Oregon attorney general preparing to protect abortion rights

By Andrew Selsky

Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — On the heels of Washington state’s successful pushback of President Donald Trump’s immigration order, Oregon is readying for a court battle if the federal government tries to curtail abortion rights, the state’s attorney general said.

The attorneys general of both Oregon and Washington said in interviews with The Associated Press that they are increasingly sharing information and consulting with each other and with other Democratic counterparts, as the White House and Congress try to roll back Obama policies and steer a conservative course for the nation.

At stake are health care, the environment, immigrant rights, marijuana legalization and many other issues.

“What I am very proud of is that state attorneys general are stepping up to the plate,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said, citing efforts by her counterparts, including in Virginia, Massachusetts, New York and Hawaii.

Her colleague to the north, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, already stopped Trump’s temporary travel ban against refugees by filing a lawsuit.

Rosenblum predicted there will be many more opportunities.

In particular, she worries that the federal government will try to force states to restrict abortion rights by cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. The Hyde Amendment already prevents federal dollars from funding abortions, she said, but Planned Parenthood also offers treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and preventive health care. She said she already has staffers researching a possible response.

“The penalizing of an organization that provides abortions but that does a huge amount of other very, very important health care, to treat our citizens, absolutely, we’re going to push back against that to the greatest extent possible,” Rosenblum said.

Attorneys general, particularly from more liberal states, are coordinating more via informal phone calls and emails, and in meetings such as those of the Democratic Attorneys General Association which Rosenblum co-chairs.

After Washington state’s lawsuit resulted in a federal judge halting Trump’s travel ban, Trump promised to issue a revised order, saying it’s needed to keep America safe. Ferguson said in a telephone interview late Tuesday that his team is ready to take further action.

“When it comes out, we will scrutinize it to see if it is constitutional and lawful,” Ferguson said. “If it is not, you can be sure we’ll be following up.”

The events before and after Trump’s signing of the executive order highlight the new level of communication among liberal states’ attorneys general. The Democratic Attorneys General Association had just finished holding a meeting in Florida when the order was signed, on Jan. 27, a Friday.

Ferguson was flying back to Seattle but already had a team of five attorneys and support staff ready to pounce immediately and into the weekend.

“The pace for those 72 hours, to say it was intense would be significant understatement,” Ferguson said. “We felt every hour mattered.”

On Jan. 30, they asked a federal court for a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of Trump’s order, claiming it was unconstitutional. Rosenblum said she helped organize a statement from 18 attorneys general supporting Ferguson’s lawsuit.

Eric Schneiderman, attorney general for New York, which was one of those 18 states and which also filed a lawsuit, said attorneys general are having an “awakening” regarding the Trump administration.

Rosenblum said Ferguson deserves praise for being “first out of the gate” and that she feels no rivalry about being first to stand up against White House orders that are seen as illegal or unconstitutional.

“There’s going to be plenty to go around,” Rosenblum said.

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