Advocates at the state-level are at the forefront of many intersecting battles in a larger effort to protect democracy. The ongoing program of eroding constitutionally protected freedoms and rights for all is often covered as distinct considerations. However, the systematic attack against voting rights and abortion access is connected to the larger quest to protect democracy.
“When we think about voting rights and reproductive rights, we have to look no further than Texas,” said Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights at the State Innovation Exchange(SiX), which is a national resource centre that supports state legislators in implementing transformative policies.
Driver added: “It is no mere coincidence that the same week that Texas implemented SB-8 [Senate Bill 8, which bars all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy]They also passed an anti-voter bill that was extremely problematic. We know that voting is an accountability measure. We vote for politicians who are going to represent our best interests.”
These issues intersect, which demonstrates how important it is for democracy to be protected civil liberties and human rights. Democracy is not an end-all, but a practice that can be maintained.
Part of that practice and effort is to show up for the people, issues and concerns that matter to our communities. The State Innovation Exchange brought together through its Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council. hundreds of legislators to join an amicus briefSupport legal abortion in the upcoming Supreme Court Case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The State Innovation Exchange “organized the largest state legislator amicus briefs submitted to an abortion case in this country’s history,” Driver told Truthout. “Nearly 900 state legislators sign on to say to the court, ‘We want you to uphold the fundamental rights to abortion’.”
Driver states that it is essential to work with state legislators in order to strengthen the connection between voting and reproductive rights.
The State Innovation Exchange “has been working both with legislators who are actively trying to protect abortion rights in their states and also the right to vote and push back against the redistricting that’s happening in states across the country,” Driver said.
In Ohio, partisan-gerrymandering has led to strict abortion restrictions. The Ohio Capital JournalThis gerrymandering is described as changing the landscape to benefit conservatives, and pave the road for anti-abortion legislation.
Aileen Day, Planned Parenthood of Ohio’s communications director, described the issue as simple and complex at the same time.
“A majority of Ohioans believe abortion should be legal and accessible,” Day said. “Despite this, the Ohio Legislature is majority anti-abortion. This is possible because we don’t pick our legislatures. Gerrymandering allows our legislatures to pick us and give themselves disproportionate power.”
Day spoke with Truthout While en route to protest an Ohio Senate hearing about a trigger ban, which outlaws the event, Roe v. WadeThis bill was struck down. Last month, the Ohio Senate presented a bill that accomplishes exactly that.
An October 2020 pollOver 50% of Ohio voters believed abortion should be legal. Only 38 percent believed it should be illegal most or all of the time. Data published in July 2019The legislature proposed a pre-viability ban, but the legislature supported abortion strongly.
“With more Republicans in our legislatures, that means more bills restricting and banning reproductive health care get signed into law, but with the addition of more extreme conservatives in our legislature, that means extreme bills banning reproductive health care get signed into law,” Day said.
Day agreed that partisan gerrymandering had contributed to more Republicans being elected to the legislature, and that the restrictive approach allowed for extremist ideologues into the ranks. Day claims that Ohio has seen 30 anti-abortion, anti-reproductive and other restrictions in the last 10 years.
These restrictions include state-mandated counseling, a 24-hour waiting period, and the requirement that anyone seeking an abortion be present at a clinic twice. This can be difficult for those who live outside of a clinic. According to the Guttmacher Institute.In 2017, 93 percent of Ohio counties didn’t have an abortion clinic. This is 55 percent of Ohio’s women aged 15-44.
Day stated that the new Ohio district map gives Republicans more than two-thirds the legislative seats, even though they only won 55 percent of the vote share for 2020. The ACLU of Ohio (Local of Women Voters of Ohio) and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute sued last monthThe new map is waiting for you.
“Redistricting should not be a one-sided, rigged political process. Voters should pick their politicians,” Alora Thomas-Lundborg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Politicians should not pick their voters.”
In order to ensure constitutional protections and fundamental fairness are upheld, litigation is often used as a last resort. As states like Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi await the outcomes of federal appeals, including Supreme Court decisions. Organisers continue to move forward.
The Georgia Legislature passed a comprehensive elections bill in 2019. It included a redesign of voting machines and a six-week ban on abortion. Both were fiercely fought by reproductive health advocates arguing Georgia’s six-week abortion ban is pending at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and is on hold until Dobbs The Supreme Court will decide.
“Conservative Republicans don’t give a sh*t about reproductive choice and reproductive rights,” Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project and the New Georgia Project Action Fund said. “It’s a part of the culture wars. And they know that they can use it to drive up turnout among evangelicals who make up a significant portion of their base.”
Manipulation and legislators choosing their constituencies over the other side of the coin keeps states in a regressive position. Day and Ufot explain that communities of colour are grouped in ways which limit their power and hamper their ability to influence legislative control.
“The only way for them to hold on to power is to take a sledgehammer to our election,” Ufot told Truthout. “That way they keep people on their toes, keep people fighting for their dignity and their humanity — things that they already have, which are already ensconced and enshrined in the Bill of Rights and in our Constitution.”
The New Georgia Project was co-produced as part of the Amplify Georgia campaign. This campaign aims to expand and defend abortion access in Georgia. Georgia Reproductive Justice Voter ToolkitHelping voters identify candidates who are committed helping communities not just survive, but thrive.
Voter toolkits and other efforts are necessary to cut through the misinformation that whips right-wing voters into a frenzy. It doesn’t matter if you wait for federal or court intervention, from claims of stolen elections to fabrications regarding gestational staging in an abortion and claims about fetal pain that have no scientific basis, there are no guarantees.
“We are talking about government and nation destabilizing disinformation campaigns,” Ufot said. “We’re talking about major fundamental, world-changing, world-threatening democracy and attacks on our elections.”
Ufot, paraphrasing Toni Morrison’s late words, says that white supremacy is a distraction that prevents us from doing our jobs and moving society forward in a way which uplifts everyone instead of enriching a few. The people in power decide policies that allow people to exercise their rights and protect themselves.
Redistricting, when it’s all about maintaining partisan power rather than fair representation of people and their needs, can enshrine power as well as the tyranny and tyranny that few. The New Georgia Project, the state Planned Parenthood staff, and the State Innovation Exchange are all examples of collective organizing that can be used to provide a temporary solution when federal intervention is delayed.
“We are seeing how conservative legislators at the state level have had this playbook for a very long time,” Driver said. She explained that people have relied heavily on the federal system, Congress or the courts, to protect their rights. But the worst attacks are happening at state level. “We are reminding people of the power of the state legislature,” Driver concluded.