Harris Would Mandate States Receive DOJ Approval for New Pro-Life Laws

Sen. Kamala Harris / Getty Images
May 28, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is set to unveil a new policy which, if implemented, would require the Department of Justice to approve new state laws regarding abortion.

Harris, who served as attorney general of California before ascending to the Senate, will outline the plan in greater detail during an MSNBC town hall on Tuesday. The proposal, based in-part on the Voting Rights Act, would mandate "states and localities with a history" of restricting abortion to "pre-clear any new law" with the DOJ to ensure "it comports with Roe v. Wade." 

"We are living through an all-out assault being waged on women's health and reproductive rights. From Alabama to Ohio, and Missouri to Georgia... Extreme politicians in state legislatures have been working to systematically chip away at Roe for decades," the Harris campaign said in a statement announcing the proposal.

Harris's proposal, which requires congressional approval, sets a wide criteria for the jurisdictions that would be subject to DOJ pre-clearance.

"States and localities will be subject to the pre-clearance requirement if they have a pattern of violating Roe v. Wade in the preceding 25 years," the campaign said. "Under the plan, any change with respect to abortion in a covered jurisdiction will remain legally unenforceable until DOJ determines it comports with the standards laid out by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade ... and the Women's Health Protection Act, which Harris co-sponsors in the Senate."

By using the Women's Health Protection Act along side Roe as the standard for DOJ pre-clearance, Harris's plan would ensure almost no future pro-life measure could be implemented. The act, previously introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and co-sponsored by Harris—along with nearly every other 2020 Democrat, is radically far-reaching. It invalidates any laws that "single out abortion providers with medically unnecessary requirements and restrictions, do not promote women's health or safety, and limit access to abortion," according to the liberal Center for Reproductive Rights. Effectively it would strike down prohibitions on abortion after 20 weeks, regulations protecting individuals or institutions from being forced to perform abortions, and laws preventing abortion on the basis of sex or fetal disability.

Harris's proposal comes in the wake of a slew of recently enacted pro-life laws by conservatives states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, among others.