Surrounded by states with abortion bans that took effect after Roe v. Wade Down, Illinois is one of the few places in the Midwest where the procedure is still legal.
Abortion rights supporters worry that may not last. At least six states have voiced their concerns, and it’s not just state legislatures this year. In Illinois, Democrats have an overwhelming majority, and the Democratic governor is expected to win re-election.
Instead, Republicans may be close to winning control of the Illinois Supreme Court, where Democrats currently hold a 4-3 majority. Two seats are up for election in November, prompting groups that typically look to other offices to focus their attention and funding on the judicial campaign.
“Those are the only things we’re concerned about because whoever wins control of the court will decide whether abortion is still legal in Illinois,” said Terry Terry, president and CEO of the abortion rights group Personal PAC, which supports both Democrats. · Cosgrove (Terry Cosgrove) said to run for the high court.
The same scene is playing out in other states, this year in a high court race that is contested on the ballot. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe, state judicial race became more important to Democratic groups working to protect abortion rights.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that access is done at the state level, which makes the role of the courts much less important,” said Sarah Standiford, national campaign director for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
The groups’ involvement in states such as Illinois, Michigan and Ohio is a preview of how risky the usually sleepy courtroom game can become.
In Illinois, appeals court Justice Mary Kay O’Brien raised concerns about abortion rights when she ran against Republican Justice Michael Burke in a redistricted district for the seat currently held by the retired Democratic justice.
“Now with Roe v. Wade overthrown, Illinois women’s freedom of choice is at stake,” says one of O’Brien’s recently launched ads.
Meanwhile, the race for a court seat currently held by a Republican and covering counties northwest of Chicago pits Republican former Sheriff Mark Curran against Democratic Judge Liz Rochford. Two years ago, Curran boasted of his opposition to abortion rights when he lost his Senate bid.
State Supreme Court elections cost about $97 million in the 2019-20 election cycle, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Spending records could be broken this year in states targeted by both the left and the right.
One group is the Justice Action Coalition, which supports abortion. It plans to reach voters in Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio.
“We already had plans to engage with these states, but Dobbs has heightened our interest and our sense of purpose and mission for it,” Jack Faleschini, the group’s state court legal director, said of the U.S. Supreme Court. said when. Decide.
The importance of the race was underscored recently when the Democratic-appointed Michigan Supreme Court overruled the state accreditation board’s decision and allowed a constitutional amendment to ensure abortion rights on a November ballot .
While Michigan’s race is officially nonpartisan, the state’s political parties nominate candidates. Democratic-backed Justice Richard Bernstein, who voted with a court majority to keep the abortion rights amendment on the ballot, is seeking re-election against Republican Paul Hudson. Democratic Rep. Kayla Bolden wants to overthrow incumbent Republican Justice Brian Zahra, who voted against allowing the initiative on the ballot.
“People in Michigan are outraged by Roe’s decision. I think when they’re looking for a place to exercise their freedom to vote, they’re going to turn to the Supreme Court,” said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.
Still, candidates insist they are not politicians and that the role of the courts is nonpartisan.
Zahra, who has served since 2011, described the role of judges as “what the law is, not what they think it should be”.
Abortion rights groups are also closely watching Kansas, where six of the seven Supreme Court justices face a statewide yes-or-no vote to remain on the bench for another six years.
Two of the six declared in 2019 that access to abortion was a “fundamental” right under the state constitution with a 6-1 majority, while the other three were appointed by Democratic governors. Laura Kelly. The sixth justice on the ballot is considered the most conservative member of the state.
After Kansas voters decisively rejected a proposed amendment in August that was supposed to declare the state’s constitution not recognizing the right to abortion, Democrats, moderate Republicans and others feared the quiet removal of judges. If it passes, the Republican-controlled legislature could significantly limit or ban the process.
Abortion rights supporters say the state Supreme Court race they care most about is already targeted by Republicans, but there are other issues.
The Republican State Leadership Committee said it plans to spend more than $5 million — a record amount for the group — on Supreme Court races in Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio. Spokesman Andrew Romeo said the group’s focus was on redistricting.
In North Carolina, where abortion is still legal, Democrats have a 4-3 majority on the high court, and Republicans are trying to flip two seats.
Trey Allen, a Republican who wants to overthrow Democratic Justice Sam Irving IV, accused the court of becoming too partisan.
“We need judges who obey the law and put politics aside in every case,” he said at a recent forum.
Democratic appeals court judge Lucy Inman has vowed to keep the court “free from any political agenda” as she competes with Republican appeals court judge Richard Dietz. seat held by a retired Democrat.
Abortion could also play a big role in the technically nonpartisan Kentucky Supreme Court race this fall among longtime Republican state Rep. Joe Fischer and the current Michelle Keller. Republicans are pushing hard for Fischer, who sponsored the state’s “trigger law” to end abortion, which went into effect after Dobbs, and backed the ballot’s proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment.
In Ohio, where Republicans are trying to maintain a 4-3 majority on the court, two Republican justices are defending their seats. The third race pits two incumbent justices — a Republican and a Democrat — against each other for chief justice.
Ohio courts are likely to become another battleground over abortion after a county judge temporarily blocked an injunction that took effect following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Rhiannon Carnes, co-founder and co-executive director of the Ohio Women’s Coalition Action Fund, said her group has been calling and texting voters and will be sending direct emails about court races.
“There is so much talk about the Supreme Court,” she said. “We have to do more in the states about the influence and power of our state Supreme Court.”
Associated Press writers Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Hannah Schoenbaum in Raleigh, North Carolina; Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky and Julie Carr in Columbus, Ohio Smyth contributed to this report.
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