You may have noticed over the last few years that anti-abortion legislation is passing at an alarming rate, down at the state level, where legislation is not considered super-sexy and sometimes people don’t even notice – especially when it’s not their state going for anti-choice gold.
Rep. Todd Akin has experienced an enormous amount of backlash for his claim that women’s uteri magically reject a pregnancy that is the product of rape. He’s running for a national senate seat. State legislators say equally atrocious things almost every day, and while they draw some attention, they aren’t the subjects of this kind of media storm. Remember when a Representative from Oklahoma said being gay was worse than being a terrorist? There was a some noise about – the story was even featured onEllen – but eventually the dust settled and it was business as usual. Rep. Todd Akin is now a pariah to the national Republican party. I guarantee you, his career will never recover, even if he’s elected.
Same principle applies to completely nutters anti-choice and anti-abortion legislation at the state level as opposed to the federal level. Introduce a “personhood” bill at the federal level, House or Senate, and you will have a media circus and angry constituents, phone calls from states you don’t even represent, and national party spokespeople trying to explain that you need the Independent vote to try and win in November. So far-right anti-choice groups did what the progressive movement doesn’t seem to know how to do. They got down on the ground in the states, where frankly, it’s pretty boring, and they did a lot of long, hard, involved leg-work over almost a decade. Now we’re all reaping what they sowed: regulations on our bodies and our sex lives like nothing we’ve seen since Roe, and a good chance they could bring that very case before the Supreme Court to try and overturn it. Then again, they may not bother. They’ve made abortion so inaccessible at the state level that Roe can remain technically the law of the land while millions of desperate people go without badly needed, still-legal health and reproductive care.
So how does one far-right piece of legislation – personhood, Crisis Pregnancy Center lies, transvaginal ultrasounds, waiting periods, just to name a few one pieces of legislation introduced in dozens of states – manage to get introduced, and passed, at the state level across the country? Isn’t legislation complicated? No, actually, it isn’t, and that is both to our benefit and detriment as citizens. Passing legislation is an uphill battle. Writing legislation is a piece of cake.
I worked as a an assistant to registered lobbyists at a non-profit in Washington, D.C. Lobbyists get a bad rep, but you could be a lobbyist. Go talk to your representative – and you should – and you’re a lobbyist. Now, if you’re a group of parents whose children have severe autism, and you live far from Washington, D.C., and you want someone to speak to members of Congress on your behalf, that person you hire to do that – someone who ispaid to lobby – is a registered lobbyist. For better or worse, almost everything you value has a lobbyist (like the environment? LOBBYISTS. like funds that help unwed teen mothers get day-care so they can finish high school? LOBBYISTS. like marriage equality? YOU’RE WELCOME.), as does almost everything you despise (I’m looking at you, Big Oil).
People think lobbyists go ask representatives to vote a certain way, or to earmark money a certain way, and they do. But you know what takes up a lot of time for lobbyists? You know why so many lobbyists are lawyers (trufax)? Lobbyists write legislation. They write it, they give it to a sympathetic representative’s office, the Representative or Senator in question introduces it on the floor, and then the office and the lobbyists go around and try to whip up votes.
Getting legislation passed is really hard. Introducing legislation is super easy.
Legislation doesn’t have to be constitutional to be introduced. It doesn’t have to be constitutional to pass and become law. Legislation, like citizens, is innocent until proven guilty; someone or some group has to drag that ish to court and a judge has to declare it Conduct Unbecoming before it can be overturned. It’s easier to introduce and pass bad, unconstitutional legislation than it is to get it off the books once it’s there. A lot of the crap anti-choice bills passed lately at the state level actually are unconstitutional, but the current condition of our Supreme Court has the pro-choice mainstream movement – the people who can afford to challenge bad laws (Abortion Gangsters, want to raise a few million for a court case or six?) – spinning its wheels, scared that if we challenge the constitutionality of these laws, the SC will turn around and say, “Actually, it’s Roe that has been unconstitutional all along.” Roe isn’t much good to us now, what with not stopping terrible laws from going into effect in half the states, but the mainstream is still clinging to it like it’s a life raft that is mostly saving the First Class passengers from drowning. Sorry, steerage.
So this is what happened: a bunch of smart anti-choicers thought, you know what, if ladies go slutting around and getting pregnant and then want to kill an innocent baby, they should have to suffer for it. What’s a good punishment for having things up inside you? Things up inside you you don’t want there! That will teach you. So they concocted this trans-vaginal ultrasound nonsense, and then they, or a lawyer friend, or a lobbyist, wrote it up and passed it to state reps who agreed with them, state reps they worked tirelessly for years to insure would have control of the state legislatures and a fetus-friendly governor who wouldn’t veto, and the state reps introduced it, it passed, and it was signed into law. They did this over and over and over again, with every weird notion or draconian punishment for being biologically female they could dream up in their wildest imaginations. Once the groundwork was laid – and they’ve been at this for a good long while – this was the easy part. This is fun. Even in the rare case that the national media notices, like the first time the trans-vaginal ultrasound law was introduced in Virginia, or a governor changes their mind and won’t back your play, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got 20 – 50 more buns in the oven. And this is working.
I feel like School House Rocks should probably review this. This is how you change a nation: from the bottom up.