Abortion Is New Litmus Test for Democratic Attorneys General Group

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who served two terms as her state’s Attorney General, described the decision as “wrongheaded.” She lost her seat representing her deep red state after voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh last year.

Ms. Heitkamp cited the example of Gov. John Bel Edwards, of Louisiana, a rare Democratic officeholder in the South, who won re-election on Saturday, after campaigning on his opposition to abortion and support for a state law barring abortion after the pulsing of what becomes the fetus’s heart can be detected.

“There are very principled people, who are Democrats, who feel very strongly about this issue for religious reasons and when you say you’re not welcome in our party I think it is exclusionary,” she said. “You have to look at the totality of a candidate.”

While the group’s executive committee began discussing their new standard three years ago, the conversations accelerated after Georgia passed a law in May that would effectively ban abortions as early as six weeks. A federal judge in the state temporarily blocked the statute last month as a lawsuit challenging it proceeds.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association is not dictating how Democratic attorneys general deal with laws restricting abortion rights, should they win office. So far, Democratic attorneys general have adopted a series of approaches when those laws have been challenged in court.

In Iowa, Tom Miller, the longest serving Attorney General in the country, has refused to defend a state abortion law that would ban the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, saying the statute is a violation of his “core belief.” But in Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison, a staunchly liberal Democrat, is defending a slate of state laws restricting abortion access, despite his personal views on the issue.

Earlier this year, Democratic attorneys general in Michigan and New Mexico pledged not to prosecute people seeking abortions or providers should Roe be overturned. Both states have laws that would criminalize abortion if the Supreme Court upends the ruling.