Even before Donald Trump chooses a Supreme Court nominee, the new president can take steps to make several contentious court cases go away. Legal challenges involving immigration, climate change, cost-free contraceptive care and transgender rights all could be affected, without any help from Congress.
The cases turn on Obama administration policies that rely on the president’s pen, regulations or decisions made by federal agencies.
And what one administration can do, the next can undo.
It is not uncommon for the court’s docket to change when one party replaces the other in the White House. That change in direction is magnified by the high-court seat Trump will get to fill after Senate Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.
“We were hoping we’d be looking forward to a progressive majority on the Supreme Court. After the election results, there is a new reality,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
The Supreme Court already is set to consider a case involving a transgender teen who wants to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school. When the federal appeals court in Richmond ruled in student Gavin Grimm’s favor this year, it relied on a determination by the U.S. Education Department that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education also applies to gender identity.
The new administration could withdraw the department’s guidance, which could cause the justices to return the case to the lower courts to reach their own decision about whether the law requires schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.
“It is possible, maybe even likely, that if the first question went away, then the court would send case back to the 4th circuit” in Richmond, said Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Grimm.
Trump already has pledged to undo Obama’s plan to shield millions of people living in the country without documentation from deportation and to make them eligible for work permits. The Supreme Court, down to eight members after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, split 4 to 4 in June over the plan. The tie vote effectively killed the plan for Obama’s presidency because lower federal courts had previously blocked it.
But the issue remains a live one in the legal system, and supporters of the Obama plan had hoped that a new Clinton administration would press forward.
Now, though, all Trump has to do is rescind the Obama team’s actions, which would leave the courts with nothing to decide.
A similar fate may be in store for the current administration’s efforts to get cost-free birth control to women who are covered by health plans from religiously-affiliated educational and charitable organizations. The justices issued an unusual order in the spring that directed lower courts across the country to seek a compromise to end the legal dispute. The groups already can opt out of paying for contraception, but they say that option leaves them complicit in providing government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans.
The new administration could be more willing to meet the groups’ demands, which would end the controversy.
Women’s contraceptives are among a range of preventive services that the Obama health overhaul requires employers to cover in their health plans. All of that now is at risk, since Trump has called for repeal of the health care law.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan, calling for cuts in carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, also could be rolled back once Trump is in office.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is considering a challenge by two-dozen mostly Republican-led states that say Obama overstepped his authority. The Trump team could seek to undo the rules put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency and it could seek a delay in the litigation while doing so, said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund. Trump’s EPA would have to propose its own rules, which allow for public comment and legal challenges from those who object, Donahue said.
Environmental groups effectively fought rules that they said eased pollution limits during George W. Bush’s presidency.
As some issues pushed by Obama recede in importance, others that have been important to conservatives may get renewed interest at the court. Among those are efforts to impose new restrictions on public-sector labor unions and to strike down more campaign-finance limits, including the ban on unlimited contributions to political parties.
We face a starkly different America when President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January. Reactions to the election results:
Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard:
Our hearts go out today to the millions of people who voted against bigotry and hate and now have to accept the fact that the man who ridiculed and threatened them for months is the President-elect of the United States. Fear may have won this election, but bravery, hope and perseverance will overcome.
Greenpeace and millions of people around the world have all the power we need to combat climate change and create a just world for everyone. Let’s use this moment to reenergize the fight for the climate and the fight for human rights around the world.
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
For nearly 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the nation’s premier defender of freedom and justice for all, no matter who is president. Our role is no different today.
President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.
These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers, and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.
One thing is certain: we will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency and when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor.
Destiny Lopez, co-director, All* Above All:
During this campaign, Donald Trump played to the darkest impulses and prejudices of the American people. This outcome sends a frightening message to women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and others looking for their place in the American family. We are deeply concerned about the implications for women’s health and rights, but we–women, people of color, immigrants–know what it’s like to fight impossible odds. Our communities still need access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, and so we will keep fighting to protect and preserve that right.
May Boeve of 350.org:
It’s hard to know what to say in a moment like this. Many of us are reeling from the news and shaken to the core about what a Trump presidency will mean for the country, and the difficult work ahead for our movements.
Trump’s misogyny, racism and climate denial pose a greater threat than we’ve ever faced, and the battleground on which we’ll fight for justice of all kinds will be that much rougher.
The hardest thing to do right now is to hold on to hope, but it’s what we must do. We should feel our anger, mourn, pray, and then do everything we can to fight hate.
Tonight’s election demonstrates what most Americans knew since the beginning of the primaries: the political elite of both parties, the economists, and the media are completely out of touch with the American electorate.
Too many communities have been left behind in the global economy. Too many young people cannot afford the cost of the college education. Too many cannot afford basic necessities like health care, housing, or retirement.
Those of us who want a more equitable and inclusive America need to chart a new course that represents the needs of middle income and working families. The most important thing we can do is come together in unity and fight to protect the most vulnerable people of this country. Just like we did yesterday, Our Revolution will be on the front lines of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal tomorrow morning. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the president-elect cannot ignore the battles Americans are facing every single day.
Tonight Donald Trump was elected president. Our job is to offer a real alternative vision and engage on the local and national level to continue the work of the political revolution in the face of a divided nation.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign:
Throughout our nation’s history, we’ve faced devastating setbacks in our pursuit of a more perfect union. But even in the darkest of moments, Americans have summoned the courage and persistence to fight on. The results of tonight’s presidential election require us to meet tomorrow with the same resolve and determination.
This is a crucial moment for our nation and for the LGBTQ movement. The election of a man who stands opposed to our most fundamental values has left us all stunned. There will be time to analyze the results of this election, but we cannot afford to dwell. We must meet these challenges head on.
Over the last 18 months, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have intentionally sowed fear and division for cynical political purposes. They now face a decision about whether they will also govern that way. We hope, for the sake of our nation and our diverse community – which includes women, people of color, those with disabilities, immigrants, and people of all faiths and traditions – they will choose a different path.
Gay Men’s Health Crisis/GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie:
We have finally come to the end of a long and grueling election cycle, which has dominated everything from social media and television news to conversations around the dinner table. What did not change after the results came in is that GMHC still has clients to serve this morning and we still have an AIDS epidemic on our hands. With Election Day behind us, the work of running a country must continue, which is why today, I call upon the President-elect to start leading on the critical, national fight to end the AIDS epidemic within his first year in office.
Some communities and regions are losing ground in the fight, with tragically increasing rates of new infections in the Southern United States, among young men who have sex with men, women of Trans experience, and within low-income communities of color. In the coming days, weeks, and months, GMHC will continue to fight and care for those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, just as we have since this agency was founded in Larry Kramer’s living room in 1981. We will continue to organize around modernization of the Ryan White Care Act, removing the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs, ensuring funding for comprehensive sexual health education, and addressing outdated HIV-criminalization laws across the United States.
As President Obama observed in his final State of the Union address, ‘we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That’s within our grasp.’ The next U.S. President has an urgent opportunity and responsibility to take historic action with a more aggressive response to the epidemic. In the coming months, we will be pushing for the action, commitment and leadership needed to combat this public health crisis.
Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development:
For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat. The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities.
Jean Su from California-based Center for Biological Diversity:
The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the twenty-first century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments. And it’s incumbent upon U.S. communities to unite and push forth progressive climate policies on a state and local level, where federal policy does not reign.
Becky Chung from the youth network SustainUS:
As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump’s denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime. The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us. As young people and as climate justice movements we will be demanding real action on climate for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world and for all future generations.
Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa:
Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change.
Jesse Bragg, from Boston-based Corporate Accountability International:
Whilst the election of a climate denier into the White House sends the wrong signal globally. The grassroots movements for climate justice — native american communities, people of color, working people – those that are at this moment defending water rights in Dakota, ending fossil fuel pollution, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, standing with communities who are losing their homes and livelihoods from extreme weather devastation to creating a renewable energy transformation – are the real beating heart of the movement for change. We will redouble our efforts, grow stronger and remain committed to stand with those on the frontline of climate injustice at home and abroad. In the absence of leadership from our government, the international community must come together redouble their effort to prevent climate disaster.
League of Women Voters president Chris Carson:
The League of Women Voters congratulates the American people for turning out in record numbers to participate in our democracy.
Unfortunately, in too many cases, voters had to overcome significant barriers that were erected by elected officials and other political operatives. These ongoing threats to voters’ rights are unacceptable.
This is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Thousands of eligible voters were purged from the rolls. Onerous voter ID laws prevented eligible voters from casting their ballots. We saw cases of misinformation and intimidation at the polls.
We can and must do better. All year the League has worked in more than 700 communities, in every state, to register and help eligible Americans get ready to vote. In the 2016 election, more than 4 million people used our digital voter resource, VOTE411.org to find the election information they needed.
The League of Women Voters will continue our work to expand participation in the election process and work to give a voice to all Americans.
NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks:
“This beautiful fall morning represents the end of a long night filled with many midnight moments of uncertainty, voter intimidation and suppression, campaigns founded on bigotry and divisiveness as an electoral strategy.
And yet, despite the moments of ugliness, this election season has reminded us of the beauty and strength of both the nation and of the NAACP.
This was the first presidential election in more than 50 years where voters did not have the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. We confronted all manners of ugly, unconstitutional voter suppression, including voter purging, long lines and intimidation and misinformation. When white nationalists bragged about dispensing malt liquor and marijuana in African-American communities to suppress the vote, we were neither distracted nor dissuaded from our work. When campaign operatives and candidates alike openly called for voter suppression in broad daylight and on camera, we neither flinched nor flagged in our efforts.
The NAACP prevailed in the federal courts against voter suppression no less than nine times in recent months. In Texas, our state conference saved 608,470 votes with a victorious decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In North Carolina, our state conference saved nearly five percent of the electorate when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the state legislature had enacted discriminatory voting laws that intentionally targeted and disenfranchised black voters. And, just days ago, the NAACP saved nearly 4,500 voters from being purged from the North Carolina rolls.
The last five days of the campaign, after many months in planning, we formally launched our Selma Initiative, to protect the right to vote. We targeted 6,022 precincts in 17 states, dispatching both lawyers and laypeople alike to guard the ballot box and safeguard the rights of voters standing in long lines through our national command center.
Altogether, we mobilized our two million digital activists, nearly half million card-carrying members, 2,200 local units, and more than a hundred partner organizations to both protect and get out the vote through the Selma Initiative.
History will judge not only the courage of our volunteers but also the cowardice of those who chose again and again to suppress the vote rather than listen to the voice of democracy this year. History may take note of the Selma Initiative, but let us all now remember Shena Goode, a 79-year-old NAACP volunteer who not only organized a virtual phone bank in her apartment complex, but also made more than 200 calls in a single day to get out the vote. Her story is the story of the NAACP and the nation. When civil rights are threatened, we are as persistent as we are determined.
Now that the election is over, the first priority for a new Congress and a new president must be restoring the badly-broken Voting Rights Act. We cannot afford to send untold teams of lawyers to court and spend incalculable sums of money to defend our right to vote in the courts and in the streets again and again and again.
Any effort to suppress the vote, whether at the hands of lawmakers, judges or everyday people, is and must continue to be considered unjust, un-American and utterly unacceptable. The NAACP will not rest until full and equal voting rights are restored for each and every American citizen.
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this page throughout the day. And we welcome your reaction.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on June 27 that Texas’ anti-abortion law is unconstitutional. Here’s reaction from Wisconsin:
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore: “I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This case is certain to have a significant and positive impact on women throughout the country and I applaud the Court for standing on the side of women. Laws like Texas’ H. B. 2, a measure which made access to abortion care nearly impossible for many women, are simply ideological attempts to take away a woman’s right to make choices about her own body and future.
“Without a doubt, this case will affect other states attempting to pass, or that have already passed, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws (commonly known as ‘TRAP laws’). As we saw with 2013 Wisconsin Act 37, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital and subjecting women to intrusive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, Wisconsin has not been immune to its share of TRAP laws. In the last year alone, Gov. Scott Walker signed two different bills with the goal to defund our state’s Planned Parenthood centers. These health clinics are vital to the well-being of our communities, with many low-income families depending on their life-saving services.”
Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin: “This landmark ruling is an enormous victory for women and families in Wisconsin and across the nation. We applaud the court’s ruling affirming that abortion is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor and a decision that should be made without politicians interfering. Yet today’s victory does not undo the past five years of damage and restrictions already written into law. No woman or doctor should be punished for receiving or providing essential medical care. We will continue to fight restrictions on safe, legal abortion on behalf of our patients in Wisconsin.”
• State Sen. Jon Erpenbach: “The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to protect a woman’s right to access reproductive health care in Whole Women’s Health v Hellerstedt is essential for our sisters, wives, mothers and daughters. Reproductive health care is basic health care for women. Texas passed laws that place barriers for many women seeking health care which violate the principles of the state and U.S. Constitution. Protecting access to reproductive health care where it is threatened is essential. I am so thankful there are those that continue to work for the basic rights of women in this country.”
• One Wisconsin Institute executive director Scot Ross: “This decision protecting the rights of women is a powerful reminder of why courts matter. Women have the right to safe and legal abortion services and the underhanded attempts by politicians in Texas and here in Wisconsin, like Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican legislative cohorts, to strip away those rights have been ruled to be unconstitutional. A majority of the the U.S. Supreme Court sent a clear message to politicians that they ought to cease and desist with their attempt to interfere where they have no business. Women ought to be able to make their own healthcare decisions with their families and their health care providers, period.”
• Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life: “In effect, the Supreme Court has decided that the abortion industry will continue to reign unchecked as mothers are subjected to subpar conditions, not only in Texas and Wisconsin, but around the country. Despite this disappointing decision, we at Wisconsin Right to Life will continue our work to offer hope to women. The abortion industry peddles death, but we in the pro-life movement offer life.”
• State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa: “The court’s ruling today is an incredible victory for women’s reproductive rights and a setback to the Republicans’ unrelenting war on women. The now-unconstitutional provisions of this Texas law would have required physicians who provide abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, and would have also imposed regulations requiring clinics that provide abortions to become ambulatory surgical centers. Medical experts say that these two provisions would provide no medical value and will actually harm women by delaying access to medical care.”
• Assembly Speaker Robin Vos: “Today the court has put women’s health and safety on the back burner for the profits of Planned Parenthood and abortion providers. I’m disappointed and frustrated with the decision as it disregards the intent of the law, which is similar to what we approved in Wisconsin. The admitting privileges requirement is intended to protect women’s health. We must ensure women have access to safe health care no matter where you stand on the issue.”
State Sen. Chris Larson: “The Supreme Court has powerfully reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about her health, family, and future, no matter her zip code. Our neighbors – in Wisconsin and across the country – have the freedom to plan when they want to start a family and a right to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies. Draconian laws, like this and others pushed by legislative Republicans across the country, limit health care options and the opportunity for a woman to protect her health.”
Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action: “We are proud of and thankful for Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel for defending our law and the women in our state. It’s beyond unfortunate that five unelected and unaccountable lawyers in black robes put our law and our women in danger.”
State Rep. Melissa Sargent: “I trust women to make their own healthcare decisions. The decision to end a pregnancy is deeply personal and should be made by women with the support of the family, faith and healthcare provider not by politicians. As we take time to celebrate this incredible win for access to reproductive care we must keep fighting for all women in Wisconsin — today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes.”
Attorney General Brad Schimel: “Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Texas abortion law is disappointing and undermines the respect due to policy makers. Wisconsin is defending a similar law in a case before the Supreme Court and we expect a decision in the near future.”
State Rep. Chris Taylor: “This ruling is a great one for Texas women, as well as women in Wisconsin. I call on legislatures around the country, including our own right here in Wisconsin, to stop attacking women and to start working to reverse the damage done to women’s access to reproductive health care. Women have the right to control their personal, private health decisions without intrusion by politicians.”
Editor’s note: This report will be updated with added reaction from the state.
A Georgia woman spent nearly three days in jail without bond before prosecutors decided police had wrongly charged her with murder after being told she had used pills ordered online to terminate her pregnancy.
Kenlissia Jones, 23, has been freed and no longer faces a malice murder charge. But her legal case isn’t over. District Attorney Greg Edwards told reporters that he still plans to pursue a misdemeanor charge against Jones for possessing a dangerous drug.
Abortion rights advocates say the case is troubling because it appears to be part of a creeping trend in which women are being prosecuted for exercising their abortion rights. An Indiana woman last March was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of feticide for using pills to end her pregnancy.
Jones may have escaped a murder prosecution in Georgia, but the police’s decision to charge her is chilling, said Lynn Paltrow, an attorney and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women in New York.
“The initial reaction of the police and prosecution to view her as a murderer is reflective of the current political climate in this country,” Paltrow said.
Even abortion opponents such as Genevieve Wilson, a director of Georgia Right to Life, were stunned by the proposed murder charge.
Georgia has prohibited the prosecution of women for feticide or for performing illegal abortions in cases involving their own pregnancies. Edwards said the arresting officers acted within their authority and used “their best understanding of the law,” but that their understanding was incorrect.
“Georgia law presently does not permit prosecution of Ms. Jones for any alleged acts related to the end of her pregnancy,” the prosecutor said.
Edwards noted that police had charged Jones without consulting his prosecuting attorneys.
Jones was arrested after seeking help at a hospital. A social worker told police that Jones had taken four Cytotec pills she ordered online after breaking up with her boyfriend. The pills induced labor and she delivered the fetus, which did not survive, in a car on the way to the hospital, according to an Albany police report.
Although the Supreme Court has declared that American women have legal rights to abortion, states have put limits on where abortions can be performed, who can perform them and at what stages of pregnancy abortions are allowed. Traditionally, those state laws have targeted doctors and other abortion providers, but not women seeking to end their pregnancies.
Abortion rights advocates worry that this could be changing.
In March, 33-year-old Purvi Patel of Granger, Indiana, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a baby. Prosecutors said Patel ended her seven-month pregnancy using drugs from China instead of seeking a doctor’s help. Paltrow’s group called it the first time an American woman was convicted and sentenced for trying to end her pregnancy.
Cytotec is a brand name for misoprostol, a prescription drug used in combination with mifepristone to induce nonsurgical abortions. Used as recommended, mifepristone kills the fetus, and then misoprostol induces the labor that expels it. The pills are sold with prescriptions in the U.S. but available over the counter and online in many countries.
In many cases, women are using misoprostol alone — partly because it is more easily obtained, because it has long been approved as a drug that prevents and heals ulcers.
Dr. Beverly Winikoff, president of the women’s health research organization Gynuity Health Projects, said misoprostol has been used in more than 2.5 million abortions in the U.S. and in hundreds of millions of abortions overseas in European countries as well as nations such as India and China.
“I would say it’s a very safe drug,” said Winikoff, who said its more common side effects include chills, fever and sometimes cramping. “The reason some people think it’s unsafe is because it can cause abortion, which people who are anti-abortion don’t like.”
The police report does not say how far along Jones was in her pregnancy. WALB-TV reported earlier that authorities estimated Jones was about five-and-a-half months pregnant.
A phone number for Jones was not accepting incoming calls and there was no answer at the address for her listed on the police report.
In 2014, two Texas Democrats are going for a new kind of history: Winning as an all-female ticket for governor and lieutenant governor.
Woven into one of the nation’s most intriguing gubernatorial races this year is whether Democrat Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster over abortion restrictions catapulted the state senator to national fame this summer, can not only overcome long odds in a fiercely Republican state but pull off a political first.
If Davis and fellow state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who is running for lieutenant governor, prevail in their March primaries as expected, they’ll form what political experts say is only the fifth time in at least the past 20 years that a party has nominated women for both governor and lieutenant governor.
None of these pairings has ever won — nor have a woman governor and lieutenant governor ever served concurrently. Arizona in 1998 picked five women to the state’s top executive offices, including then-attorney general Janet Napolitano, though the state has no lieutenant governor.
The last all-female governor and lieutenant governor ticket was steamrolled in November by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on his easy path to re-election. That pair came away some advice for their Texas cohorts.
“Expect to be marginalized. Just be ready for it,” said New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, who lost to Christie by 22 points.
Not all nominees run as “tickets” in the traditional sense. Texas is among the states that elect a governor and lieutenant governor separately, meaning that Davis and Van de Putte don’t come as a package even though they’ll overlap in message.
That message hasn’t focused on gender. Davis talks about education and weeding out cronyism while trying to forge a broader identity among voters who might only know her from her stand in pink running shoes on the Texas Senate floor for reproductive rights.
But Davis and Van de Putte, who’s Hispanic, can’t escape their obvious contrast to Republicans, whose entire statewide ticket in Texas this year is shaping up to be almost exclusively white and male.
“Diversity in government, I think, is incredibly important,” Davis said. “Bringing a variety of perspectives to the leadership table creates better government.”
Yet Republican can argue they’re doing the better job of putting women in governor’s mansions right now. The GOP has four nationwide to the one held by Democrats. But the party has recently acknowledged it could do better with women voters, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner saying in December that some members of his caucus could stand to be more “sensitive” at times.
Unlike New Jersey, Davis and Van de Putte aren’t challenging a popular incumbent-turned-potential presidential candidate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is stepping aside after 14 years and giving Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, the presumptive Republican nominee, the task of preserving two decades of statewide GOP rule.
That relegates Davis and Van de Putte to the status of most female tickets before them: underdogs, despite Texas having a stronger history than many states of electing powerful women leaders.
Former South Carolina GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd, who helmed the state party when Nikki Haley became South Carolina’s first female governor in 2011, hosted a summit in August to brainstorm how Republicans can elect more women.
The problem, she said, isn’t message but getting more women to run.
“The Democratic Party has a better track record. They’ve been doing it longer,” Floyd said. “I think you’ll see more Republican woman offer up. It’ll be a cascading effect.”
The closest two women have come to sweeping a state’s top two offices was 2004 in Missouri, when now-U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and the party’s female nominee for lieutenant governor narrowly lost.
Female Democratic candidates tend to amplify the gender gap in elections, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She said the other recent all-female tickets were a pair of Illinois Democrats in 1994 and a pair of Kentucky Republicans in 1999.
Buono doesn’t believe being a woman was the deciding factor in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, but said they faced misogynistic and belittling remarks in a state where none of its 12 congressional members are women. One GOP county chairman compared Buono choosing Milly Silva, a labor leader who previously never ran for statewide office, as her running mate to picking his secretary.
Van de Putte recalled feeling marginalized in the Texas Senate in June when, as Republicans began stopping Davis’ filibuster, she took the microphone and asked: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”
Van de Putte, who will face one of the four men vying for the Republican nomination, acknowledged it’s unusual to try winning with two women.
“But, you know, maybe it shouldn’t be,” Van de Putte said. “We just happen to be two gals. That’s the way it ended up.”
Sisters Mary and Liz Cheney are taking opposing sides on marriage equality, with younger sister Mary Cheney saying Liz is “dead wrong” for saying equality for gay couples should be decided by referendum.
Mary Cheney, the youngest daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, married her longtime partner Heather Poe in 2012.
Liz Cheney is running for the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming.
In late August, Liz Cheney said she is “not pro-gay marriage.” She was seeking to counter what she described as a “dishonest push poll” that suggested she supports women’s reproductive choice and aggressively supports marriage equality.
She is not for abortion rights and also said in a statement, “I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”
Responding, Mary Cheney posted on Facebook, “For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage.”
She also wrote, according to The New York Times, “Freedom means freedom for everyone. That means all families – regardless of how they look or how they are made – all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other.”
The youngest sister said equality shouldn’t be decided “by a show of hands.”
A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new North Dakota law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected – as early as six weeks into pregnancy, calling the law “clearly invalid and unconstitutional.”
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in Bismarck granted a temporary injunction that blocks the Aug. 1 enactment of the law that abortion rights advocates call the most restrictive in the nation.
“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion,” Hovland wrote. ” (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”
“We have our job to do,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told The Associated Press. “We need to convince (Hovland) why the Legislature wanted to enact the law.”
Stenehjem said the state will ask the court for a trial and already has hired an attorney to help argue the case.
New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the state’s lone abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, filed the lawsuit in June after the law was passed this year by the North Dakota Legislature. It would outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before some women even know they are pregnant.
Abortion-rights advocates say the measures are an attempt to close North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic. Supporters of the so-called fetal heartbeat measure, including Gov. Jack Dalrymple, have said it’s a challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law banning abortions at six weeks “poses a very immediate threat to virtually all women seeking an abortion in North Dakota.”
Red River director Tammi Kromenaker and Crepps said the six-week abortion ban would stop about 90 percent of abortions at the clinic.
“This ruling means that women won’t have to rush in and make a decision,” Kromenaker said of the injunction. “Now they have more time to talk to their loved one, their pastor – whoever the need to talk to – while weighing their decision to have an abortion.”
Jeff Zent, a spokesman for Dalrymple, said the governor would not comment on the federal judge’s ruling.
“It’s our standing policy not to comment on litigation,” he said.
The clinic’s lawsuit also is challenging another new measure that would make North Dakota the only state to prohibit women from having an abortion because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome.
Kromenaker said the clinic wants that law overturned but didn’t seek an immediate injunction to block it because abortions are not performed there for that reason.
The clinic is not challenging another new North Dakota law that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain by then. Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week signed into law a 20-week ban and other abortion restrictions for that state.
Kromenaker said the 20-week ban, which she believes is unconstitutional, does not apply to North Dakota because no abortions are performed at the clinic after 16 weeks.
Another measure would require a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. A lawsuit challenging that law has been combined with another one challenging a 2011 North Dakota law that outlaws one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions. A state judge ruled last week that the 2011 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions. A judge hasn’t yet issued a ruling on the new law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.
The Texas Legislature is back, and so are more proposals to restrict abortions.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has told lawmakers that he expects more anti-abortion laws during the 2013 session to work toward his goal “to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past.”
Anti-abortion activists have pledged to use every legal means possible to make obtaining abortions difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.
Last session, Perry signed into law two measures, one requiring doctors to conduct trans-vaginal sonograms before performing an abortion, and another banning groups that support abortion rights from participating in state-funded health programs.
This year he wants to further curtail when a woman can have an abortion, a law that courts have blocked in Georgia, Oklahoma and Arizona.
“We … need to better protect our most vulnerable citizens, the unborn, by expanding the ban on abortion to any baby that can feel the pain of the procedure, and putting in place common-sense oversights on clinics and physicians involved,” Perry told lawmakers on the opening day of the 2013 legislative session.
The so-called fetal pain bill relies on controversial claims that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation. Under current law, states can only ban abortions after 24 weeks.
Women’s rights activists point to scientific studies that find no evidence to support the claim. Tarrant County Sen. Wendy Davis opposes the effort to “chip away” at a woman’s right to choose.
“This bill, which is not grounded in sound science, represents just one more effort to intercede in decisions best made by a woman and her doctor,” Davis said. “Because these so-called small government advocates won’t acknowledge that a woman’s right to choose is the law of the land, they’re reduced to expanding government into women’s health care decisions.”
Lawmakers have passed similar bills in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Alabama and Nebraska. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned the law and federal judges in Georgia and Arizona have blocked enforcement of the measure there. The courts determined the laws infringe on a civil rights.
Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the laws are part of a national anti-abortion strategy.
“We really disagree with the science and we feel this is nothing more than a sensational attempt to limit access to abortion based on bad science,” Crepps said, citing recent research as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “This is clearly part of an agenda to stop women from accessing abortion, and in Texas in particular, I think you’ve seen a very hostile Legislature against reproductive rights.”
The measure is just one of Texas Right to Life’s priorities for the 83rd Legislature. They also want to take away a judge’s authority to allow teenage girls, under certain circumstances, to have an abortion without their parent’s permission. They also want a ban on abortion coverage in insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.
“Until our elected servants recognize that their first duty is to protect the life of each conceived human being, Texas Right to Life will not stop pushing for new Pro-Life laws,” the group said.
Ardent ant-abortion activist Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe medications that induce abortions by adding a number of new requirements. The doctor must have a contract with another physician who promises to treat any emergencies arising from the drug, must designate a hospital where the emergency would be treated and the emergency physician must have admitting, gynecological, and surgical privileges at the hospital.
These requirements, among others in the bill, make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe these medications, particularly in rural areas. Advocates argue the law would protect women, but critics point out that medically-induced abortions rarely result in complications and the law is designed only to make abortions more difficult to obtain.
Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Houston, has introduced a bill that would prohibit doctors from performing abortions based on the gender of the child. The practice has been common in China, where parents are restricted from having more than one child, but public health reports give no indication it’s a problem in Texas.
The leader of the Ohio Senate put a stop this week to a bill that would have imposed the most stringent restriction on abortions in the nation.
The chamber doesn’t plan to vote on the so-called “heartbeat bill” before the end of the legislative session next month, Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus said, citing concerns the resulting law might have been found to be unconstitutional.
“I want to continue our focus on jobs and the economy,” Niehaus told reporters. “That’s what people are concerned about.”
The bill proposed banning abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It had fiercely divided Ohio’s anti-abortion community, while energizing abortion rights proponents who protested against it.
Backers hoped the stringent nature of the bill would provoke a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest and oldest anti-abortion group, and many state lawmakers expressed concern the limit would be unconstitutional – jeopardizing other abortion limits in Ohio.
The measure initially had stalled in both chambers as leaders sought legal advice as to whether the bill could withstand a court challenge. It passed the House in June 2011 and had remained pending in the Senate since.
Niehaus, who is leaving the Senate at the end of the year due to term limits, said a number of factors went into his decision not to bring the bill to a floor vote during the lame-duck session. He cited lingering constitutional concerns but would not elaborate on other issues he had with the measure.
Supporters had offered various versions of the proposal in recent weeks, Neihaus said. And a new draft had been brought to him as recently as Nov. 27.
Niehaus wouldn’t speculate on whether the bill would have cleared the Senate had he decided to bring it to the floor for a vote.
He said he respected the views of his Republican colleagues, who hold 23 of 33 seats in the Senate. But, he said, “Ultimately it’s my decision not to move this bill in lame duck.”
The heartbeat bill’s demise marked the end of one of the noisiest lobbying efforts in recent state memory.
One crowded House hearing featured what supporters called “the state’s youngest legislative witness,” an in utero fetus. Ultrasounds were performed at the hearing on two women who were early in their pregnancies, so legislators could see and hear fetal hearts. People whose mothers had sought abortions that failed – labeled “abortion survivors” – were featured at another hearing.
Proponents delivered bouquets of red heart-shaped balloons and teddy bears to lawmakers, flew banners over the statehouse and eventually turned to angry full-page ads in the Columbus newspaper.
Opponents also grew vocal. They rallied at the statehouse during key votes, arguing the legislation could endanger the lives of women, forcing them to seek the procedure in unhealthy circumstances.
Janet Folger Porter, president of Ohio-based Faith2Action and the bill’s champion, said she was confident the legislation would be upheld in court.
“This is the closest we have ever been to protecting babies with beating hearts,” she said when it passed the House. “When this passes, it will be the most protective legislation in the nation.”
Porter led a charge to line up a host of high-profile supporters. They included Cincinnati physician Jack Willke, a former president of the National Right to Life Committee and founder of the International Right to Life Federation, and Phil Burress, whose Citizens for Community Values led the charge to ban gay marriage, among others.
But Ohio Right to Life’s then-executive director, Mike Gonidakis, called it “the right idea at the wrong time.”
Battling negative publicity over its neutrality on the bill, his chapter was selected to launch a 50-state effort to pass informed-consent bills tied to the fetal heartbeat, requiring that pregnant women see and hear the rhythm before agreeing to an abortion.
Supporters of that effort said statistics show women exposed to the fetal heartbeat are far less likely to go through with an abortion.
State Sen. Shannon Jones, a Springboro Republican, said she thought the bill would have passed in the Senate.
“I am hopeful and confident it will come up in the next General Assembly,” she said.
That’s what the head of one abortion rights group feared.
“We don’t believe for a second that this threat is over – perhaps delayed, but not over,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio director Kellie Copeland.