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The GOP is Undoing Democracy to Ban Abortion
Republicans are working overtime to stop voters from having a say
Yesterday, Mississippi Republicans advanced a resolution that would ban voters from using ballot measures to change abortion laws. Like so many other conservative lawmakers, they’re well aware of how Americans feel about abortion restrictions and want to keep the issue as far away from voters as possible.
Republican legislators across the country have been working overtime to prevent Americans from having a say on abortion rights, no longer bothering to hide their obvious disdain for democracy. In states like Ohio, Missouri and Florida, for example, they’re working to raise the standards on ballot measures to require a much higher percentage of voters to pass. (In Ohio and Missouri, they want 60% of the vote instead of a simple majority; in Florida they’re trying to raise it to nearly 67%.)
Republicans in those states, however, at least have had the good sense to pretend the issue isn’t abortion—instead claiming they’re simply trying to protect their states from well-funded special interests. But the Mississippi GOP didn’t get the memo, and happily told reporters yesterday about their desire to fuck over voters without the least bit of shame or smidge of a cover story.
The chair of the House Constitution Committee, Republican Rep. Fred Shanks, admitted that the legislature’s original proposal to restore Mississippi’s initiative process said nothing about abortion. But, he told journalists, the GOP was worried that citizens would be able to use ballot measures to restore abortion rights—so they added in a provision to stop them. (It’s amazing the ease with which these legislators will talk about undoing democracy, like they’re ordering a sandwich or chatting about the weather.)
The truth is that Mississippi Republicans are right to be worried. In 2011, voters there overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to add fetal personhood into the state constitution. And abortion has only gotten more popular since.
A study last week from the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) showed what other polls have proven for decades: Americans overwhelmingly support abortion rights, even when they live in red states. Lawmakers in Mississippi and beyond know that if it’s up to voters, abortion will be legal. The only way they can enact or protect abortion bans is by hoarding power and keeping the choice out of our hands.
That’s why I’ve always bristled at the idea that pro-choicers need to change hearts and minds on abortion: We already did that! We have public support, and we have the votes. The obsession with finding some imaginary middle ground or reaching moderates only distracts us from the real problem: A small group of extremist legislators wielding a growing amount of power against the majority of voters they’re supposed to represent.
And they’re not stopping at ballot measures. Republicans know that the busier we are working to convince people that it’s okay to be pro-choice—even while popular belief is already on our side—the less time and energy we have to fight their attempts to disenfranchise voters. Or to stop the conservative judge shopping that already might end access to abortion medication as we know it.
The more we talk about finding a ‘compromise’—despite Americans’ clear wishes for legal abortion—the less we’re paying attention to how Republicans are changing rules around injunctions as a way to remove blocks on abortion bans.
As we waste time on ‘working across the aisle’, legislators are weakening judicial power so that they can ban abortion no matter what their state Supreme Courts say. While we’re worrying about not coming across as too radical, they’re firing and fining prosecutors who refuse to go after abortion cases.
Conservatives have no problem breaking the rules to keep abortion banned against voters’ wishes—the very least we can do is not make it easier for them.
Any time Republicans bring up abortion, we need to talk about voters: Ask them why—if they’re so sure that they’re on the right side of history and the country—they’re trying to keep Americans from having a voice on the issue? What’s the problem with letting voters decide? Because if Republicans are going to work this hard to dismantle democracy, they should have the courage to say it out loud.
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