With Brett Kavanaugh as Donald Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court justice, reproductive rights advocates are concerned that America might soon overturn Roe v. Wade, opening the way for conservative states to ban abortion.
Kavanaugh’s voting history suggests he would be willing to overturn the seminal decision, and more than 20 states already have bills that would restrict abortions ready to be taken to the floor the moment the supreme court changes the law.
Activists are ramping up efforts to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but hope for those who want to protect reproductive rights may soon be coming from somewhere else: State assemblies—and specifically, the women on them. According to projections made by Reuters, the number of female state lawmakers could increase by more than 50% as a result of the upcoming elections. Even if only the women who are currently leading their races by 60% were to win their elections, female representation in state assemblies would rise from 25% in 2017 to 38% in 2019.
The percentage of state representatives who are women has been growing steadily since the 1970s, according to data collected by Rutger University’s Center for American Women and Policy (pdf). But the projected jump in the next election would be unprecedented.
Women are in general more likely to support freedom of choice, and at the federal level, Republican female senators have been key to stopping the repeal of the Affordable Care Act—which they opposed in part due to the consequences it would have on reproductive health.
Roe v. Wade makes abortion legal nationwide, while states regulate access. If the decision were overturned, decisions about whether abortion is legal and under what circumstances would revert to states. The votes of state lawmakers would end up being key to establishing the actual policies around abortion and other reproductive rights. With five potential votes in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, female representatives might end up being the last line of defense.