USA: After elections, states weigh measures against abortion

USA: After elections, states weigh measures against abortion

2022/11/23 at 11:25 pm
2022/11/23 at 11:25 pm

Democrats hope to use their newfound political control in some states to ensure women have access to abortion, and some Republican strongholds may moderate their attempts to deepen restrictions after worse-than-expected results in the midterm elections.

USA: After elections, states weigh measures against abortion
USA: After elections, states weigh measures against abortion

Even after their advances this month, Democrats lack the power to enshrine abortion rights in federal law. That puts the abortion debate squarely on the states to navigate and rework the patchwork of laws that have been in place since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

There will still be political diversity: In Minnesota, Democrats plan to add abortion rights into state law. In the Republican stronghold of Florida, rulers are talking about more restrictions but haven’t settled on a plan. In Pennsylvania, Democrats’ rebounds mean they can likely prevent Republicans from adding anti-abortion language to the state constitution, and in divided states like Wisconsin the legislative gridlock continues.

“The real uncertainty is how far states go” with abortion bans, said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law and an expert on reproductive policy. After the midterms, some states might think twice about going ahead with strict bans.

But, she warned, some conservative lawmakers might say, “I don’t see a problem. We are fine. We won our elections and our voters want abortion bans.”

The repeal of Roe, which enshrined abortion rights across the country, was widely unpopular with voters. According to VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC (National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, about 6 in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied with the decision, while about 4 in every 10 are pleased. Among Democratic voters, about 6 in 10 say the ruling made them angry.

“Whatever people’s personal feelings about abortion, they are very clear that they don’t want the government and politicians getting their hands on their health care,” said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, a nonprofit organization. Minnesota nonprofit advocating for equal rights.

Minnesota has no law guaranteeing abortion access, but termination of pregnancy is protected by a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling citing a woman’s right to privacy. Following an election that will put Democrats in charge of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in eight years, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said a priority when the session begins in January will be to enshrine the right to abortion in state law.

In the battleground state of Michigan, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution and confirming a person’s right to make abortion decisions related to pregnancy and other reproductive services without interference.

One priority, however, is getting a 1931 law criminalizing abortion off the books, said Winnie Brinks, the state Senate Majority Leader. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and the Senate this month. When the new legislature is sworn in, it will be the first time since 1983 that the party has full control of state government.

Brinks said that ultimately Democrats want to push through other legislation focused on reproductive rights.

“People have been very clear that they value their reproductive freedoms very highly and we want to make sure we uphold that as well,” she said.

Elsewhere, a legislative gridlock could be on the horizon.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won re-election while Republicans increased their majorities in the state legislature but fell short of their goal of achieving a supermajority capable of overriding vetoes.

Republican Robin Vos, Speaker of the State Assembly, renewed his call to pass a bill allowing exceptions in cases of rape and incest and other changes to the 1849 law, to ensure that the state ban withstands legal challenges. . But Evers, expressing confidence in a court challenge, said he would veto any bill that upholds the ban.

“I don’t see a way to resolve this at the legislative level,” Evers said.

Pennsylvania voters caused about a dozen seats to change hands to Democrats in the state House of Representatives, who could block Republican attempts to add anti-abortion language to the state constitution.

Nebraska Republicans want to ban abortion, but the GOP appears to have fallen short of securing the 33 seats it needs in the single-chamber, officially nonpartisan state Legislature to defeat those who use obstructive tactics. That could make it harder for them to ban abortion, even though they control the Legislature and hold every important office in the state.

Other Republican strongholds are running into obstacles to bans.

In Kansas, the Legislature retained its strong anti-abortion majorities, but opponents of termination of pregnancy are constrained by a 2019 state Supreme Court decision declaring access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution.

In August, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. Instead, opponents of abortion are examining other proposals.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who is expected to become House speaker in January, said lawmakers could push for legislation requiring healthcare providers to take all reasonable steps to save lives. of a baby born alive, even after an abortion attempt.

“You have to do something that you think has a chance of garnering the necessary votes,” Hawkins said.

Voters in Montana, where Republicans command a supermajority in the Legislature, rejected a similar ballot measure on Nov. 8. Five days later, a legislator requested that a bill be drafted to “establish that an infant born alive is a person.” It has not yet been drafted, but another bill already drafted for next year calls for a ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy.

In Kentucky, voters rejected a Republican-backed ballot measure aimed at denying any constitutional protection to abortion, revealing an apparent gap between voter opinion and the expectations of the Republican-dominated Legislature, which imposed a almost total ban on termination of pregnancy.

“The people of Kentucky have spoken and their answer is no, not to extremist politicians who ban abortion and make private medical decisions on their behalf,” said Amber Duke, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). its acronym in English) of Kentucky.

This week, a judge in Georgia struck down a ban on abortion beginning at about six weeks’ gestation, finding it violated the country’s Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted in 2019 because the Roe ruling was still pending. valid. But the judge left the door open for the Legislature to reconsider the ban.

In Florida, where the Republican Party further consolidated control, matters were also muddled. The state passed a 15-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest during the 2022 legislative session.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won in a landslide, and the House and Senate went from staunchly Republican to having a Republican supermajority in each chamber. The governor and legislative leaders have said they support new restrictions on abortion, but no specific language has been proposed.

Christine Matthews, a pollster who has worked for Republicans, said even among conservative lawmakers there could be more debate about how far restrictions should go, as happened this year in Indiana and West Virginia, where laws banning abortion were passed. at any time during pregnancy, but with exceptions in cases of rape and incest.

“For the first time, some of these mostly male legislators were grappling with the fact that this is hard; not everything goes in one direction,” said Matthews. “The people who support it as a matter between a woman and a doctor say, ‘Yeah, obviously.'”

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