Legislative fights over abortion have been thrust squarely into the forefront of the political conversation in recent months. And emerging signs suggest they aren't going to fade away away anytime soon.
Want evidence? Just take a look at what's gone down in recent days:
1. Signing a law isn't always the last word: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed a bill to restrict abortion laws on Friday. By Monday, a federal judge put a 10-day freeze on the newly minted law that that mandates doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Regardless of how the legal battle turns out in the end, the matter is now much more than a one-day story. And it's a reminder that in other states like Texas, where a heated debate over abortion laws is currently underway, the end of the legislative debate does not necessarily spell the end of the overall debate.
2. A losing battle is no deterrent: Republican state lawmakers in Texas scheduled a vote in the state House for Tuesday on a measure to tighten abortion laws. The issue cast a national spotlight on the state legislature last month when state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) launched a marathon filibuster that led to the bill being stymied, forcing Gov. Rick Perry (R) to call for another special session. Two things are true about Tuesday's vote. First, it represents another step toward the inevitable passage of the GOP-backed bill. Second, Davis has successfully attracted national attention to the process, even though she is set to lose the legislative debate. The same can be said of U.S. House Republicans who recently passed a bill to tighten abortion laws that has no chance of passing the Senate or being signed by the president. The debate is being kept alive and in the news in part by pols drawing attention even to legislative fights they know they cannot win.
3. The base is calling: The fact that in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican governors Walker and John Kasich -- who both face reelection in 2014 -- signed bills to tighten abortion laws could mean problems for them with the political middle and left. But the moves are sure to fire up the conservative base, which in an off-year election can be a potent force. It's not just midterms in which the GOP base can play a major role. In presidential nominating contests, they also make their voices heard. And the fact that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is considering making a push in the Senate for an abortion bill tells you all you need to know about how powerful an issue it could be among conservatives in the lead-up to 2016. It works the other way too, with Democrats seeking to use Republican efforts to pass new abortion laws to fire up their own base and cast GOP pols as out of touch figures focused on divisive social issues. In short, we can expect to hear more about abortion laws from both sides in the months ahead.
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