Probing the State Constitution with Abortion Appeals: An Intriguing Example from a Red State with a Republican Governor and Legislator
State supreme court races are being watched by abortion rights advocates because of the fight that is playing out in the legislature and courts.
Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, which advocates for ballot measures to advance progressive policies, said the amendment’s passage represents voters in a red state — with a Republican governor and legislature — passing abortion protections.
Hall says that Ohio is the first state where he thinks we can win and go on offense. “And that is an inspiring example that shines a light on the path for other red states.”
In Ohio, the vote was held after a special election in August where Republicans proposed a question on the ballot to make amending the state constitution more difficult. The proposal was soundly rejected by Ohio voters.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin has supported a proposal to ban most abortions after 15 weeks, with some exceptions, and heavily campaigned with Republicans to try to win a trifecta government in Richmond, Va.
Virginia is the only state in the South that does not restrict abortion in response to the Supreme Court decision. Currently, abortion is legal until 26 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. With incoming majorities in both chambers, that law seems poised to remain intact.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, won re-election after facing a challenge from the state’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, who opposes abortion rights and has defended Kentucky’s strict abortion laws in court.
Beshear’s campaign released an emotional ad in which a young woman talked about her experience as a victim of rape by a family member at age 12. She pointed out that Kentucky’s abortion law contains no rape or incest exceptions, saying, “Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes.”
In another sign of the state’s abortion laws being out of step with public opinion, Kentucky voters last year rejected a ballot initiative intended to make it harder for women to get abortions.
The incumbent Republican Gov. was re-elected in Mississippi. His Democratic challenger was a relative of Elvis Presley who also opposed abortion rights.
When a majority of Michigan voters vote for Prop 3, the Right to Life of Michigan legislative director says they need to change the culture. ” To really look at: what is abortion?” And how do we prevent abortion?”
That’s something Planned Parenthood of Michigan may consider, says spokesperson Ashlea Phenicie. “Planned Parenthood is exploring every tool in our arsenal to get rid of the restrictions that are unconstitutional.”
“Basically, the House said to us last night, that if you are privileged enough to have private health insurance, your private health insurance can cover your health care or your abortion care,” Crissman said Thursday. If you are a lower-income person or someone who is on Medicaid, your health care doesn’t matter in the long run. That’s really disappointing.
Neither measure passed after a late-night voting marathon in the Michigan House. The Medicaid ban and the 24-hour waiting period still stand.
The Michigan House Pro Tempore Democrat voted to Restore Reproductive Health (Prop 3), which is currently up to the House Speaker’s desk
“Saying it’s a mix of emotions is really underselling it,” said Democratic State Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky, one of the key sponsors of the legislation.
The Democrats were hopeful that they’d found a compromise that’d allow Medicaid funding for abortion, but also get rid of the mandatory waiting period.
“I don’t think that we should sell ourselves short,” Pohutsky says. This is a huge thing. Even just the repeal of those policies is going to be really, really impactful. That being said, all of that is frankly irrelevant for somebody who still can’t access abortion care because of that 24-hour delay.”
Michigan Democrats’ majority on the Health Policy committee was large enough to get the Reproductive Health Act through committee without Whitsett’s support. The House was one of the questions. With a razor-thin majority, Democrats couldn’t afford to lose a single vote.
“Those are some very key things that I heard from constituents within the community,” Whitsett says. “Don’t get me wrong. I voted for Prop 3. I am a survivor of rape. I was terminated. So I am in support of abortions and making sure that they’re safe and accessible.”
The Hyde amendment prohibits federal dollars from being used in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger. State funds are used to cover abortions in 17 states.
Is Medicaid Financing Disagreeable? Laurie Pohutsky of the Michigan House & Senate Proposal 3 Abortion Reform Campaign
“There were, unfortunately, House members as well that had issues with Medicaid funding,” Pohutsky said at the time. “And again, I understand that that is disappointing. There’s no denying that. But I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as one member who had an issue.”
She said that she worked with her fellow legislators to educate them on the proposed changes. “But ultimately, we weren’t able to get everyone on board.”
One strategy seems to have proven at least partly effective: separating abortion rights, which voters support, from “commonsense” abortion restrictions.
There are more than 10 statewide organizations opposing abortion rights, and her organization has worked with the Michigan Coalition to Protect a Woman’s Right to Know.
Some voters who supported Proposal 3 also supported abortion restrictions, the polling results show. The Reproductive Health Act would be distorted by the language used in that polling.
But some abortion providers, like Dr. Halley Crissman, said in effect the legislature had created two different tiers of abortion access: one for patients with private insurance, and another for those on Medicaid.
Laurie Pohutsky hopes abortion advocates outside of the legislature will challenge remaining abortion restrictions in court.