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Abortion rights groups push to turn anger into action

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Students and others protest for abortion rights in Union Square, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision lat

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – In the days after a draft leaked showing the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to strike down Roe v. Wade and a national right to abortion, the left-wing group MoveOn doubled its weekly fundraising. A Michigan effort to place abortion rights on the ballot gained more than 13,000 new volunteer sign-ups.

And on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to attend more than 300 rallies in a coordinated nationwide demonstration.

The news that the court’s conservative majority appears set to reverse its 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide has galvanized Democrats, raising the party’s hopes that the anger on display can be carried into November’s midterm elections.

“This is Trump-era energy,” said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, which is helping to organize Saturday’s marches.

But with inflation still close to record highs and President Joe Biden’s approval ratings underwater, reproductive rights organizations and liberal groups face daunting headwinds in trying to convert that surge of enthusiasm into electoral victories.

Republican strategists remain convinced their party is well positioned to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives. They note Texas Republicans won several special elections, including flipping a Democratic state legislative seat, last November, months after passing a virtual ban on abortions.

In the days since the leak, Republican candidates have largely sought to refocus attention on issues they see as winners: inflation, crime, immigration and Biden’s sagging approval ratings.

“Democrats are desperate to talk about anything but the record-high gas prices, rising crime and border crisis their policies have caused,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesperson for the Republican Party’s congressional campaign arm.

Activists say the looming Supreme Court decision will mobilize abortion rights voters in a way that previous warnings about Roe have not. About half of U.S. states could ban or severely restrict abortion soon after a ruling vacating Roe.

“They know that they’re out of step with voters,” Kelley Robinson, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said of Republicans. “They are trying to run away from the positions that they’ve taken.”

BUILDING MOMENTUM

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List have already announced a $150 million elections campaign. Robinson said the money would help fund door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, local organizing and advertising.

Women’s March, another one of Saturday’s organizers, said research has shown that 80% of attendees at past marches have been new to the movement, offering a fresh pool of potential volunteers and activists going forward.

“The march is the part of the iceberg you can see,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the group’s executive director.

MoveOn is planning to invest $30 million in its election program. The organization is determining which Senate and U.S. House races to target and has commissioned polling to help shape its message, Epting said.

“The GOP (Republican Party) has overplayed its hand here,” she said. “It’s quite possibly the thing that will change the dynamic heading into this election cycle. We are hell-bent on making sure they pay a price.”

Overturning Roe has been an aspiration for the conservative movement for decades, but abortion rights advocates pointed to polls showing that most Americans oppose reversing the landmark ruling.

It remains unclear, however, whether voters will prioritize reproductive rights over pocketbook issues.

“Clearly, abortion will be the most important issue to some voters,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who advised Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. “But for the vast majority of voters, they wake up each morning thinking about the cost of gas, the safety of their neighborhoods and their jobs.”

Reproductive rights groups and Democrats said they will drive home the need to prevail at the state level, where the fight over abortion will play out in legislatures if Roe is overturned.

The messaging focus this fall will be on framing the Supreme Court’s decision as part of a broader Republican assault on democracy, including voting rights, they said.

“We’ve got to remind folks that this didn’t happen by accident,” Robinson said. “It happened because the opposition has been packing the courts, they’ve been gerrymandering the states, they’ve been suppressing our vote, and we’ve got to put different people in office that will reflect the will of the people.”

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Analysis-Australian women unleash new political force on climate, integrity

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Voters line up outside a Marrickville suburb polling station to cast their ballots on the day of the national election in Sydney, Australia, May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy/File Photo

2/3

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Professional women and voters concerned about climate change unleashed a third force in Australia’s election, taking a swath of seats that ended nine years of conservative rule even as votes for the winning Labor Party fell.

Women who left successful careers in business, medicine and media to enter politics as independents were on track to win five seats from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal party in its affluent urban heartland in Saturday’s general election, as moderate voters abandoned the government.

Independents or the minor Greens party looked set to win at least 15 of the 151 lower house seats, ABC election analysts said. Labor remained five seats short of the 76 seats it needs to form a government as counting continued on Sunday.

Personifying the disruptive change were centrists, mostly women, dubbed “teal” candidates because of teal-coloured marketing material used as they targeted seats held by Morrison’s conservative party.

“You seldom see this in Australian politics – a campaign that springs up and catches fire,” said Simon Jackman, a University of Sydney professor, referring to teal community campaigns run by women volunteers.

The election showed women’s anger at Morrison and at inaction on climate change, underpinned by “a fierce desire to get accountability back into Australian politics”, said Chris Wallace, a professor at the University of Canberra.

“There was a large overlap between women outraged by the government and voters overall who wanted action on climate policy,” she told Reuters. 

This “mobilised women in never before seen numbers – including the affluent, middle-class professional women who donned teal T-shirts and took several safe seats off the coalition,” Wallace said.

Independent Sophie Scamps, a doctor who won a Sydney seat held by the Liberals for 70 years, told Sky News, “There were so many people in Mackellar saying, ‘I have voted Liberal my entire life and they no longer represent me.'”

‘AUSTRALIA HAS MOVED ON’

Monique Ryan, a paediatric neurologist who defeated Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Melbourne, cited the gender pay gap and violence against women as key issues on Sunday.

Climate change struck the biggest chord with voters, said Jackman, who worked on polling data with Climate 200, a group funded by a former Liberal donor that gave money to around 20 independents.

Highly educated voters were also angry at the government on integrity issues, including the handling of gender and sexual assault claims in parliament that would not have been tolerated in most Australian workplaces, he said.

“Women were powerfully motivated,” Jackman said, while their male partners were also coming to believe “that the Liberals are the past. Australia has moved on, we’ve moved on on climate, we’ve moved on on gender equality.”

Former Liberal finance minister Simon Birmingham said the Morrison government should have embraced a more ambitious 2030 emission reduction target, and the election showed the Liberal Party needed to be more inclusive.

“Especially Australian women who are much more highly educated today,” he told ABC television. “It’s a cohort that we have clearly failed to have represented in sufficient numbers.”

Jackman said businesswoman Allegra Spender, who won the Liberal Sydney seat of Wentworth as an independent, should have been Liberal party royalty. Her father was a Liberal lawmaker for a decade and her grandfather negotiated Australia’s pillar ANZUS security treaty with the United States as foreign minister.

Instead, he said, Wentworth became a case study in how sophisticated moderate Liberal voters who understood climate science, and entrepreneurs who wanted to invest in greener technology had abandoned the party.

Greens appeared to have won two seats in the Queensland city of Brisbane that were badly hit by floods, and were leading in the flood-affected Brisbane electorate.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said Liberals and Labor both lost vote as a record number of people voted for the Greens. “This result is a mandate for action on climate and equality.”

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In Japan, Biden to launch economic plan for region sceptical on benefits

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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung (not pictured) on the automaker’s decision to build a new electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility in Savannah, Georgia, as Biden ends his visit to Seoul

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By Trevor Hunnicutt and Yoshifumi Takemoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – President Joe Biden headed to Japan on Sunday to launch a plan for greater U.S. economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific, facing criticism even before the programme is announced that it will offer scant benefit to countries in the region.

On the second leg of his first Asia trip as president, Biden is to meet with leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the “Quad,” another cornerstone of his strategy to push back against China’s expanding influence.

In Tokyo on Monday, Biden will call on Emperor Naruhito before talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. He and Kishida are expected to discuss Japan’s plans to expand its military capabilities and reach in response to China’s growing might.

Tokyo will also see the launch on Monday of Biden’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a programme intended to bind regional countries more closely via common standards in areas including supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade.

Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit a multinational trade agreement now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving the field open to China to expand its influence.

But the IPEF is unlikely to include binding commitments, and Asian countries and trade experts have given a decidedly lukewarm response to a programme limited by Biden’s reluctance to risk American jobs by offering the increased market access the region craves.

The White House had wanted it the IPEF announcement to represent a formal start of negotiations with a core group of like-minded countries, but Japan wanted to ensure broader participation to include as many Southeast Asian countries as possible, trade and diplomatic sources said.

Given this, Monday’s ceremony will likely signal an agreement to start discussions on IPEF rather than actual negotiations, the sources said.

“Japan wanted as many participants as possible … and also wanted the U.S. to conduct an inclusive process of dialogue after the launch,” a person familiar with the discussions said.

This source said the launch was expected to be attended in person by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden and Kishida, and by other leaders virtually.

LACK OF INCENTIVES

A Japanese Finance Ministry official said many Southeast Asian countries would not join IPEF because of the lack of practical incentives like tariff reductions.

“It’s not a cold decision but a practical one, probably because it doesn’t really have significant contents,” the official said.

However, an Asian diplomat said a least half the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could join the launch ceremony.

“It seems the White House has decided to make the IPEF launch more like a party with an open bar that all are invited to, with the real work to start on Monday morning,” said Matthew Goodman, a trade expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Eventually the administration is going to have to offer more tangible benefits if it wants to keep countries on board.”

On Tuesday in Tokyo, Biden will join the second in-person meeting of the Quad group of countries.

All share concerns about China, but the Quad as a group has avoided expressing an overtly anti-China agenda, largely due to Indian sensibilities.

India’s strong security ties with Russia and refusal to condemn its invasion of Ukraine will likely prevent any strong joint statement on that issue, analysts said.

However, at their last summit in March, Quad leaders agreed that what has happened to Ukraine should not be allowed to happen in the Indo-Pacific – a reference to the threat posed to self-governed Taiwan by China, though Beijing was not mentioned by name.

Chinese envoy for Korean affairs Liu Xiaoming said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) that Washington was “putting together a closed & exclusive ‘clique’.”

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Biden says ‘everybody’ should be concerned about monkeypox outbreak

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while speaking during a briefing from senior officials on efforts to prepare for and respond to future hurricanes, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

SEOUL (Reuters) – The monkeypox outbreak is something “everybody should be concerned about,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sunday, adding that U.S. health officials are looking into possible treatments and vaccines.

“We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do,” Biden told reporters at an air base in South Korea before departing on Air Force One for Japan.

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