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Democratic group to only endorse attorney general candidates who back abortion rights

Democratic group to only endorse attorney general candidates who back abortion rights
© ANNA GASSOT/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) will only back candidates who support abortion rights, becoming the first national party committee to make that pledge. 

Beginning in 2020, Democratic candidates for attorney general seats who oppose abortion access will no longer receive financial support or other assistance from DAGA. 

The decision comes after a year in which state legislatures passed dozens of laws aimed at restricting abortion access. 

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DAGA "will only endorse candidates who stand with the majority of Americans who support protecting reproductive rights," the organization announced in a video Monday. 

Other Democratic committees, like the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have resisted pressure from abortion rights groups and progressives to only endorse candidates who support access to the procedure.

"The announcement from DAGA today could not come at a more important moment," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an advocacy group that seeks to elect candidates who support abortion rights to state and federal offices. 

"Blatantly unconstitutional abortion bans are sweeping the nation, criminalizing abortion and terrifying women about our place in this country. Attorneys General are now on the front lines in defending women's rights, especially when it comes to our fundamental right to make our own decisions about pregnancy."

While attorneys general races do not typically get a lot of attention, the people in those posts are the top law enforcement officers in their states and decide whether to defend laws passed by state legislatures in court. 

For example, Jim Hood of Mississippi, who is currently the only Democratic attorney general to identify as "pro-life," is defending a law passed by the state legislature that would ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. 

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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D), meanwhile, has refused to defend a similar law passed by the state's legislature. 

Democratic attorneys general in other states have vowed not to prosecute abortion providers or people seeking abortions should Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling establishing a right to an abortion, be overturned or weakened. 

They've also sued to block the Trump administration's rollback of ObamaCare's contraception mandate, and are defending the health care law in court in a suit filed by Republican attorneys general. 

"I think we may be the most important elected officials in the country right now when it comes to this issue," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), who is up for reelection in 2020. "Democratic AGs across the country have consistently played a pivotal role in protecting reproductive rights for all, not just the privileged few." 

There are 12 attorneys general races in 2020, with Democrats defending five seats. While all of the Democratic incumbents support abortion rights, DAGA's decision could pressure other Democratic campaign committees to eventually change their policies. 

"We're proud to be leading the way with our values and taking a stand," said DAGA Executive Director Sean Rankin.

Other Democrats have taken heat from abortion rights groups and progressives as they question whether there is room in the party for candidates who oppose abortion.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) faced blowback in June for signing a bill banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Bel Edwards won reelection this weekend in a tough race against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Daniel LipinskiDaniel William LipinskiHouse votes to condemn alleged hysterectomies on migrant women Five things we learned from this year's primaries Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates MORE (D-Ill.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, is facing a primary challenge from Marie Newman, an abortion rights supporter who is backed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL and EMILY's List. 

Updated at 12:56 pm.