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Abortion Battles Are Looming in Reddish States

A few reddish states have relatively permissive abortion laws, but anti-abortion activists are gearing up to change them. Big battles are expected soon. One of the biggest fights will be in North Carolina. Currently, abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but anti-abortion activists want to change that to 6 weeks. A bill like that could easily pass the state legislature but would be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC). The fight would then be about the vote to override his veto. Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the state Senate, though Majority Leader Phil Berger (R) would prefer a 12-week limit to a 6-week limit. And in the state House, Republicans are one vote short of a two-thirds majority. So, the real battle will be for the souls of several anti-abortion Democrats in the state House, including two Black pastors, Amos Quick and Garland Pierce, and a small business owner, Michael Wray. Personally, they want to ban abortions, but politically, they know that a vote to do so guarantees a vigorous primary challenge from the left in 2024. When reporters asked for interviews, they declined.

North Carolina is one of the biggest battlegrounds because most Southern states have already banned most or all abortions. Pregnant women from these states are already flocking to the Tar Heel state to get them. The state had the biggest jump in abortions of any state since the Dobbs decision came down.

Another state where abortion legislation may happen is Florida, which immediately gets it into presidential politics. Last summer the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a 15-week ban. It was challenged in court and the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on it. The president of the Florida state Senate, Kathleen Passidomo (R), has said she does not want to take up any new bills on the subject until the Court ruling comes down. That is not expected until June. Passidomo has young daughters and is thought not to be terribly gung-ho on further restricting abortion, but if Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) puts his full support behind a 6-week ban, it would probably pass with or without her support.

Of course, if DeSantis signed a bill banning abortions after 6 weeks, it would have a gigantic effect. First, many of the evangelicals would vote for him in the Republican primary. Great, no? However, that signature would be the biggest, and maybe the only, issue in the general election. Democrats can't vote against Samuel Alito, but they can sure vote against DeSantis if they get the chance. DeSantis is smart enough to know that if he doesn't win the primary, what might happen in the general election is irrelevant. Consequently, he has already said he will sign such a bill if it lands on his desk.

A third state where a 6-week ban is on the table is Nebraska. The legislature there is unusual. It is a nonpartisan unicameral chamber in which filibusters are possible. Currently, abortions are allowed in Nebraska up to 22 weeks but a bill introduced by state Sen. Joni Albrecht, who is a Republican despite having to pretend to be nonpartisan, would reduce the cutoff to 6 weeks. Albrecht says that she is one vote short of being able to invoke cloture, but there hasn't been an actual vote yet.

In summary, the battles over abortion are not over by a long shot. (V)

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