It’s a bright and sunny 80 degrees in Sydney, Australia, a gorgeous and progressive city that I’ll depart in a few hours for a long and roundabout journey home, with arrival mid-afternoon Sunday, Little Rock time, after a leg to Tokyo, a leg to Dallas and one last jump north toward home.
I’ve been following the Arkansas legislature’s rapid descent into the depths of radical conservative governance. No voter who kept informed can claim surprise. Perhaps a majority would proclaim happiness with the results, though public opinion polling consistently shows Arkansas voters more moderate — whether the subject is women’s rights, guns, taxes or government services — than the record this legislature is building. Certainly they want more ethics than the Republicans have demonstrated, with obedience to special interest money and protection of tricks to defeat the popularly approved state ethics law on use of campaign money for personal purposes.
But, a note of good news of a sort. It could be worse. Yes, worse.
North Dakota has now passed the anti-abortion bill that Sen. Jason Rapert wanted to pass in the first place. It offered no exceptions for rape victims or women carrying gravely deformed fetuses. It required ultrasound for all women, even before a heartbeat is readily detectable, and thus would have meant the invasive vaginal probe that North Dakota has now approved. The faintest sign of life, as early as five weeks, before many women know they are pregnant, means an abortion is illegal. The bills in North Dakota and Rapert’s original were produced by the same legal factory. It is a frontal challenge to the prevailing law that gives women the right to end a pregnancy before a fetus is viable. Rapert himself has said he hopes to eventually emulate North Dakota with laws to put the value of a zygote, literally hours after creation — even by rape — above that of a woman. He’s been quoted as saying women can use contraception if they don’t want to be pregnant, but he’s also moved to eliminate state support for an important source of birth control help in Arkansas. Men? Well, they can just keep doing what comes naturally and electing people like Jason Rapert.
For now, we are a few weeks better than North Dakota. The courts willing, we’ll return before long to a state where it remains quite difficult to obtain an abortion, but still legal.
Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone has written a good piece on the broad GOP national agenda, reflected in Arkansas. Some Republicans sing a moderate tune (think House Speaker Davy Carter). Don’t be fooled, Dickinson writes:
Don’t be fooled. On the ground, a very different reality is unfolding: In the Republican-led Congress, GOP-dominated statehouses and even before the nation’s highest court, the reactionary impulses of the Republican Party appear unbowed. Across the nation, the GOP’s severely conservative agenda — which seeks to impose job-killing austerity, to roll back voting and reproductive rights, to deprive the working poor of health care, and to destroy agencies that protect the environment from industry and consumers from predatory banks — is moving forward under full steam.
BUT BACK TO WOMEN. DON’T FORGET: Tell your friends and like-minded others to join the march on the State Capitol at 3 p.m. March 23 to Stop the War on Women.
Meanwhile, what some others are saying on abortion after the latest from North Dakota: