What does Ohio’s vote on abortion mean for California? Ask the next governor

(Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

What does Ohio’s vote on abortion mean for California? Ask the next governor

Homepage News, California Politics, Abortion

Anita Chabria

November 8, 2023

Ohio came calling for abortion rights advocates on Tuesday night. And while it was a distant victory for most like-minded Californians on an already settled issue in the Golden State, it is still a hopeful sign of sanity on the national front.


Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you why the Ohio vote should cause you consternation, if not outright fear, and what you can do about it, starting by demanding that those who want to become California’s next governor in 2026 provide a strategy to protect access to abortion in the US. the state.

Because that access is much less certain than many would like to think. A loss for pro-choice opponents in Ohio only fuels the broader goal of federal action to make abortion illegal everywhere, or so difficult to access that it might as well be illegal. That also means in California.

Mary Ziegler, a law professor at UC Davis who specializes in reproductive rights, points out how many people, especially in California, were caught off guard two years ago when the Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision, which stripped away all federal abortion protections.

The unthinkable becomes possible quite quickly in this space, she said.

Even after that blow, Ziegler said, most Californians still don’t see abortion as a voting issue because there are no viable candidates, not even Republicans, who don’t support access here. So most believe that who you vote for in California at the state and federal level doesn’t matter when it comes to abortion, and that you can prioritize other issues, she said.

That’s wrong.

As Vice President Kamala Harris said after Ohio’s results came out, “extremists are pushing for a national abortion ban that would criminalize reproductive health care in every state in our country.”

It’s true that American voters of all parties, races and even genders are making it clear, even in dripping red states like Ohio, that they support abortion access.

A recent poll found that about eight in 10 Americans believe abortion decisions should be left up to a woman and her doctor. And in Ohio, it wasn’t just Democratic women who turned out. Men, college-educated Republican women, independent voters and access to abortion once again proved to be an issue that unites us.

But it is equally true that those who oppose abortion are trying to circumvent the will of the voters. Even though they are a minority, led in large part by white evangelicals, it is a politically powerful, well-funded and smart effort that is not particularly respectful of democracy.

Led by organizations including the influential Heritage Foundation, they are plotting to push abortion decisions to the federal level through national ban, through the courts, or through presidential executive power and out of the hands of pesky voters like Staunch- Blue California. voters.

Those tracking the slow decline of reproductive freedoms in America warned of three ways Californians could end up without the access to reproductive health care we take for granted.

The most obvious is a ban imposed by Congress. The new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, spent eight years working for the ultra-conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, where he helped close abortion clinics and restrict reproductive rights. The ADF supported the Dobbs case and as a lawmaker Johnson three times introduced bills that would ban abortion nationally.

With a few more votes, a fourth attempt could well succeed.

“What concerns me is that, despite the will of the people of this country, we are one bad election result away from risking a nationwide abortion ban,” said Shannon Olivieri Hovis, the California director of Reproductive Freedom For All (formerly NARAL). ) told me on Wednesday.

But if Congress can’t deliver on white evangelicals, Trump can. Ziegler warns that if he is elected for another term, which polls suggest is possible, “Trump could do a lot on his own to restrict access to abortion in states like California.”

She pointed to the Comstock Act, a 150-year-old moral law.

She said there is a conservative push to interpret the Comstock Act as one that already provides for a national abortion ban by preventing items intended for use in abortion from being mailed. That would apply not just to medications, but to any item used in a surgical abortion, such as gloves or scalpels.

Using the Comstock Act to ban medication abortion is already being argued in court. But Ziegler said Trump could have a Republican Justice Department launch prosecutions that would take the issue to his hand-picked Supreme Court.

“Basically they are saying there is already a ban on abortion and all they need is a President Trump to enforce it and the Supreme Court to uphold it,” she said.

But even if Biden wins another term and Democrats retain the Senate, access to abortion is far from safe. There are currently several federal lawsuits underway that could make it much more difficult to access abortion, even in California.

And there are state efforts to not only criminalize women who want abortions, but also to make it illegal to help someone get one, from taking them to the bus stop to being a medical provider in another state who performs abortion.

“Yes, we win elections, but we still live in a world where our justice system no longer upholds the standards on which it was built,” Sue Dunlap, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, told me.

Dunlap said since Roe v. Wade was overturned, her organization has seen a 22% increase in the number of patients seeking abortion care. She suspects that many of those patients come from places outside the state where a ban is in place, but also knows that many patients are too afraid to admit it because of the new laws.

A recent patient from Texas refused to have blood tests done before traveling to California because she feared it could provide evidence of her pregnancy, Dunlap said. Counties in Texas are passing local ordinances against the “abortion trade,” which include helping someone obtain a procedure, from providing money to a ride.

Texas isn’t alone in having these types of terror-inducing laws. Idaho and other states are passing them, and Dunlap said she expects more states to follow suit, and more lawsuits to follow trying new tactics to ban abortions or deter people from seeking or offering them .

“We as abortion providers literally have to have multiple layers of planning to be prepared for any surprise [court] “Decisions will come,” she said.

Which brings us back to California. We currently have a governor and a legislature that is not only pro-choice, but has actively worked to strengthen our laws to ensure that not only Californians have access to abortion, but that those who travel here and those that provide services to non-Californians are protected.

We have allocated $20 million in our state budget to help ensure access to abortion and even assist those who need to travel, and another $40 million to reimburse providers who provide low-cost or free services. Gov. Gavin Newsom has stockpiled 250,000 misoprosol pills, another abortion drug, in case the judiciary bans it.

Newsom has taken on a national role, bringing together other governors and raising awareness of California’s position across the country. While his national spotlight has irritated many, his outspokenness on the issue makes governors not just their own islands but also groups that can work together, Ziegler said.

She said the next governor should be asked how they are going to be a regional and national leader on abortion access, and I agree.

Even though it seems far away, the candidates for the next gubernatorial race are already lining up. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond have already stated as much. Atty. Rumor has it that General Rob Bonta is strongly considering running.

We should all ask them how they would protect Californians if medication abortion were banned. How will they protect us if there is a national ban? What will they do to fight back against this creeping authoritarianism that will take away our civil rights one by one if we let it?

Pro-choice is the bare minimum.

Abortion access is now a ballot issue in California, and we need to be sure our next leader is ready to fight.


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