Newsom unveils multistate ad campaign to fight abortion travel restrictions in red states

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday unveiled a multistate ad campaign to combat proposals in several Republican-controlled states that he said aim to ban out-of-state travel for abortions and related medications.

The six-figure ad campaign and an online petition effort are set to launch Monday, beginning with a TV ad targeting a bill under consideration in Tennessee. There, eight Republican male state legislators are primary co-sponsors of bills that would create a felony offense of “abortion trafficking,” making it a crime for adults to help minors obtain an abortion or medications to end early pregnancies without the consent of parents or legal guardians. The bills also would allow civil lawsuits for the “wrongful death of an unborn child that was aborted.”

Similar legislation is pending in several states that have banned or tightly restricted abortion, including Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama. Newsom plans to take them on with, an effort paid for by a national political action committee he launched last spring with $10 million from his state campaign funds. He has said the effort, dubbed the “Campaign for Democracy,” is meant to boost Democrats and counter a radically conservative GOP agenda.

“We can’t let Trump Republicans hold women hostage,” Newsom said in a news release announcing the campaign. “These abortion travel bans are a new, sick and twisted attempt by the far right to control women and take away their freedom. We have to fight back.”

A key sponsor of one of the Tennessee bills, Republican state Rep. Jason Zachary, has said his intent is to protect the rights of parents to decide on medical procedures involving their children. He noted that children are not allowed to be given aspirin or COVID-19 vaccinations without parental consent.

“This bill is to protect parental rights … to ensure that no adult preys on a vulnerable minor who may be pregnant,” Zachary said in a hearing last week.

Zachary also said the bill does not seek to restrict interstate travel, an area of federal jurisdiction he said Tennessee lawmakers cannot control, but only the transporting of minors within Tennessee.

Tennessee is among the states that have banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy with narrow exceptions, meaning most pregnant people seeking an abortion have few in-state options.

Opponents of the “abortion trafficking” bill say the intent is to cut off the ability to seek abortions in states where abortion rights are protected, and one of Zachary’s Republican colleagues reiterated that understanding at the hearing.

Zachary faced critical questioning from Democratic legislators, who noted that the most trusted adults in a youth’s life are sometimes not parents but grandparents or other relatives, teachers, nurses or ministers, who would be subject to felony charges for trying to help them with an unwanted pregnancy.

Newsom’s new ad, titled “Hostage,” portrays a tearful young woman handcuffed to a hospital bed, with a “sexual assault evidence collection kit” on a nearby table. She cries out for help.

“Trump Republicans want to criminalize young women who travel to receive the reproductive care they need,” the narrator says. “Don’t let them hold Tennessee women hostage.”

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