Democratic governors in states where abortion will remain legal are looking for ways to protect any patients who travel there for the procedure — along with the providers who help them — from being prosecuted by their home states. The Democratic governors of Colorado and North Carolina on Wednesday issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to states that have banned the practice, the Associated Press reports. The governors of Rhode Island and Maine also signed executive orders late Tuesday, stating that they will not cooperate with other states’ investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them. The actions are preemptive, protective moves. Their attempts to protect abortion rights come as tighter restrictions and bans are going into effect in conservative states after last month’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the nearly half-century-old holding from Roe v. Wade that found that the right to abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution. The issue now reverts to the states.
Several states have put new restrictions already in place since the Supreme Court ruling and more are pressing to do the same. The specific fears of Democratic officials are rooted in a Texas law adopted last year to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected. The law lets any person other than a government official or employee sue anyone who performs an abortion or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” obtaining one. Bernadette Meyler, a professor at Stanford University, said it’s not clear whether judgments against out-of-state abortion providers would hold up in courts. But she also said it’s not clear that the liberal states are on firm legal ground to protect their residents from any out-of-state litigation. The resistance to cooperating with abortion-related investigations could hold up, though, she said. Places that declared themselves “sanctuary cities” and refused to cooperate with federal immigration investigations during former President Donald Trump’s presidency were able to carry out similar policies.