For the next two months, petitioners will swarm Michigan ahead of late-December deadlines. They’ll knock on doors, flock to fairs and hand out pamphlets after church. Every day will be valuable, and every signature will get them a little bit closer to their goal: making it harder for women to get abortions in their home state.
If the volunteer fleet is successful, Michigan will join the list of states that have tightened restrictions on abortion rights this year. But, unlike those other states, which have overwhelmingly conservative governments, Michigan could pass antiabortion laws without the governor’s approval and without the support of a majority of voters.
If that happens, the legion of petitioners won’t be the only reason. Abortion rights advocates could also point the finger at a familiar specter: gerrymandering. …
It’s happening elsewhere, too. The age-old practice of hyperpartisan redistricting, experts say, has led to more-extreme laws countrywide — none more visible this year than those dealing with abortion. In 2019, 12 largely conservative states have restricted access to abortions, while six liberal states have expanded or protected such access.
But to really grasp the impact that gerrymandering has had on abortion laws, you have to look back to 2010, said Dan Vicuña, the national redistricting manager at voting rights watchdog group Common Cause. That election year, Republicans set out to win control of as many statehouses as possible, which gave them power to redraw state and congressional districts after the census.
“That effort succeeded beyond their wildest dreams,” Vicuña said. “Republicans took over tons of state legislatures, and they were interested in gerrymandering.”
Since then, he said, it’s no surprise that the number of abortion bans passed at the state level has exploded.
From 1973 through 2010, states passed nine laws seeking to ban abortion outright or to prevent it after a certain point of pregnancy, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research and advocacy organization. But from 2011 to today, that number has nearly tripled. States have passed more abortion bans in 2019 alone than in the nearly 40 years before the 2010 election.