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Friday, October 07, 2022

Abortion decision puts the spotlight on broken legislators

By overthrowing half a century of nationwide legal protection for abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Roe v. Wade wrongly ruled and that it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” in the states.

Whether those elected officials are truly representative of the people is a matter of debate, thanks to another Supreme Court ruling that made it possible to shift control of state legislators to the right or left.

In June 2019, three years before its important abortion ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that it had no role in restricting partisan rioting, in which Republicans or Democrats manipulated the boundaries of voting districts to give their candidates an edge.

As a result, many legislators are more biased than the state’s population as a whole. Gerrymandering flourished again when politicians used the 2020 census data to redraw districts that could benefit their party for both this year’s elections and the next decade.

READ MORE: Supreme Court to hear North Carolina Republicans appeal that could limit state court authority

In some swing states with Republican-led legislatures, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, “probably gerrymandering is really the primary reason abortion is likely to be illegal,” says Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at George Washington University who analyzes redistribution data.

Meanwhile, “in states where Democrats have rhymed, it is likely to help make abortion laws more liberal than people want,” he added.

A majority of Americans support access to abortion in general, although many say there should be certain restrictions, according to public opinion polls.

States were sometimes seen as laboratories for democracy – institutions that are most closely associated with the people where public policies are tested, taken root and possibly distributed.

Judge Samuel Alito wrote in his abortion decision of June 24 for the majority of the Supreme Court, noting that 30 states banned abortion when the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling “short-circuited the democratic process”, appropriated legislators and imposed abortion rights nationwide.

“Our decision puts the issue of abortion back to those legislators, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to try to influence the legislative process by influencing public opinion, to push for legislators, to vote. and to run for office, “Alito wrote.

READ MORE: IDP appeal seeks to limit state court power over congressional cards

Abortion is already an issue in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial and legislative elections. A recent Wisconsin poll showed that a majority support legal abortion in most or all cases. But a battle was brewing over a constitution of 1849 – which was unenforceable until Roe v. Wade was set aside – which forbids abortion, except to save the woman’s life.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers supports a court challenge to overthrow the law, which was introduced just a year after Wisconsin’s coup. He also convened a special legislative session in June to repeal it. But the Republican-led Assembly and Senate adjourned within a matter of seconds without taking action.

Wisconsin’s legislative chambers have had one of the nation’s strongest Republican benefits over the past decade and are expected to continue to do so among new districts in place for the 2022 election, according to an analysis by PlanScore, a nonprofit organization which uses election data to judge the party. tilting of legislative districts.

“Democracy has been distorted in Wisconsin because of these cards,” said Greta Neubauer, leader of the minority assembly.

In 2018, Democrats won every major state-wide office, including governor and attorney general, races where gerrymandering is not at stake. But they have not been able to overcome heavily manned state legislative districts since Republicans gained control of the State House during the 2010 midterm elections.

“If we had a truly democratic system in Wisconsin, we would be in a different situation,” she said. “We would overturn this criminal abortion ban at the moment”

Republican State Representative Donna Rozar, a former heart nurse who supports abortion restrictions, said gerrymandering should not stop political parties from nominating good candidates to represent their districts. She expects a robust abortion debate to take place during the campaign in the 2023 legislative session.

“This is an issue that is so critical to returning to the states, because each state can then choose people who will represent their values.” Rozar said.

The 2010 midterm, two years after former President Barack Obama was elected, was a pivot for control of state houses across the country. With that election, the Democrats fully controlled 27 state legislatures and Republicans 14, with the rest divided. But through the GOP victories, the party has been put in charge of redistribution in many states. By 2015, after two elections under the new cards, Republicans had full control of 30 legislatures and the Democrats only 11.

READ MORE: Supreme Court throws Wisconsin legislative ballot papers

That Republican legislative advantage continued largely through the 2020 election, including in states that are otherwise now closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In New Mexico, it is Republicans who claim that the Democratic-led legislature has pushed past the will of many voters over abortion policies. The New Mexico House and Senate districts have had a significant pro-Democratic lead over the past decade that has become even more pronounced after districts were re-signed based on the 2020 census, according to the PlanScore data.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last year signed legislation that repealed a dormant 1969 law banning most abortions. Nadat Roe v. Wade was set aside, she signed an executive order making New Mexico a safe haven for people seeking abortions. Unlike most states, New Mexico has no restrictions on late-term abortions.

“I do not think the majority of New Mexicans support New Mexico’s abortion policy at this time,” Republican Senator Gay Kernan said. “New Mexico is basically the capital of the late-term abortion of the United States.”

Republican nominee for governor Mark Ronchetti has proposed banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and when a woman’s life is in danger. But the legislative proposal was described as dead on arrival by the whip of Democratic Senate Linda Lopez.

Michigan could offer one of the biggest tests of representative government in the country’s new abortion struggle.

Republicans pulled Michigan legislative districts to the 2010 census, creating such a significant benefit for their party that it may have helped the GOP retain control of the now-divided House, according to an Associated Press analysis. As in Wisconsin, Democrats in Michigan won the governor’s race and every other major state-wide office in 2018, but could not overcome Republican-leaning legislative districts.

The dynamics have changed for this year’s elections. According to the PlanScore data, the IDP’s lead has been cut in half among new legislative districts drawn by a voter-approved civil redistribution commission. It could improve Democrats’ chances of winning a chamber and influencing abortion policies.

Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial challengers generally support a 1931 state law – temporarily suspended by a judge – that prohibits abortions unless a woman’s health is at risk. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is up for re-election, wants to repeal that law.

Republican Rep. Steve Carra said lawmakers wanted to replace it with “something that will be enforceable in the 21st century.”

“It’s more important to protect life than it is a woman’s right to choose to take that life,” said Carra, who leads a coalition of 321 lawmakers from 35 states who urged the Supreme Court to bring abortion policies to the return statements.

Unsure of their legislative prospects, advocates of abortion rights are collecting signatures for a November ballot initiative that would create a state constitutional right to abortion, allowing its regulation only “after fetal viability.”

“This is the best chance we have to ensure access to abortion,” said Laurie Pohutsky, Democratic state representative. “I think if it is placed in the hands of voters, they will want to see this ballot succeed.”

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