States continue along divergent paths on abortion

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Even though abortion does not figure to be “the” defining issue of the 2024 election cycle, it remains an important election topic and a deeply divisive issue that is playing out in opposite ways across red and blue states. 

This week, Democrat- and Republican-run states each took unprecedented steps in making abortions easier or harder to get. 

In Louisiana, conservatives in the state house and senate passed a bill – one likely to be signed by newly-elected Republican Gov. Jeff Landry – that would classify the drugs used in abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol, as controlled substances. 

The Pelican State would become the first in the nation to treat these drugs as controlled substances and, in so doing, make it illegal for individuals to possess the drugs without a prescription. The law would also create a new crime known as “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud.”

“The purpose of bringing this legislation is certainly not to prevent these drugs from being used for legitimate health care purposes,” the Associate Press quoted Sen. Thomas Pressly, the bill’s creator, as saying. “I am simply trying to put safeguards and guardrails in place to keep bad actors from getting these medications.”

Critics of the bill have accused Louisiana conservatives of creating a draconian law that will allow the state to track which women have or could have the drugs. 

“Women in Louisiana are one step closer towards living in a world where they can be monitored and tracked and even sent to prison for just holding FDA-approved medications,” CBS News quoted former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as saying. “What’s happening right here in Louisiana is just one example of this dystopian agenda that Trump and his allies are pushing.”

Landrieu is a co-chair for the Biden campaign and brother of former Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. 

The true scope of this new law is one that can be overstated by either fan or foe. 

Given that Louisiana already has one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation – abortions are permissible only when the life of the mother is at stake or the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile” – it’s unlikely that many women will be prescribed the drugs at all.

However, in terms of what the law signifies, specifically another step to the right for a red state, it would be inaccurate to view the pending law as inconsequential. 

Louisiana is just one of many conservative states fighting against abortion. In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed one of the leading anti-abortion activists in the medical field, Dr. Ingrid Skop, to the committee that determines whether a case meets the criteria of a mother’s life being in danger. 

CALIFORNIA IMPORTING ABORTION CASES

The existential countermove to Louisiana was a Thursday night announcement in California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that allows doctors from Arizona to perform abortions in California. 

Arizona’s abortion law is currently being argued in court, and it is likely that abortion access is restored in the state, but at present a Civil War-era law imposes a near-total ban on the practice. 

“Arizona Republicans tried to turn back the clock to 1864 to impose a near-total abortion ban across their state. We refuse to stand by and acquiesce to their oppressive and dangerous attacks on women,” Newsom said in a statement.

Much like the Louisiana law, the law in California is not as profound, for better or worse, than proponents or opponents might argue. 

Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, with the backing of the state legislature, has already signed a law reversing the abortion ban in the state, and, barring judicial intervention, the new abortion-friendly law will take effect sometime in July. In Arizona, such laws do not become official until 90 days after the legislative session ends, so the precise date is not yet apparent. 

Again, though, as a symbolic gesture, there is import to attach to Newsom’s move. The governor has signaled he so values abortions that he would be willing to go to battle with other states’ medical boards, which would be the likely result were a longer-term ban and law to be in the offing. 

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES CONTINUE TO DANCE AROUND ABORTION

It will come as no comfort to pro-life voters to learn that the prevailing thought among conservatives seeking key offices is to keep abortion talk at arm’s length. 

Former President Donald Trump is key among the people trying to keep a centrist footing on abortion. 

Thursday, NBC News, citing interviews with nine people within top Republican circles, reported that Team Trump is seeking to create a coalition that will create an official platform void of abortion language that is too strong to the right. 

Trump is taking the approach of arguing that abortion should remain a state-level issue and is solidifying that by strategically appointing loyalists to the Republican coalition that will steer the upcoming presidential convention. 

“I know there are probably some people upset at us, but these positions are generally set aside for those who have been helpful to the president,” NBC quoted one official as saying. “That includes this kind of stuff.”

The fear among Trump and ranking Republicans is that any talk of stricter abortion laws, particularly those at the federal level, would be detrimental to Republicans’ electoral aspirations. 

In Maryland, for example, Republican Senate candidate and former Gov. Larry Hogan is promoting himself as a pro-choice candidate. 

It’s a potentially risky move for the right, one guaranteed to sour the more conservative elements of the base and certain to do nothing to help Republicans in the eyes of the left or left-leaning media. 

Even with the likes of Trump and Hogan making a moderate play, Democrats and progressives are arguing all the more fervently that Republicans are merely pretending. 

“Republicans see Hogan as a ticket to [a] national abortion ban,” Angela Alsobrooks, Hogan’s Democratic opponent, said, according to Maryland Matters. “They believe that road runs through Larry Hogan and runs through the state of Maryland.”

By contrast, Democrats face little to no pressure to hide their true feelings on abortion. Political figures on the left are going all-in on making the most number of abortions possible. 

President Joe Biden’s administration has recently taken to using the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – a 2022 workplace anti-discrimination law passed under the auspices of it making it easier for women to see their pregnancies through to term – as a means of facilitating abortions, even in states where the practice is illegal. 

Stateline.org has a more in-depth exploration of how the White House has sought to use the act to foster abortions, primarily by defining abortions as a medical condition related to pregnancy. 

The move has inspired 19 conservative state attorneys general to sue the Biden administration for, the attorneys argue, vastly overstepping the remit of the law. 

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