March 25, 2013 — Recent opinion pieces in the New York Times and Daily Beast responded to the passage of antiabortion-rights measures in North Dakota and other states. Summaries appear below.
~ Bill Keller, New York Times: Op-ed columnist Keller, a former executive editor of the Times, discusses increasingly frequent examples of "state[s] veering off the mainstream" on abortion rights, gun laws and other issues. He notes that both an Arkansas measure banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and the North Dakota proposal to ban abortion after six weeks are "expected to be ruled unconstitutional." He asks, "Is North Dakota that much more conservative than, say, South Dakota, where abortions are permitted up to 24 weeks?" Keller weighs the opinions of various academics and journalists who have sought "to explain why our supposedly indivisible nation seems so intractably divided." For example, Keller examines an idea proposed by Samuel Abrams -- a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence University and Stanford University -- that Americans' political apathy allows "motivated, well-financed and sometimes extreme elites [to capture] the lawmaking process in many state capitals." Adams argues that politicians "tend not be representative of the masses at all," Keller notes. Keller applies this and other related theories to the Arkansas measure -- which he calls "the triumph of a single, entrepreneurial Tea Party state senator" -- but also suggests that this pattern of lawmaking helps give states "a useful role as laboratories of policy. These experiments may produce smart ideas that deserve to be replicated at the national level. ... Or the state labs may cook up poisons ... and you pray that Congress or the courts will find an antidote" (Keller, New York Times, 3/24).
~ North Dakota Rep. Kathy Hawken (R), Daily Beast: Hawken writes that even though she is "personally ... pro-life," she "vote[s] pro-choice, because decisions about pregnancy are complex and personal." Hawken criticizes her Republican colleagues for supporting a proposed "fetal personhood amendment, which would grant legal personhood rights to embryos at the moment of fertilization" and, if approved by voters, "effectively outlaw abortion in the state." She urges lawmakers "in North Dakota and in the statehouses around the country to re-attune their focus to the fiscal and economic benefits of making sure every American woman has access to the preventive health care she needs, including birth control, so she can avoid an unintended pregnancy and stay healthy" (Hawkins, Daily Beast, 3/24).