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Opinion Column: "Undermining Democracy: Stripping Women's Rights Without Voter Input"

Updated: May 7

By Bryan Cohn - Published April 29, 2024 in The Henderson Daily Dispatch

The recent ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court to enforce a Civil War-era abortion law is a stark warning for North Carolina. Republicans will attempt to end a woman’s right to an abortion in ways that circumvent modern American democracy, and they will do so despite the will of the people. North Carolinians who believe in equal rights for women must stand together by defending democracy and exercising our right to vote this fall.

Arizona’s “new” abortion ban in cases of even incest and rape is a relic of a time of gross inequality. It was passed during the Civil War before Arizona was even a state or women could even vote. Once Arizona’s Supreme Court resurrected the law after Roe v. Wade was struck down, Arizona’s GOP lawmakers could have joined the effort to change the law. Instead, Republicans prevented a vote altogether.

Of course, voters must remember Arizona’s abortion ban would not be possible if six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices had not voted to overturn Roe. Five of them were appointed during a period in which Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Clearly, this is a fluke of America’s electoral college method of choosing presidents, and it is a Supreme Court that does not reflect the will of the American people.

Back in North Carolina, Republicans are coming off of a year in which they have already passed a ban on abortion for women who are more than twelve weeks pregnant. Their ban was possible only after one NC House member completely hoodwinked her voters in Charlotte. She ran for office as a pro-choice Democrat and then switched parties and her views entirely on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. With one newfound Republican, the GOP could override a governor’s veto with a new supermajority. Granville and Vance County’s own NC House member - Republican Frank Sossamon - voted for the 12-week ban.

A 12-week abortion ban, however, is not enough for the Republican nominee for governor, Mark Robinson. Robinson is now trying to avoid the abortion issue altogether. But Robinson made a commitment to MAGA Republicans to ban abortion in all cases - rape, incest, and even if the life of the mother is endangered. Robinson is repeatedly on record. “Let’s say I was the governor and had a willing legislature,” Robinson told an NC radio station last year. “We could pass a bill saying you could not have an abortion in North Carolina for any reason.” This is the man and these are the views Republicans have chosen to lead their party in 2024.

Leaders of North Carolina’s GOP majority in the state legislature may feel inoculated from public opinion on women’s rights because of their obscene gerrymandering. They have carved legislative districts in ways in which politicians pick their voters instead of voters choosing representatives. A radically gerrymandered state legislature does not represent the will of the people. It has no honest standing to make decisions on the rights of women.

So what should be done? Other states have allowed voters to decide on constitutional amendments on a woman’s right to abortion. Leaders of North Carolina’s legislature - all Republican - should do the same. But, of course, Republicans will not likely allow a vote of the people. In every state where voters have cast ballots on questions of abortion, the rights of women have won. A constitutional amendment question on abortion would likely draw more young people to the polls, which Republicans deeply fear. They know an amendment vote might imperil their own careers.

And so, voters must remember. Those wanting to restrict women's rights have done so by fooling voters, trying to hide their agenda, and avoiding democracy. We must stand up for equality and women’s rights by demanding and exercising democracy. If we are going to stand up for all women, we must all vote.

Bryan Cohn is a resident of Oxford serving on the Oxford City Board of Commissioners. He is the Democratic nominee for the NC House of Representatives for NC House Dist. 32, which includes all of Granville County and much of Vance County.

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