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Why Are States So Important?

State elections matter. Repeat ad infinitum.

It’s times like this when this mantra goes from aspirational to undeniable. Because depending on where you live in the US, the past two weeks have been either a disaster or a victory for women’s health.

The bad news is unfolding, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Texas, where the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act” (HB 948) — first introduced in 2017 by State Rep. Tony Tinderholt — is finally getting a hearing in the state legislature.

Texas: “Pro-Life?” Really?

The bill would ban abortion at any stage, with zero exceptions; direct state officials to ignore “any conflicting federal” laws; and enshrine abortion within the state’s penal code for criminal homicide. In other words, women (and their providers) could be charged with murder for obtaining an abortion. And you really don’t want to be charged with murder in Texas.

Despite Tinderholt’s lip service to “equal protection” for life inside and “outside the womb,” it’s clear which side of the birth canal is more “equal,” as evidenced by his long track record of voting against anti-family-violence and anti-domestic-violence bills. If you’re a fetus, Tinderholt’s your man; if you’re a child or woman, you’re out of luck.

How’s that for pro-life family values?

Tinderholt says HB 948 is necessary in order to “force” women to be “more personally responsible” around sex. No word on whether this five-times-married father, whose physical violence got him slapped with a restraining order after his first divorce, will be crafting any upcoming bills to foist personal responsibility on men.

The citizens of Tarrant County, TX, have reelected Tinderholt three times. But look at these numbers: he won his 2016 general election with 74% of the vote, but in the 2018 election, his percentage had shrunk to 53%. The next House of Representatives election is coming up in November, 2020. Republicans voted him in; Democrats et al. can vote him out. Texans, take note.

State elections matter.

Kansas: Cautious Jubilation

A hop and a skip up the map, something momentous — and exactly opposite — is taking place: yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court blocked a 2015 state law banning a second-trimester abortion procedure.

The Court explicitly ruled that the state protects “the right of personal autonomy,” which “[a]llows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.” The ruling could potentially provide a bulwark against federal efforts to limit or overturn Roe v. Wade, and, because states tend to look to other states for legal rulings, could be copied by other state legislatures.

It’s a fitting, if insufficient, tribute to Dr. George Tiller, the women’s health advocate assassinated by an anti-abortion zealot in 2009 while attending church in Wichita.

So who are these justices, and how can Kansans re-elect them? Alas, they can’t, because in Kansas, the governor ultimately appoints Supreme Court justices. But who “appoints” the governor? The people! Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed the 2015 “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act” (note traditional GOP co-option of language), is out. As of January 2019, Democrat Laura Kelly is in.

The state Congress is more of an uphill battle, as Republicans have controlled both the House and Senate for almost 30 years. Next election: November 2020. Kansans, take note.

To quote the Kansas state motto: Ad astra per aspera (“to the stars through difficulties”). State elections matter!