In a decisive and resounding victory in one of the most conservative states in the country, Mississippi voters defeated--by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent as of this writing--the dangerous Initiative 26, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights.
See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.
In a decisive and resounding victory in one of the most conservative states in the country, Mississippi voters defeated–by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent as of this writing–the dangerous Initiative 26, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights. Had it passed, Initiative 26 would have outlawed all forms of abortion and many forms of birth control. The law would have made illegal many forms of fertility treatment and would potentially have criminalized miscarriage. It would also have endangered pregnant women by making their rights to health, to health care and to bodily integrity subservient to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses no matter how dire the woman’s condition might be or what her situation.
At the same time, however, the outcome of 26 is bittersweet, given that as of this writing Mississippi voters also appear to have passed Initiative 27, a voter ID law that will disenfranchise many of the minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.
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A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s elections law, holding that the Republican-held legislature had enacted the law with discriminatory intent to burden Black voters and that it therefore violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The ruling marks the latest defeat of voter ID laws passed by GOP-majority legislatures across the country.
“We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the court.
Republicans claimed that the law was intended to protect against voter fraud, which has proven exceedingly rare in Republican-led investigations. But voting rights advocates argue that the law was intended to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters.
The ruling marks a dramatic reversal of fortune for the U.S. Justice Department, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters, which had asked the Fourth Circuit to review a lower court ruling against them.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder in April ruled that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that the law hindered Black voters’ ability to exercise political power.
The Fourth Circuit disagreed.
“In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees,” Motz wrote. “This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”
The Fourth Circuit noted that the Republican-dominated legislature passed the law in 2013, immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which struck a key provision in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 4 is the coverage formula used to determine which states must get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice or the District Court for the District of Columbia before making any changes to election laws.
The day after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby, the Republican chairman of the Senate Rules Committee announced the North Carolina legislature’s intention to enact an “omnibus” election law, the appeals court noted. Before enacting the law, however, the Republican-dominated legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.
After receipt of the race data, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration, all of which disproportionately burdened Black voters.
“In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its actions, the State offered only meager justifications,” Motz continued. “[T]he new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
The ruling comes a day after the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and one of the primary organizers of Moral Mondays, gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention that brought convention goers to their feet.
During a protest on the first day of the trial, Barber told a crowd of about 3,500 people, “this is our Selma.”
GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.
An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.
GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.
Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.
“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”
Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.
SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.
Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.
SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”
Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.
“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”
“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”