new law or practice does not deny or abridge a woman’s right to access abortion.

  • Guardrails, such as public determinations and requiring reviews, will ensure DOJ enforces the law even under an administration that’s hostile to women’s rights—and patients and providers will have standing to sue if they don’t.

Women’s health advocates have been quick to praise Harris’ plan. “Every candidate in this field should know it’s not enough to simply call yourself pro-choice—you must back up your words with a concrete plan for action,” tweeted NARAL Pro-Choice America. “We’re excited to see Senator Kamala Harris rolling out a bold plan like this!” Planned Parenthood Action Fund added, “Thank you, Kamala Harris, for standing up for our reproductive rights!” Laurie Rubiner, a former Vice President for Policy at Planned Parenthood, said the plan is “a really novel idea and I applaud her for it.”

This proposal is part of Harris’ agenda to fight back against the all-out assault being waged on women’s health and reproductive rights. She will also protect Planned Parenthood from Republican attempts to defund essential health services, nominate judges who respect Roe, fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment, reverse the Trump Administration’s illegal attempts to cut evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants, and immediately roll back dangerous and discriminatory rules the Administration put in place to limit access to contraception and safe abortion in the United States and around the world.

Throughout her career, Harris has fought for women’s access to health care and reproductive rights. As Attorney General of California, she petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse unconstitutional abortion restrictions, protect women’s access to contraception, and ensure women have access to essential health care regardless of their for-profit employer’s beliefs. In the Senate, she is a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, and she has spoken out against recent restrictions in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Read the full plan at https://kamalaharris.org/repro-rights.