If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is to attack their rights.
Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has stood as a constitutional right for women to get an abortion. The state of Texas is banking on both the conservative U.S. Supreme Court and that women won’t show their anger on Election Day.
By passing SB8, which Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in May and recently took effect, we may get to see if women voters remember who took their rights away next year when state and national seats in Congress will be up for election. The action has thrust abortion back into the center of American political discussion, though many considered the matter settled law.
SB8 bans all abortions in Texas when cardiac activity can be detected, which is at about six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant. The Texas law does not include exceptions for rape or incest. The only exceptions are when a woman’s health or life is at stake. Which raises a question: How could it be constitutional for Texas to ban abortions at a point before many women realize they are pregnant?
The law also was crafted to ensure that state officials could not enforce the new law, and while the patient may not be sued, it substitutes deputizing the general public to go after anyone who assists, aids or abets in the abortion — be it a friend, family member, clinic staff or even a taxi driver. This turns the general public into bounty hunters with a chance to gain $10,000 for each successful claim. This makes anyone in need of income likely to turn on a friend or family member for the financial reward.
The U.S. Supreme Court — where three members were appointed by former President Donald Trump with the understanding he would only appoint justices who would favor overturning Roe v. Wade — failed to act and stop enforcement of the ban in Texas. The Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote left in place the Texas law, which provides the most restrictive abortion law in the country. According to reports, the court spent less than three days on the case, with no oral arguments and an unsigned majority opinion of one paragraph.
The court did announce that they would hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, brought by the sole abortion provider in Mississippi and represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights to that state’s 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. They will hear oral arguments in the fall and a decision is expected in June 2022. However, abortion supporters are alarmed that with the Mississippi case and the Texas case and a conservative Supreme Court that overturning Roe v. Wade may be a forgone conclusion.
In what may be the first of many legal maneuvers, the Biden Administration filed suit against Texas, declaring its abortion law unconstitutional and filing an injunction to block enforcement.
Many minorities who live in rural areas are unable to access reproductive care, and this affects them in a disproportionate manner. And in what may be the first of copycat legislation, Rep. Mary Coleman, a Missouri Republican and anti-abortion rights legislator, plans to offer a bill similar to Texas in Missouri. The other state that abortion supporters are watching is Florida.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the federal government will protect women who seek an abortion in Texas. Garland said the Department of Justice would protect women’s rights under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 that guarantees access to clinics that offer reproductive health, which includes abortions.
This may be the first of many legal movements between the federal government and different states. The topic is significant politically to both parties.
Over the years, under the banner of “states rights,” several states in the Midwest and South have weakened a woman’s right to an abortion. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Biden should not meddle in a state’s sovereign rights. The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), countered with his own quote and called it a “flagrantly unconstitutional law.”
Since most polling shows people support women’s abortion rights nationally, I think women will remember who wanted to take away one of their rights, and many women don’t look at it as a Democrat or Republican issue. It is a women’s issue and it is personal to many. The point of Texas passing their law was to see if they could create a division among women voters in an attempt to win the two Houses of Congress for the Republicans in 2022. However, it may backfire and cost Republicans some seats.
Could it happen here in Washington state? Unlikely. But the two parties are not likely to agree on taking away a woman’s right to an abortion. Can Republicans in Washington state use it as a wedge issue to gain control of the two state Houses?Never say never in politics, but I think women will stick together on their right to an abortion at both the state and national level.
That said, a Republican legislator will introduce a Texas-style law in the next session of the Legislature for the sole purpose of getting everyone on the record that will then be used to try and defeat vulnerable Democrats in 2022. This is a blue state and such a move is still likely to backfire on Republicans and cost them seats.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.