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“Republicans Find Their Next Anti-Choice Innovation”: Coming Up With New Ways To Restrict Abortion Rights; The Government Decides

If you’re looking for true Republican policy innovations, don’t bother with tax policy or national security; the place where the GOP is really exercising its creativity is in coming up with new ways to restrict abortion rights. In the latest inspired move, Republican state legislators in Ohio have introduced a bill to make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy because she has discovered that the baby would have Down syndrome. The bill is expected to pass, and though he hasn’t yet taken a position on it, it would be a shock if Governor John Kasich—who is both an opponent of abortion rights and currently in search of votes in the Republican presidential primary—didn’t sign it.

After it passes in Ohio (and even if by some strange turn of events it doesn’t), look for identical bills to come up in state after Republican-controlled state. Anyone who objects will of course be accused of wanting to kill children with disabilities.

As the New York Times article about the Ohio bill notes, this isn’t entirely unprecedented; there are a few states that have outlawed abortion for sex selection, and North Dakota has a similar law passed in 2013 forbidding abortions because of fetal genetic anomaly, though “advocates are not aware of enforcement of any such laws in the states that have them.” But this one lands not only in during a presidential primary, but also amid Republicans’ latest offensive against Planned Parenthood, driven by secretly recorded videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss the transfer of fetal tissue for research.

That effort may not accomplish all that much; while many conservatives (and a few presidential candidates) would like to shut down the government in order to “defund” the group, that probably won’t happen, and efforts by states to discover that Planned Parenthood is doing something illegal have come up empty. But it still creates a context in which Republicans are aggressive on the issue of abortion—particularly when it may be the only “culture war” issue on which they aren’t in full retreat.

This is one of those issues where there’s an emotionally freighted case for one side, a case that can seem compelling as long as you don’t think about it too deeply. Conservatives will argue that the law is necessary because so often when women learn that a fetus they’re carrying has the genetic anomaly that causes Down’s, she winds up having an abortion. And they’ll note that people with Down’s can have happy, fulfilling lives, which they can. They’ll no doubt tell stories of wonderful individuals they know who have the condition.

But if the question is only, “If this woman carried her pregnancy to term, would it be possible for the baby that would ultimately result to have a happy, fulfilling life?” then no abortion would be allowed. Some women have abortions because they got pregnant accidentally and are too young to raise a child. Is it possible for a child born to a young woman to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they don’t want to raise a child with the biological father. Is it possible for a child raised by a single mother to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they already have all the children they want. Is it possible for a child born to a family that already has plenty of children to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course.

But if we’re going to say that a woman who wants to end her pregnancy because of Down syndrome will be legally barred from doing so, we’re saying that it will now be the government’s job to evaluate whether her reasons are good enough, and if the government thinks they aren’t, then she will be forced against her will to carry the pregnancy to term. For all the restrictions Republicans have successfully placed on abortion rights throughout the country, it isn’t yet the case that women have to explain to the government why they want the abortion and prove that they’re doing it for what the government considers the right reason.

Perhaps to expedite things, every women’s health clinic could come equipped with a special hotline to the state legislature, where any woman who wants to end her pregnancy would have to justify it to a Republican state representative, who would have the final say. Maybe that will be the next bright policy idea from the party that says it’s committed to getting government off your back.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 23, 2015

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Choice, Republicans, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Affront To Democracy In Ohio”: It Appears Ohio Republicans Didn’t Get The Message

About a month ago, President Obama’s non-partisan commission on voting issued a detailed report, urging state and local election officials to make it easier for Americans to access their own democracy.

It appears Ohio Republicans didn’t get the message. Zachary Roth reports:

On party lines, the [Ohio state] House voted 59-37 to approve a GOP bill that would cut six days from the state’s early voting period. More importantly, it would end the so-called “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day. Same-day registration is among the most effective ways for bringing new voters into the process, election experts say.

The House also voted by 60-38 to approve a bill that would effectively end the state’s successful program of mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters. Under the bill, the secretary of state would need approval from lawmakers to mail absentee ballots, and individual counties could not do so at all. Nearly 1.3 million Ohioans voted absentee in 2012. The bill also would make it easier to reject absentee ballots for missing information.

The Senate quickly approved minor changes to both bills and sent them to the desk of Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, who is expected to sign them.

At the same time, Ohio Democrats spearheaded a new “Voters’ Bill of Rights,” intended to expand early voting and make it harder to disqualify ballots, among other things. Proponents hoped to put the measure on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, but state Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) announced this week that he’s blocking the effort, citing what he called “misrepresentations” in the text of the proposed amendment.

In an editorial  published before yesterday’s votes in the legislature, the Cleveland Plain Dealer argued, “Ohio House Republicans appear poised to pass two measures that, disguises aside, aim to limit voting by Ohioans who might vote for Democrats. That’s not just political hardball. It’s an affront to democracy. Voting is supposed to be about holding elected officials accountable. They won’t be, though, if those same officials massage Ohio law to, in effect, pick their own voters.”

In the larger context, let’s not forget Ohio’s recent history. A decade ago, during the 2004 elections, the state struggled badly with long voting lines, so state policymakers decided to make things better. And in 2008, Ohio’s voting system worked quite well and voters enjoyed a much smoother process.

So smooth, in fact, that Ohio Republicans have worked in recent years to reverse the progress. I’m reminded of Rachel’s segment from Nov. 20 of last year.

“[T]his is not a hypothetical thing in Ohio. The state has a really recent history of it being terribly difficult to vote in heavily populated, especially Democratic-leaning parts of the state. It was really bad in ‘04, and they fixed that problem by making changes like expanding early voting so the lines wouldn’t be so long on Election Day. About a third of Ohio voted early last year. It is much easier to do that.

“And the fact that so many people like early voting and are thereby finding their ways to the polls, that, of course, is a problem for Ohio Republicans. And so, Ohio Republicans moved to break that system again, to go back to the old broken system that didn’t work before. Today, Ohio Republicans voted to cut back early voting by six full days in Ohio. They’re also voting to end same day voter registration, to make it harder to get your vote counted if you have to cast a provisional ballot, and they’re considering cutting back on the number of voting machines at the polls.

“Yes, we’ve always had way too many of those. Your state government at work, Ohio. You’re hoping that your local state legislator would go to Columbus and start working overtly to make the process of voting a lot harder and a lot slower for you? Congratulations, if you voted for a Republican, you got what you paid for.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 20, 2014

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deceitful And Strange Bedfellows: After Months Of Rancor, Two Governors Alter Tones

After Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican in his first months in office, announced early this year that he wanted to cut collective bargaining rights for public workers, relations between political parties in his newly red State Capitol fell into a long, deep frost.

But after six months of bruising partisan fights, Mr. Walker seemed to issue an utterly different message this month. He said he wanted to meet with Democrats and to find shared agenda items — an invitation that has been met with polite acceptance and deep skepticism.

“My thought is, you start out with small things, you build trust, you move forward, you keep working on things and you try and pick as many things that are things that people can clearly work together on,” Mr. Walker, who may face a recall election next year, said in an interview.

In the months after a flurry of Republican wins of governors’ offices and state legislatures in 2010, perhaps nowhere was the partisan rancor more pronounced than in the nation’s middle — places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where fights over labor unions exploded. But now, at least in those states, there are signs that the same Republicans see a need to show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others.

In both states, critics dismiss the moves as desperate attempts to shore up sinking popularity ratings or disingenuous, tardy strategies to appear agreeable after already ramming through their agendas.

“It’s all P.R. — none of it is substantive,” Mark Miller, the Democrats’ minority leader in the Wisconsin State Senate, said earlier this month, before Mr. Walker held what some described as a “cordial” meeting with the Democratic leaders last week.

Whatever the true substance of the offers, the recent tones in Ohio and Wisconsin do appear to show one thing: With threats of recalls and bill repeals, with public dismay in recent months over the partisan stalemate in Washington on the debt ceiling, and with battleground-state presidential politics looming in 2012, governing with majorities has turned out in some states to be more complicated than it may have first appeared.

Across the nation, partisan relations in statehouses where Republicans made significant gains last fall have varied widely, and in many cases there are no signs of softening messages — or even the need for such a thing. But leaders in other states, including some that are expected to consider limits to unions in the months ahead, are closely watching what unfolds now in Ohio and Wisconsin, the states that became the unexpected battle zones for an earlier season of discontent.

In Columbus, Democrats and union leaders were enraged this year when Gov. John R. Kasich, another first-term Republican governor, and the Republicans who now control both chambers of the legislature pushed through — mostly along partisan lines— a law that would limit the rights of public workers to bargain collectively.

Republicans in Ohio advocated for the measure as the logical response to shrunken budgets in towns, cities and counties. But union leaders and Democrats — and a group calling itself We Are Ohio — spent months collecting more than 900,000 valid signatures (hundreds of thousands more than needed) to put the law to a vote in a statewide referendum in November. A campaign, which is expected to draw significant interest and spending from political groups in Ohio and nationwide, is likely to begin in earnest soon.

Last week, Mr. Kasich and Republican leaders sent a letter to the union organizers, calling for a meeting to discuss a compromise. The leaders said they still believed in the law they had passed, and a spokesman for Mr. Kasich would not say precisely what areas the Republicans were willing to give in on. “We are prepared to move forward immediately with legislative action to implement any agreement on changes we are able to reach together,” the letter read.

“We ought to get to the table and we ought to talk about it,” Mr. Kasich told reporters on Friday, meeting with them in a room full of empty seats and placards for the absent organizers, although the organizers said they had turned down the invitation. “Is it too late?” Mr. Kasich asked. “It’s never too late.”

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Mr. Kasich, said the new invitation did not mark any shift in Mr. Kasich’s approach; the governor had sought to talk to labor groups during the legislative fight, Mr. Nichols said, and some representatives had engaged in private discussions over the issue again in June before the unions ended those talks, he said. “He, more than most, has a long history of working across party lines,” Mr. Nichols said.

But critics balked at the notion that any real talks had been offered before or that any true, concrete compromises — not just photo opportunities for a public fatigued by partisan rancor — were being offered now.

“If they’re honestly coming forward for a compromise, repeal the bill and then we’ll talk,” said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, explaining why representatives for the group had declined to meet with Mr. Kasich on Friday. “If they wanted to get along, they probably should have tried to during the legislative process instead of locking people out.”

In Wisconsin, partisan relations — and that state’s fight over limits to collective bargaining — have proved still uglier.

In the weeks after Mr. Walker proposed the limits in February, state lawmakers, newly dominated by Republicans in the Capitol, split in two. The minority Senate Democrats fled the state to try to block a vote on the measure. The Republicans issued the lawmaking equivalent of warrants against them, and at one point, threatened that the Democrats had to collect their paychecks in person — or not get them at all. And, as protesters screamed outside his closed office door, Mr. Walker firmly defended the bargaining cuts and said his administration was “certainly looking at all legal options” against the other party.

But after a summer of expensive, brutal recall election efforts against nine state senators — Democrats for having fled the state, and Republicans for having supported the bargaining cuts — Mr. Walker seemed to be sounding a different, softer note. He said he had called Democratic leaders in the Legislature even before the polls closed in some of this month’s recalls, which, in the end, maintained the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers, though by a slimmer margin of 17 to 16 in the Senate.

Democrats in the state had harsh theories about what was behind Mr. Walker’s sudden wish to get along. Some said he had already accomplished a stunningly partisan agenda, including the bargaining cuts, an austere budget, a voter identification law, a concealed-firearms provision and a redistricting map that favored Republicans, and was now hoping to appear to be reaching out. Others said he feared a different recall election effort — against him — next year, as well as creating a drag in the state on any Republican presidential ticket.

“This is totally phony — a totally unbelievable act of desperation,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “It will fade away and return soon enough to the scorched-earth method that has marked his career.”

Reflecting on the start of his term, Mr. Walker said that he wished he had spent more time “building a case” with the public for why collective bargaining cuts could shore up budgets, but that he remained a firm supporter of the cuts themselves — a fact that seems certain to complicate any effort for bipartisanship now.

“I’m not thinking that just because we snap our fingers that suddenly everybody’s going to run out and work together and it’s all going to work perfectly,” the governor said.

By: Monica Davey, The New York Times, August 21, 2011

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Labor, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Employees, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Union Busting, Unions, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Escalates Voter Suppression In Ohio

If any Democrats you know need a reason to raise hell about the GOP-led effort to restrict early voting, please direct them to Ken McCall’s Dayton Daily News article, “Changes to early voting rules could hurt Dems.” The headline is actually an understatement, as McCall’s article makes clear:

A Republican-sponsored state law designed to curb voter fraud by significantly limiting the number of days to vote early has a greater potential to hurt Democrats than Republicans, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of voter patterns from the 2008 presidential election.The Daily News examined precinct-level voting results in five counties and found that Democratic voters were much more likely than Republicans to come to boards of elections offices and vote early in the 2008 presidential election, especially in urban counties.

The analysis of voting in the 2,830 precincts in Montgomery, Franklin and Hamilton counties found that precincts won by Democrat Barack Obama had significantly more early votes than those that went for his Republican challenger, John McCain.

And the more a precinct went for Obama, the more early, in-office votes were cast….In the top 10 Obama precincts — all from Dayton and all voting 98 percent for the Democrat — early, in-office votes made up almost 29 percent of all votes cast. In the top 10 precincts for McCain — all in rural or suburban areas of the county — only 2.4 percent of the ballots were cast at the board of elections before Election Day….

House Bill 194, now known as the Elections Reform Bill, contains more than 180 changes to election law, including provisions cutting early, in-office voting by about two-thirds — from 35 days to the equivalent of 11.

Even the nonpartisan League of Women Voters has expressed concern about the bill as an instrument of voter suppression. “The League never talks about people’s motivations, but the effect of it will be to depress the vote,” according to the League’s Peg Rosenfeld, quoted in McCall’s article.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has filed petitions to overturn the law. Hopefully there will be mounting protests against the legislation, which targets African American voters as well as Democrats. In any event, the Republican-lead campaign against early voting should underscore the urgency of Dems having stronger GOTV programs in every state where early voting is under assault.

It’s about as naked an attempt to suppress pro-Democratic voters as we are likely to see in the months ahead. For all of the GOP’s flag-waving and blustering about freedom, when you get right down to it, they want to make it harder for people to vote.

By: Democratic Strategist Staff, August 21, 2011

 

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberty, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Battle of Ohio: Facing Referendum, Republicans Now Want to Compromise

With the Battle of Wisconsin reaching a temporary lull after the recent recall elections, attention is shifting to another midwestern state, where opponents of recently enacted union-bashing legislation have far exceeded the threshold of petitions needed to get a referendum repealing the measure on a November ballot.

With polls consistently showing Ohio voters favoring the repeal initiative (by 50-39 in a new PPP poll, and by larger margins in earlier polls), Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislative leaders are suddenly asking for meetings to seek a compromise on Senate Bill 5, which was enacted in March on a party-line vote.

Kasich hurried to sign the bill soon after it passed in order to force opponents to seek a referendum this year rather than in the higher-turnout 2012 presidential cycle.

But now Republicans are seeking to head off the referendum, or (since SB 5 opponents have made it clear that total repeal of the bill is a precondition to talks about how it might be replaced with compromise legislation) more likely, trying to strengthen their hand in the referendum fight by appearing reasonable.  It’s a little late for that.

So the referendum fight is fully on, and as November approaches, you can expect the kind of national labor/progressive coalition that mobilized for the Wisconsin recalls to focus on Ohio.

 

By: Democratic Strategist Staff, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Labor, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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