Tag: conservatives
Reproductive Health Care Rights

Conservative State Courts Stir Trouble For GOP Legislators On Abortion

Abortion opponents have maneuvered in courthouses for years to end access to reproductive health care. In Arizona last week, a win for the anti-abortion camp caused political blowback for Republican candidates in the state and beyond.

The reaction echoed the response to an Alabama Supreme Court decision over in vitro fertilization just two months before.

The election-year ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court allowing enforcement of a law from 1864 banning nearly all abortions startled Republican politicians, some of whom quickly turned to social media to denounce it.

The court decision was yet another development forcing many Republicans legislators and candidates to thread the needle: Maintain support among anti-abortion voters while not damaging their electoral prospects this fall. This shifting power dynamic between state judges and state lawmakers has turned into a high-stakes political gamble, at times causing daunting problems, on a range of reproductive health issues, for Republican candidates up and down the ballot.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court said give it back to the states, OK, well now the microscope is on the states,” said Jennifer Piatt, co-director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “We saw this in Alabama with the IVF decision,” she said, “and now we’re seeing it in Arizona.”

Multiple Republicans have criticized the Arizona high court’s decision on the 1864 law, which allows abortion only to save a pregnant woman’s life. “This decision cannot stand. I categorically reject rolling back the clock to a time when slavery was still legal and where we could lock up women and doctors because of an abortion,” state Rep. Matt Gress said in a video April 9. All four Arizona Supreme Court justices who said the long-dormant Arizona abortion ban could be enforced were appointed by former Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who in 2016 expanded the number of state Supreme Court justices from five to seven and cemented the bench’s conservative majority.

Yet in a post the day of the ruling on the social platform X, Ducey said the decision “is not the outcome I would have preferred.”

The irony is that the decision came after years of efforts by Arizona Republicans “to lock in a conservative majority on the court at the same time that the state’s politics were shifting more towards the middle,” said Douglas Keith, senior counsel at the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.

All the while, anti-abortion groups have been pressuring Republicans to clearly define where they stand.

“Whether running for office at the state or federal level, Arizona Republicans cannot adopt the losing ostrich strategy of burying their heads in the sand on the issue of abortion and allowing Democrats to define them,” Kelsey Pritchard, a spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in an emailed statement. “To win, Republicans must be clear on the pro-life protections they support, express compassion for women and unborn children, and contrast their position with the Democrat agenda.”

Two months before the Arizona decision, the Alabama Supreme Court said frozen embryos from in vitro fertilization can be considered children under state law. The decision prompted clinics across the state to halt fertility treatments and caused a nationwide uproar over reproductive health rights. With Republicans feeling the heat, Alabama lawmakers scrambled to pass a law to shield IVF providers from prosecution and civil lawsuits “for the damage to or death of an embryo” during treatment.

But when it comes to courts, Arizona lawmakers are doubling down: state Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor but generally face voters every six years in retention elections. That could soon change. A constitutional amendment referred by the Arizona Legislature that could appear on the November ballot would eliminate those regular elections—triggering them only under limited circumstances—and allow the justices to serve as long as they exhibit “good behavior.” Effectively it would grant justices lifetime appointments until age 70, when they must retire.

Even with the backlash against the Arizona court’s abortion decision, Keith said, “I suspect there aren’t Republicans in the state right now who are lamenting all these changes to entrench a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, abortion rights groups are trying to get a voter-led state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would protect abortion access until fetal viability and allow abortions afterward to protect the life or health of the pregnant person.

State court decisions are causing headaches even at the very top of the Republican ticket. In an announcement in which he declined to endorse a national abortion ban, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on April 8 said he was “proudly the person responsible” for ending Roe v. Wade, which recognized a federal constitutional right to abortion before being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022, and said the issue should be left to states. “The states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” he said. But just two days later he sought to distance himself from the Arizona decision. Trump also praised the Alabama Legislature for enacting the law aiming to preserve access to fertility treatments. “The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life,” he said.

Recent court decisions on reproductive health issues in Alabama, Arizona, and Florida will hardly be the last. The Iowa Supreme Court, which underwent a conservative overhaul in recent years, on April 11, heard arguments on the state’s near-total abortion ban. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law in 2023 but it has been blocked in court.

In Florida, there was disappointment all around after dueling state Supreme Court decisions this month that simultaneously paved the way for a near-total abortion ban and also allowed a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution to proceed.

The Florida high court’s decisions were “simply unacceptable when five of the current seven sitting justices on the court were appointed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis,” Andrew Shirvell, executive director of the anti-abortion group Florida Voice for the Unborn, said in a statement. “Clearly, grassroots pro-life advocates have been misled by elements within the ‘pro-life, pro-family establishment’ because Florida’s highest court has now revealed itself to be a paper tiger when it comes to standing-up to the murderous abortion industry.”

Tension between state judicial systems and conservative legislators seems destined to continue, given judges’ growing power over reproductive health access, Piatt said, with people on both sides of the political aisle asking: “Is this a court that is potentially going to give me politically what I’m looking for?”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Nancy Mace

Are These 'Republican Vixens' Mocking Conservative Morality?

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace was in Washington telling a story about how her "fiance" wanted more action in bed earlier that day. "And I was like, 'No baby, we don't got time for that this morning.'" To which she added, "He can wait. I'll see him later tonight."

The occasion was a Christian prayer breakfast attended by evangelicals.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert famously vaped in a theater and grabbed her date's privates. When called out for her offensive conduct, she blamed a "difficult divorce." Meanwhile, self-described "Christian nationalist" Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene showers the House floor with profanities.

I honestly don't care who Nancy Mace shacks up with. But it is fascinating to hear her refer to the guy in her bed as a "fiance" as opposed to some random dude. Makes her adultery sound like almost-marriage.

What are these right-wing vixens up to? For starters, they're advertising their sexual availability. (Tinder never closes.) And as members of Congress, their forays into exhibitionism provide visibility and opportunities to raise money.

These ladies evidently think that they can get away with dishing this coarseness in public while posing as defenders of old-school morality. You sometimes wonder whether they are mocking social conservatives.

Some evangelicals are quite unhappy about this. They are joined by others who simply want more dignity in the political culture.

The road to right-wing vulgarity was paved with hypocrisy. Some of the credit goes to Bill Bennett, who long ago perfected the art of unprincipled rectitude. Former education secretary under Ronald Reagan, Bennett has long peddled a highly elastic moral code — depends on which party benefits — while maintaining a face frozen in pious judgment.

In his 1998 book, The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, Bennett piled moral censure on Clinton over his tryst with a White House intern. And he went after Democrats for not sharing his indignation.

The first chapter, simply titled "Sex," pounded the pulpit. "In extramarital affairs," Bennett wrote, "there are victims. In marriage, one person has been entrusted with the soul of another." If true, that's bad news for Melania.

Years later, a Fox News interviewer asked Bennett how a man claiming fixed moral views on adultery could support Donald Trump. As the world knows, the former president cheated on his pregnant wife with a porn star and bragged about grabbing women by their genitals.

"I understand how you feel about some of the things," Bennett responded, miraculously keeping a straight face. "But it may be better to lower your standards on things the guy says temporarily than to lose your country permanently."

Ah, so he's using the "fiance" gambit. Branding Trump's lewd talk as "temporary" make it an almost-character flaw. As for the "lose your country" part, that sounds a bit dated considering how close Trump got us to losing our democracy.

"Sexual indiscipline can be a threat to the stability of crucial human affairs," Bennett wrote in reference to Clinton. Would someone kindly translate?

Urging voters to look past Trump's licentious record, Bennett argued, "Think about the economy." Years earlier, he rapped the knuckles of Clinton defenders for allegedly contending that "what matters above all is a healthy economy." Actually, the economy was a lot better under Clinton, and the budget was balanced, too.

Look, Bennett has a First Amendment right to make money off hypocrisy. And let the record show, I too disapprove of adultery. But I also regarded Clinton's misconduct as a private matter to be worked out between a couple and the third party. And I extend that courtesy to Trump, Melania and Stormy Daniels.

Uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, consistency is a good thing.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Ann Coulter

'We're Getting Slaughtered': Coulter Blames Lost Elections On Religious  'Zealots'

Over the years, conservative firebrand author Ann Coulter hasn't been shy about attacking "godless" liberals. And she has defended the Religious Right on many occasions.

But since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the anti-abortion Coulter has argued that red states are going much too far with their restrictions on abortion.

Coulter, during a mid-February appearance on Bill Maher's HBO show Real Time, argued that religious "zealots" are causing Republicans to lose elections they should be winning. The subject came up during a discussion of Republicans losing ground among young female voters.

When Maher predicted that abortion would be "the Achilles heel for the Republican Party in the next election," Coulter agreed — saying, "Abortion is really hurting Republicans. I don't think you can blame all Republicans for this…. I'm glad (Roe v. Wade) was overturned by the Supreme Court…. I think it was disgusting to call that a constitutional right. But it has been sent back to the states. That's all we ever wanted. And guess what, fellow pro-lifers, we're getting slaughtered."

Coulter added, "There have been seven direct-to-the-people votes. And the tiniest restriction on abortion loses overwhelmingly — in Montana, in Kentucky, states that Trump won, Kansas…. And it isn't Republicans per se pushing this. It is these pro-life zealots who just, they don't care — I'm going to be pure, and did you see my writeup in the Catholic Insights Magazine? And you guys are like the corporate Republicans who will not give up on your cheap labor. We have to tell them: We can give you some things, but we can't give you everything — or we're just going to lose."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

New York City

What Do We Really Mean By 'Affordable Housing'?

It's being said by conservatives and liberals: America faces a crisis of affordable housing. And the way out of it is to build more houses.

Wouldn't it make more sense to first understand the extent of the problem? Real estate interests have sucked in advocates for the poor in their YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) campaigns. Their mission is often to bulldoze through the zoning laws that ensure a neighborhood's quality of life.

Many residents in America's homeless encampments can't afford anything. New units might provide rent relief for some working-class tenants, down on their luck. Others have problems that go beyond matters of supply and demand.

YIMBY schemes can get pretty outrageous. A developer in New York City recently punched through local zoning laws to build an 80-story billionaire's skyscraper near Manhattan's staid Sutton Place. The area was already full of 20-story apartment buildings, but this guy got permission to break through the height limits in part by offering to create some "affordable" apartments — which happened to be miles away in Queens.

In the meantime, he displaced about 80 families, most of whom lived in the old walkups that actually did provide housing at working-class rents. Often gone too on such projects are the little street-level shops, the florists and the shoe repairs, which preserve a sense of place.

Conservatives frequently tout Houston as a model for affordable housing, crediting its lax zoning laws. The larger reason is that Houston is surrounded by Texas. It can spread into the prairies and gently rolling hills. San Francisco is surrounded on three sides by water.

What happens in this country when people feel priced out of neighborhoods is they create new neighborhoods. High rents in Manhattan sent younger workers into neglected parts of Brooklyn that have since been revived.

Gen Z, meanwhile, is reportedly looking at smaller cities, where they can find more space at less cost. The destinations include Oklahoma City; Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis; Cincinnati; and Louisville, Kentucky. That trend should take pressure off the very expensive big cities while breathing new life into some very pleasant metros with fine housing stock, places that earlier generations had bypassed.

In the suburbs, there has been such a thing as exclusionary zoning — single-family homes only on large lots — originally intended to keep out poorer people. And some zoning rules that forbid duplexes (two-family homes) make little sense. Converting a garage into a granny apartment shouldn't be a problem. There are also good arguments for filling in some low-density areas, especially near public transportation.

It does not follow, however, that suburbs must submit to any new tower that destroys the small-town feel of their downtowns. Building booms can destroy the historic structures that make a place special.

This is happening all over the world. In Cairo, for example, working-class neighborhoods are being bulldozed and replaced by concrete high-rises.

"If you were being invaded, all what you'd care about is your monuments, your trees, your history, your culture," Mamdouh Sakr, an Egyptian architect and urbanist, said. "And now, it's all being destroyed, without any reason, without any explanation."

Back in the U.S. housing market, rent increases have moderated of late — to the point where economists predict housing should soon bring the inflation numbers down. Falling interest rates are lowering the cost of buying a house. New construction and incentives for some owners to fix up old spaces are indeed adding to supply.

So let's not level neighborhoods in the interests of massive projects. Some ways to address the cost of housing will involve private decisions. Some may involve public subsidies. They certainly shouldn't require handing our Main Streets to the real estate barons.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.