Last week, Louisiana Republicans killed attempts to add exceptions for rape and incest— well-established and much loved conservative institutions— to the state’s draconian anti-Choice legislation. Conservative Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the original legislation banning abortion but now he says he wants the exceptions added. He should have refused to sign the bill— which criminalizes doctors who perform abortions— when it was originally presented to him in 2022.
Another Democratic governor in a southern state, Roy Cooper, protected his constituents by just vetoing North Carolina Republicans’ anti-Choice bill— which does include exceptions for rape and incest. On Saturday, the NY Times reported that Cooper’s veto “sets him up for a showdown with the legislature, which now has a slim Republican supermajority. That means it has the power to override his veto and enact the ban, if the party can muster enough votes.” The villain in this story, though, is also a Democrat— or a former Democrat, Tricia Cotham, who recently switched parties and went from pro-Choice to anti-Choice.
Cotham represents a blue district but the Republicans have pledged to redraw it as a red district in return for her party switch, which gave them the super-majority they have craved since Cooper was first elected— and then reelected. Cotham’s switch allows the Republicans to override Cooper’s veto, which they plan to do next week. Cooper has called on Cotham to vote against the override based on her campaign promises to support abortion rights. (Three other Republicans, Reps. Ted Davis and John Bradford plus state Senator Michael Lee, also campaigned on promises to protect the 20-week ban but not make it more restrictive.) Just one Republican in either chamber could sustain Cooper’s veto.
Eight months ago, CNN looked a the Democrats who are helping Republicans ban abortion. Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken reported that “More than 140 Democrats from eight of the roughly dozen states with the most restrictive abortion laws voted in favor of the bans, and the vast majority of these state lawmakers were men.” There was just one instance where the Republicans needed a Democratic vote to pass their anti-Choice bill.
In Arkansas, four of the state’s 29 Democrats voted in 2019 to pass the trigger ban that criminalized abortion under nearly all circumstances. They were all men. That same year, 14 male and five female Democrats in Kentucky voted for a similar state ban, representing nearly 40% of all Democrats in the state legislature at the time. And in Mississippi, nine male Democratic lawmakers voted in 2018 to pass the 15-week abortion ban that ultimately led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The laws received almost unanimous support from Republicans, except for a single no vote in Arkansas.
A 2022 bill strengthening Louisiana’s trigger ban, meanwhile, was passed with the help of 10 male and two female Democratic lawmakers and signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I am pro-life and have never hidden from that fact,” Edwards said in a statement in June, noting that he signed the bill despite his objection to the lack of exceptions for rape and incest victims. A spokesperson for Edwards told CNN that the governor intends to work with lawmakers to hopefully pass an exception for victims of rape and incest and noted that the bill he signed “sought to clarify” a ban passed in 2006 before he became governor.
…In all, men represented more than 80% of the Democratic votes in state legislatures in favor of the bans.
CNN’s analysis of state Democrats echoes how gender has played a role in Congress as well. An analysis of abortion-related voting in the House of Representatives between 1993 and 2018 published last year by two Georgetown researchers found that Democratic men were more likely to vote in favor of bills restricting abortion than their female counterparts, which the researchers attributed to how female Democrats are often elected in more liberal districts.
Currently, the only two Democratic members of Congress to publicly oppose abortion are: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, which was noted in a recent column about the “end of pro-life Democrats” at the federal level. Republican women in the House, meanwhile, have historically been more likely than Republican men to oppose anti-abortion legislation, the Georgetown researchers noted, but that gender gap has disappeared in recent years as more moderate candidates were replaced by “strongly pro-life women from the South and Midwest.”
…Ziad Munson, a sociology professor at Lehigh University who specializes in the politics of abortion, said that “politicians often have easily identifiable political reasons for their stance on abortion,” saying that some Democrats may be voting for anti-abortion legislation more to maintain their seat in a conservative district than because it is a deeply-held personal belief.
Munson noted that the finding that Democratic state lawmakers have been more likely to cross party lines shows how abortion became much more of a core issue for the Republican Party, while Democrats have allowed “for more diversity of views for a longer period of time.” This has been particularly true in the South, he said, where Democrats have been historically more conservative.
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