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Harris Proposes Requiring DOJ Clearance for State Abortion Restrictions

Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) in Houston, Texas, April 24, 2019. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

California senator and Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris is set to announce Tuesday a proposal that would require the Justice Department to approve new state laws restricting abortion before they could be implemented.

Harris’s proposal would require states and localities with a history of attempting to crack down on abortion access to obtain approval from the Justice Department before enacting laws restricting the procedure. Under the plan, the DOJ would determine if a restriction was consistent with Roe vs. Wade before it could take effect.

“Extreme politicians in state legislatures have been working to systematically chip away at Roe for decades,” Harris’s campaign said in a news release. “This will shift the burden to jurisdictions with a pattern of violating Roe to prove any new law or practice does not deny or abridge the fundamental right to access abortion.”

Recently, several states have passed what the Harris campaign called “dangerous and deadly laws” severely restricting abortion, often barring the procedure after about six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected but before most mothers know they are pregnant. An Alabama law passed earlier this month prohibits abortions at any point except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake.

Harris also pledged to protect Planned Parenthood from Republican attempts to defund the organization, nominate judges who respect Roe, and work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions.

Harris’s proposal is more far-reaching than those of her rivals, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, who have also floated federal protections for abortion rights.

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