Arizona women will die because yellow-bellied Republicans are afraid of political risk

KPNX-TV reporter Brahm Resnik films House Speaker Ben Toma on his cell phone on April 17, 2024, after Toma led Republicans in defeating an attempt by Democrats to force a vote on a bill to repeal the 1864 near-total abortion ban. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Republicans reveled in their cowardice on Wednesday, as they hid behind obscure procedural rules to scuttle an effort to repeal a near-total abortion ban written during the Civil War that will, with absolute certainty, force Arizona women to suffer grievous injuries and die.

There are reportedly four Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives who have said, either publicly or privately, that they will vote to repeal the 1864 abortion ban if a bill to do so receives a vote.

But three of them — Reps. David Cook, Tim Dunn and Justin Wilmeth — won’t lift a finger to actually allow that to happen. Instead, they actively thwarted an attempt by Democrats to force a vote on a bill introduced earlier this year (and ignored by Republicans) to do away with that abortion ban from an era when doctors didn’t even know how women became pregnant.

Oh, and then they did it a second time.

Just how spineless are these Republicans? They apparently have no qualms about abandoning some 45 years of GOP orthodoxy by rolling back a profoundly unpopular near-total abortion ban — the Holy Grail of the anti-abortion movement — but can’t stomach voting against their leaders to change House rules so the bill can actually receive a vote.

Apparently, changing the rules is a bridge too far. Women’s health and lives are less important than falling out of favor with House Speaker Ben Toma and his merry band of anti-abortion zealots.

At issue is a rule that Republicans passed last year that is designed to snuff out precisely the type of bipartisan revolt that is brewing. It eradicates rebellion by requiring that Toma be in the majority on any vote to change or suspend the chamber’s rules. Democrats tried to use parliamentary maneuvering to get around that — creating a temporary rule that effectively pretends the Toma-must-agree rule doesn’t exist — but GOP lawmakers decided they couldn’t do so.

When they passed this rule, I wrote about just how significant it was

The Republicans who run our state legislature are terrified.

They’re terrified that their policy proposals are deeply unpopular. Terrified of facing even a tiny bit of accountability…

These aren’t changes made from a position of strength. They’re the cynical last gasps of an increasingly desperate Republican majority that recognizes its grip on power at the Capitol is slipping, but is unwilling to deal with that reality. They don’t have a mandate from voters — tiny one-vote majorities in each chamber and a Democratic governor — but want to govern as though they do.

It’s not what voters want, and you can bet they’ll notice when Republicans insist on driving the state government straight off a cliff. For now, they can try to govern with impunity. But accountability is only an election cycle away.

Everything that happened on the House floor today was set in stone before lawmakers showed up to work today. Republicans have the ability to determine which rules are applied, which are ignored and which efforts to change them are allowed. And they used that power to stymie the effort to repeal an unconscionable abortion ban. Had there been any doubt in this outcome, the Democrats never would have been given the chance to make their procedural motions.

Before the House convened on Wednesday, Cook acknowledged that he wouldn’t do anything to help the bill he ostensibly supports receive a vote.

“The first step is you’re going to have to roll your own caucus and your leadership — and where are those votes coming from?” he told the Arizona Agenda. “All the people you just mentioned (Dunn, Wilmeth at Rep. Matt Gress), except Matt Gress, have never rolled their own leadership… I’m not starting tomorrow. I’ve never left my caucus.”

Gress was the only Republican to side with Democrats on trying to force a vote on the repeal bill.

In contrast, two Republicans in the state Senate — Sens. Shawnna Bolick and T.J. Shope — voted with Democrats to allow the special introduction of a bill to repeal the 160-year-old abortion ban. A third Republican, Sen. Ken Bennett, voted to defeat a series of attempts by the majority caucus to force the Senate to skip over the Democratic motion.

Rolling leadership is not done lightly. The few times in the past two decades I’ve seen it happen has been because the Republicans involved believed so strongly in the underlying cause — for instance, when Medicaid expansion was passed in 2013 after 14 Republicans bucked their leaders — that the political risks in doing so are outweighed.

But being opposed to abortion is a fundamental part of what it means to be Republican in America. Once upon a time, pro-abortion GOP elected officials existed, even if they were a minority within their own party. But they’ve been hunted to extinction — they’re RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), after all — and you’d be hard-pressed to find any Republican in elected office in Arizona who would profess to support abortion rights.

Cook and the others are quite likely ending their political careers just by entertaining the idea of repealing the expansive abortion ban, much less by voting to do so. The political risk is clear, it’s real — and it’s already unavoidable. So, why won’t they stand behind their convictions and repeal a monstrously draconian abortion ban?

Because their gutlessness is matched only by their political impotence.

The post Arizona women will die because yellow-bellied Republicans are afraid of political risk appeared first on Arizona Mirror.