From the state of Idaho, a new statute was recently passed by the legislature that literally strikes fear into our hearts and seems to indicate a slide toward a future resembling Margaret Atwood’s Gilead from A Handmaid’s Tale. The law creates a new crime, called “abortion trafficking.”
Here are the bare facts, as reported on CBS News (from their website):
Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes it a crime for adults to help minors travel to other states for abortion care without parental consent.
State House Bill 242 bans adults from “recruiting, harboring, or transporting” pregnant minors for abortions without parental consent, noting that such activity would still be illegal even if the abortion itself is provided out of state. The bill also criminalizes helping a minor obtain abortion medication without the consent of a parent or guardian. Both activities are considered “abortion trafficking” under the new law.
A conviction for abortion trafficking comes with a minimum sentence of two years in state prison, and a maximum sentence of five years.
In a letter to the speaker of the state House confirming the signing, Little said House Bill 242 “seeks only to prevent unemancipated minor girls from being taken across state lines for an abortion without the knowledge and consent of her parent or guardian.”
A piece on Yahoo News noted:
Many pro-choice groups worried that after Roe v. Wade fell, anti-abortion lawmakers would attempt to limit interstate travel. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh clarified in his concurring opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the right to interstate travel is still constitutionally protected. But since Idaho’s abortion trafficking bill is crafted in a way that only impacts travel inside of Idaho and pertains to minors, it seems lawmakers have found a loophole.
In Tennessee, there has been a shocking incident that delineates the links between white supremacy and the peculiarly US thing we call, for lack of a better term, “gun culture.” News flashes about “the Tennessee Three” led me to read about a trio of Tennessee state legislators who had the audacity to take part in a protest against lax gun laws following the mass shooting last month at a Christian school in Nashville, TN.
On April 6, the majority Republican Tennessee House of Representatives held a vote on whether or not to expel three Democratic representatives from the House. Their disorderly behavior consisted of taking part in a raucous demonstration from the House floor against permissive gun laws. MPR’s coverage of the vote noted “Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson acknowledge that they didn’t follow the rules of order and decorum by speaking without being formally recognized. But they’re facing a disciplinary measure that’s only been used twice since the 1800s. Republicans have said the trio’s actions amount to an insurrection.”
The outcome of the vote, from The Tennessean – “Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, was expelled by a vote of 72 to 25 after 90 minutes of debate. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, was not expelled after the resolution to oust her failed by one vote. Rep. Justin J. Pearson, D-Memphis, was expelled by a vote of 69 to 26.” When queried about why she thought she held onto her seat while her two colleagues were ousted, Johnson, who is white, replied drily that she thought it had to do with skin color.
CNN reported that “Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a tweet Thursday night that Jones and Pearson’s districts were ‘disenfranchised today.’ ‘I’m proud that Metro Council is meeting Monday to fill the vacancy left in Nashville by today’s vote, & I believe they’ll send (Jones) right back to continue serving his constituents,’ the tweet read.”
From Wisconsin, our neighbor to the east, comes some very good electoral news. As WGBH reports – “Democrats have scored a major off-year election victory in Wisconsin, winning the state’s open supreme court seat and flipping control of the court to liberals for the first time in 15 years.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had a one-vote majority of Conservative leaning justices. Justices serve 10 year terms, and one of the conservatives, Patience Roggensack, did not seek reelection this year. On Tuesday, April 4, 2023, Milwaukee County circuit judge Janet Protasiewicz defeated former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Daniel Kelly. Although the race is technically nonpartisan, Kelly is staunchly conservative and Protasiewicz very liberal, as judged by their campaign stances and their judicial records. Both sides vastly outspent any previous WI Supreme Court races.
From Wikipedia and Politico.com, I crunched the numbers. Protasiewicz, 60, won by 11.02%, (55.5% to 44.5%) an outcome that was widely described as a mandate for protecting abortion rights and removing gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Kelly lost by a wider margin than his own defeat three years prior. The winner will take office in August. You can read more from Protasiewicz’s hometown paper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
In Illinois, Chicago is also celebrating an electoral runoff victory for Brandon Johnson for Mayor. He and Paul Vallas were the top two vote-getters in a large field in the February general election. (In that election, incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot was predicted to win, but she was soundly defeated.) Both runoff candidates are Democrats, but they couldn’t be more opposite in position on one of Chicago’s hot button issues – public schools. Johnson is a former teacher and organizer for Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) while Vallas is a former “public schools CEO” and a major champion of so-called “education reform” and charter schools.
As Education Week puts it –
Johnson’s victory in many ways represents a rejection of the common reforms that have characterized public education in Chicago and much of the rest of the nation over the past two decades-plus. He’ll take office as Chicago sunsets mayoral control of its schools, ending a reform that took root in the 1990s. And he firmly opposed the pro-charter school and school choice policies that his opponent pushed as the first CEO of Chicago schools under mayoral control and the head of three other urban school districts.
By Deb K R