Overturning half a century of nationwide legal protections for abortion, the US Supreme Court ruled that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and that it was time to “return the question of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” in the states.

Whether these elected officials are truly representative of the people is up for debate, thanks to another high court decision that has allowed control of state legislatures to tilt left or right.

In June 2019, three years before its landmark abortion decision, the Supreme Court ruled that it had no role in curbing partisan gerrymandering, in which Republicans and Democrats rig district lines to give their candidates an advantage.

As a result, many legislatures are more partisan than the state population as a whole. Gerrymandering has once again flourished, with politicians using data from the 2020 census to redraw districts that could benefit their party both in this year’s elections and in the next decade.


In some swing states with Republican-led legislatures, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, “perhaps gerrymandering is really the main reason that abortion is more likely to be illegal,” said Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at the University of George Washington analyzing data on redistricting.

Meanwhile, “in states where Democrats have rigged, it may help make abortion laws more liberal than they would like,” he added.

Most Americans generally support access to abortion, although many say there should be some restrictions, according to public opinion polls.

States have sometimes been seen as laboratories of democracy—the institutions most closely connected to the people, where public policy is tested, implemented, and potentially disseminated.


Speaking for the Supreme Court majority in his June 24 abortion decision, Justice Samuel Alito noted that 30 states had banned abortions when the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “shut down the democratic process,” usurped lawmakers and imposed abortion rights on the whole country.

“Our decision puts the issue of abortion back in those legislatures, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to influence the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying lawmakers, voting and running for office,” Alito wrote.

Abortion is already an issue in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial and legislative elections. A recent poll in Wisconsin found that a majority of abortionists support legal abortion in most or all cases. But a fight is brewing over an 1849 state law that was unenforceable until Roe v. Wade was overturned, banning abortions except to save a woman’s life.


Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is backing a lawsuit to overturn the law, which was passed just a year after Wisconsin became a state. He also called a special session of the legislature in June to repeal it. But the Republican-led Assembly and Senate adjourned within seconds without taking any action.

Wisconsin’s state legislature has had one of the nation’s strongest Republican advantages over the past decade, and that is projected to continue in new districts drawn before the 2022 election, according to an analysis by PlanScore, a nonprofit that uses election data to gauge partisan leanings. legislative districts.

“Democracy is distorted in Wisconsin because of these maps,” said Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer.

In 2018, Democrats won every major state office, including governor and attorney general, in races where fraud was not tolerated. But they haven’t been able to overcome brutal gerrymandering in state legislatures since Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections.


“If we had a truly democratic system in Wisconsin, we would be in a different situation,” she said. “We would repeal this criminal ban on abortion right now.”

GOP Rep. Donna Rozar, a former cardiac nurse who supports abortion restrictions, said fraud should not prevent political parties from nominating good candidates to represent their districts. She expects the 2023 legislative session to see a heated debate on abortion during the campaign.

“It’s an issue that’s very important to go back to the states because each state gets to choose people who will represent their values.” said Rosar.

The 2010 midterm elections, two years after the election of former President Barack Obama, marked a turning point for government oversight across the country. Prior to this election, Democrats held full control of 27 state legislatures, Republicans held 14, and the rest were split. But the GOP’s sweeping victories put the party in charge of redistricting in many states. By 2015, after two redistricting elections, Republicans held full control of 30 legislatures, while Democrats held only 11.


That Republican legislative advantage has largely held in the 2020 election, including in states that are otherwise narrowly split between Democrats and Republicans, such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In New Mexico, it is Republicans who argue that the Democratic-led legislature has gone beyond the will of many voters on abortion policy. New Mexico’s House and Senate districts have had a significant Democratic edge over the past decade, according to PlanScore data, which became even more pronounced after the districts were redrawn based on the 2020 census.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last year signed into law a repeal of the invalid 1969 law that banned most abortions. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, she signed an executive order making New Mexico a safe harbor for people seeking abortions. Unlike most states, New Mexico has no restrictions on late-term abortions.


“I don’t think the majority of New Mexicans support New Mexico’s abortion policy right now,” said Republican Sen. Gay Kernan. “New Mexico is basically the late-term abortion capital of the United States.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ranchetti has proposed banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is in danger. But the legislative proposal was described as dead on arrival by state Sen. Linda Lopez.

Michigan could be one of the biggest tests of representative government in the new national battle over abortion.

According to an Associated Press analysis, Republicans carried Michigan’s legislative districts after the 2010 census and created such a large advantage for their party that it may have helped the GOP retain control of the closely divided House. As in Wisconsin, Democrats in Michigan won the governor’s race and every other major state office in 2018, but failed to overcome Republican-leaning legislative districts.


In this year’s election, the dynamic has changed. According to data from PlanScore, the GOP’s advantage was cut in half due to the new legislative districts drawn by the voter-approved redistricting commission. That could improve Democrats’ chances of winning the House and influence abortion policy.

Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial candidates generally support a 1931 state law that bans abortion if a woman’s health is at risk. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is running for re-election, wants to repeal the law.

Republican Rep. Steve Cara said lawmakers wanted to replace it with “something that would be doable in the 21st century.”

“Protecting life is more important than a woman’s right to take it,” said Carr, who leads a coalition of 321 lawmakers from 35 states that urged the Supreme Court to return abortion policies to the states.


Uncertain about their legislative prospects, abortion rights advocates are gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would create a state constitutional right to abortion, allowing it to be regulated only “after fetal viability.”

“This is the best chance we have to ensure access to abortion,” said Democratic Rep. Lori Pahucki. “I think if the voters put it in their hands, they will want this ballot measure to succeed.”

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