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Newsom: Democrats Need 'Counteroffensive' in Fight to Protect Abortion and Other Key Rights

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Gov. Gavin Newsom pointing his finger.
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference on Feb. 9, 2022, in Oakland. (Aric Crabb/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom faulted his own political party Wednesday for setbacks in the nation's culture wars, urging Democrats to launch a vocal “counteroffensive” to protect what he called fundamental rights, including abortion and same-sex marriage.

At an appearance at a Planned Parenthood office near downtown Los Angeles, Newsom warned that the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority was in a position to unravel decades of court rulings that could redefine what it means to live in America. He said the Democratic Party has been too passive in response.

Earlier this week, a draft of a Supreme Court opinion leaked to Politico suggested that the court’s conservative majority is on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

“This Supreme Court is poised to roll back constitutionally protected rights, and don’t think for a second — don’t think for a second — this is where they stop,” Newsom said.

“They are coming after you,” he added. “You think for a second same-sex marriage is safe in the United States? If privacy is not constitutionally protected, this opens up a panoply of issues.”


In a midterm election year when the president's party typically loses seats in Congress, and with Biden's approval ratings sagging, Newsom said he was hopeful Democratic voters would become energized amid the fight over abortion rights. California is a heavily Democratic state, but Republicans are hoping anger over rising crime rates, homelessness and inflation will help their party make inroads.

Earlier in the day, Newsom's campaign released a new television ad, spotlighting his efforts to protect abortion rights and linking his leading Republican rival, state Sen. Brian Dahle, to former Republican President Donald Trump. He employed a similar strategy against Republicans last year, when he easily survived a recall election that could have removed him from office.

“Elections do have consequences, and we saw that with Donald Trump,” Newsom said at the Planned Parenthood office. “Wake up, America. Wake up to who you are electing.”

With much at stake, Newsom railed against members of his own party, saying they had been largely absent as rights were being eroded.

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He alluded to recent battles across the country, including over a Texas law that bans abortions after as early as six weeks, and a Florida law that forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

“Where is the Democratic Party?” Newsom asked. “Why aren't we standing up more firmly? More resolutely? Why aren't we calling this out?”

The Republicans, he added, “are winning.”

Newsom appeared to spare President Biden from criticism, noting he was dealing with global crises. He also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “delivering,” but added that important legislation “is just not getting through the door” in the Senate.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, at least 26 states are likely to outlaw abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights advocacy group.

Newsom said states that were restricting abortion rights were imposing “state-sponsored birth,” but failing to provide child care, paid family leave and other services that “actually strengthen the family.”

“They claim to be pro-life,” he said. “They're pro-birth. That's all.”

When asked what he would say to a woman in California or elsewhere fearful of losing abortion rights, Newsom answered, “You matter. We care. We have your back. We love you.”

California is making plans to become an abortion “sanctuary,” where reproductive rights would be expansively protected and patients could travel from other states for services. Already home to some of the most expansive abortion protections in the country, California lawmakers vowed to go further on Tuesday by becoming one of the first to guarantee a right to an abortion in a state constitution.

The state already uses taxpayer money to pay for some abortions through its Medicaid program. And it requires private insurance companies to cover abortions while stopping them from charging things like copays and deductibles for the procedure.

The constitutional amendment, which has yet to be introduced in the Legislature, would make it much harder to repeal California's abortion protections should the political winds change and future lawmakers seek to impose restrictions. Democrats also believe it would shield the state from any adverse state court decisions or federal abortion bans that could happen if Republicans were to take control of Congress after the midterm elections this fall.

“We've always had the right to protect our constituents more than the federal government. That is the foundation of the American system,” said Democratic Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, an attorney and chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Reproductive Health.

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