State-level defenders are at the forefront of multiple intersecting battles in the broader quest to protect democracy. Often seen as separate and distinct considerations, the systematic attack on the right to vote and access to abortion is linked to the ongoing program of erosion of the freedom and constitutionally protected rights granted to all individuals. .
“When we think of voting and reproductive rights, we don’t have to look any further than Texas,” said Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a national resource center that aims to help state lawmakers adopt transformative policies.
Driver added: “It is no coincidence that the same week Texas implemented the SB-8 [Senate Bill 8, which bars all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy], they also pass an extremely problematic anti-election bill. And what we do know is that voting is a measure of accountability. We vote for politicians who will represent our best interests. “
The intersection of these questions demonstrates the importance of protecting civil liberties and human rights in order to maintain democracy. Democracy is not a fixed point, but rather a practice that requires deliberate effort to maintain itself.
And part of that practice and that effort involves coming forward for the people and issues that matter to our communities. Through its Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, the State Innovation Exchange has brought together hundreds of lawmakers to join an amicus brief support legal abortion in upcoming Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The State Innovation Exchange “hosted the largest state lawmaker’s amicus file on abortion in the history of this country,” Driver said Truth. “Nearly 900 state lawmakers have signed up to tell the court, ‘We want you to stand up for basic abortion rights.’ “
Driver says working with state lawmakers is really essential in elevating the link between voting rights and reproductive rights.
The State Innovation Exchange “has worked both with lawmakers who are actively trying to protect abortion rights in their states and also the right to vote and push back the redistribution that is happening in states across the country,” Driver said.
In places like Ohio, partisan gerrymandering has paved the way for aggressive restrictions on abortion. The Ohio Capital Newspaper describes the result of this gerrymandering as a change in the landscape in favor of conservatives and paves the way for the passage of anti-abortion legislation.
Aileen Day, communications director for Planned Parenthood of Ohio, described the problem as both simple and complicated.
“A majority of Ohioans believe abortion should be legal and accessible,” Day said. “Despite this, the Ohio legislature is overwhelmingly anti-abortion. It is possible because we do not choose our legislatures. Gerrymandering allows our legislatures to choose us and give themselves disproportionate power. “
Day spoke with truth en route to a protest at an Ohio Senate hearing on an induction ban, which bans abortion in case Roe vs. Wade is struck down. Last month, the Ohio Senate introduced a bill that does just that.
a October 2020 survey showed that over 50 percent of Ohio voters believed abortion should be legal, while only 38 percent thought it should be illegal all or most of the time. Data published in July 2019 has shown strong support for abortion despite the legislature’s proposed pre-viability ban.
“With more Republicans in our legislatures, that means more bills restricting and banning reproductive health care are enacted, but with the addition of more extreme conservatives in our legislature, that means bills extremes banning reproductive health care are enacted, ”Day mentioned.
Day shared that partisan gerrymandering has helped more Republicans in the legislature and the restrictive approach has paved the way for extreme ideologues to join the ranks. According to Day, there have been 30 anti-abortion and anti-reproduction healthcare bans and restrictions in Ohio in the past 10 years.
These restrictions include state-mandated counseling and a 24-hour waiting period, requiring people seeking an abortion to visit a clinic twice. This can be distressing for those who live in communities without a clinic. According to Guttmacher Institute, 93% of Ohio counties did not have an abortion clinic in 2017, representing 55% of women ages 15 to 44 in the state.
Day said the new Ohio District map gives Republicans more than two-thirds of the legislative seats, despite winning just 55% of the vote in 2020. The Ohio ACLU, The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute continued last month dispute the new card.
“Redistribution should not be a one-sided and rigged political process. Voters should choose their politicians, ”Alora Thomas-Lundborg, lead counsel for the ACLU voting rights project, said in a statement. “Politicians should not choose their voters. “
Litigation is often a last resort to ensure respect for core values of fairness and constitutional protections. And as states like Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia await the outcome of federal appeals, including Supreme Court rulings, organizers continue to move forward.
In 2019, Georgia’s Legislative Assembly passed a sweeping electoral bill, including an overhaul of voting machines and a six-week abortion ban. Both have been fiercely opposed by reproductive health advocates, claiming Georgia’s six-week abortion ban is pending before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and is suspended until Dobbs is decided by the Supreme Court.
“Conservative Republicans don’t care about reproductive choices and rights,” said Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project and the New Georgia Project Action Fund. “It’s part of the culture wars. And they know they can use it to increase participation among evangelicals who are an important part of their base. “
The manipulation of the cards and the choice by lawmakers of their constituencies instead of the other way around keeps states stuck in a regressive posture. As Day and Ufot explained, communities of color are grouped together in a way that limits their power and undermines the ability to shift legislative control.
“The only way for them to hang on to power is to take a hammer for our elections,” Ufot said. Truth. “In this way, they keep people on their toes, they fight for their dignity and their humanity – things that they already have, which are already enshrined and enshrined in the Bill of Rights and in our Constitution.”
As part of the Amplify Georgia campaign, which aims to expand and protect access to abortion in Peach State, the New Georgia Project has co-produced a Voter Toolkit for Reproductive Justice in Georgia help voters find candidates determined to help communities not only survive, but also prosper.
Efforts such as voter toolkits are important to weed out the deep misinformation used to spur right-wing voters into frenzy. From allegations of stolen elections to fabrications about the staging of gestation in abortion and claims of fetal pain without scientific basis, there is no magical wait for federal or judicial intervention.
“We are talking about destabilizing government and nation disinformation campaigns,” Ufot said. “We are talking about a major, fundamental, world-changing, world-threatening democracy and attacks on our elections.”
Paraphrasing the late Toni Morrison, Ufot says white supremacy functions as a distraction to keep us from doing our jobs and moving society forward in a way that uplifts people at all levels instead of just enriching the privileged few. Policies that allow people to exercise their rights and protect their personal well-being are determined by those in power.
When focused on maintaining partisan power, instead of equitable representation of people and their interests, redistribution can enshrine the power and tyranny of the few. Collective organizing from groups like the New Georgia Project, state family planning staff, and the State Innovation Exchange can provide a stopgap where federal intervention is delayed.
“We see how conservative state-level lawmakers have had this manual for a very long time,” Driver said. She explained that people have relied on the federal system, be it courts or Congress, to protect rights, but the worst attacks are at the state level. “We remind people of the power of the state legislature,” Driver concluded.