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Be not deceived
Even after all the losing, anti-abortion activists aren't beaten yet
It was foreseeable, indeed foreseen: Anti-abortion conservatives’ seventh straight state-level loss on reproductive rights at the state level – in this case Ohio, where a state constitution amendment disallowing laws that restrict the franchise, as it were, passed 57% to 43%.
The result puts one in mind of Citizen Kane and Boss Gettys’ exit line: If it was anybody else I’d say what’s gonna happen to you would be a lesson to him. Only you’re gonna need more than one lesson — and you’re gonna get more than one lesson.
But some people learn very different lessons than most from adversity, particularly when in the grip of a religious mania and frustrated by the will of the people. In the Republicans’ case, the lesson is it’s not the cause that’s failing, but the voters — and that they must be deprived of the opportunity in the future.
It’s hard to predict the future or how long this fight will last. Advocates of same-sex marriage suffered a string of 32 losses at the ballot box before succeeding for the first time, in the bluest of states, in 2012. We disagreed with their objective, and both sides are more entrenched on the abortion issue, but their success serves as a reminder that a string of defeats at the ballot box is no reason to believe a cause is lost.
Claiming inspiration in a campaign by your opponents to expand rights for your own campaign to deprive women of theirs is pretty rich – especially when you concede that you wish the former had failed (and several of your prominent colleagues threaten to reverse it)!
But logical consistency is beside the point. These people claim the mandate of heaven; logic is a tool to be used when effective and abandoned when not — as is the power of the ballot box, which they touted when Dobbs was decided (“Let the states decide!” Remember that?) but are now dead set against.
It’s hardly a secret that Republicans are working hard to keep any more of repro rights referenda from going before the voters, ever. At National Review Michael J. New brags on it:
Currently, laws protecting all preborn children are in place in 14 states. South Carolina and Georgia both have heartbeat laws in effect that protect the preborn after six weeks’ gestation. There are strong pro-life laws protecting thousands of preborn children in 16 states. Nine of these 16 states do not have the citizen initiative. Hence, these laws are very unlikely to be repealed by direct democracy. Mississippi’s citizen-initiative provisions are being challenged in court. However, even if Mississippi regains the citizen initiative, their signature requirements are among the most difficult in the country, and so the pro-life laws in the Magnolia State are also probably safe.
(I’ve already talked about how Missouri conservatives are working hard to stop a referendum from going through there.) Other conservatives make the corollary point: In elections that don’t focus on abortion, they can elect anti-abortion politicians on the basis of their other positions that are less repulsive to the electorate — undercover, as it were — and they’d do the job of passing bans once they’re beyond the voters’ reach.
In other words, the voters can’t stop us if we don’t give them a chance.
Though anti-abortion people like to call theirs a “civil rights” movement, I don’t remember this being the strategy behind any previous civil rights movement — even when the causes were, as National Review noted and as all such movements have been since the days of Jim Crow, a tough sell at first. The people became convinced and the votes followed.
Well, the people are already convinced on abortion. They have been for years. All that invalidated their conviction was Donald Trump, no sane person’s idea of a moral leader, muscling three new anti-Roe votes onto the Supreme Court. Conservatives are not confused about this. You’ll notice they talk less than they used to about how they’re going to love up the women they’re forcing to bear children with free diapers and what their activists call “compassionate pro-life messages.” That’s because they no longer even have to pretend.
We shouldn’t be confused either. Among other things and at the very least, we should be pushing the Democratic Party to contend in every state so citizens of the more benighted Republican fiefdoms (like Mississippi, where they aren’t even sure to get a ballot) will know an alternative exists and can be fought for. Because despite Tuesday’s relatively good news, there’s plenty of fighting that will still have to be done.