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Idaho Becomes the First State to Ban Helping People Get an Abortion

The new law against “abortion trafficking” carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Idaho Governor Brad Little at the Conservative Political Action Conference
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Idaho Governor Brad Little at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year

Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, has signed a law banning people from helping others access abortions.

The bill, which became law Wednesday, would ban any adult from taking a minor out of state to get an abortion or abortion medication without their parents’ consent. The measure originally said this would constitute human trafficking but was later amended to use the phrase “abortion trafficking.”

Anyone who helps a minor obtain an abortion out of state could face up to five years in prison. The bill also changed existing law to say that the person who impregnated the minor, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, can sue over the abortion. The new law makes no exceptions for minors who are in abusive households, and it does not clarify whether both parents need to consent to the abortion or just one.

If a local prosecutor declines to take the case, the law says, the Republican state attorney general can take the case instead.

Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat, warned last week that the bill is “unnecessary and unneeded and further shackles young girls who are in trouble, and then it harms the parents’ friends, the relatives, etc., who are trying to help her.”

Abortion has been banned in Idaho since Roe v. Wade was overturned, with exceptions to save the pregnant person’s life or for rape or incest. But rape and incest survivors must first report the crime to law enforcement before they can get an abortion. Neighboring states including California, Washington, and Oregon have touted themselves as safe places to get an abortion, but Idaho’s new law will make it all the more difficult to access those services.

Idaho is not the first Republican-led state to try to criminalize traveling out of state for an abortion, although it is the first to codify it into law.

In March, before the Dobbs draft opinion had even been leaked, Republican state lawmakers in Missouri introduced a bill that would allow individuals to sue anyone who helped a state resident get an abortion, including an out-of-state health care provider or anyone providing transportation across state lines. State House lawmakers blocked the bill a few weeks later.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced a bill in February that would protect anyone seeking an abortion out of their home state, as well as anyone who helps them. But the bill has yet to even make it to committee and is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.

Chicago Voters Do Care About Crime. That’s Why They Voted for Brandon Johnson.

Brandon Johnson offered voters a new way to think about public safety.

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Ever since Brandon Johnson began to ascend in the Chicago mayoral election, armchair experts hammered away at the notion that his campaign was “dogged” by issues surrounding crime. The thinking was that a candidate who has called for a reimagination of public safety is inherently signing up for an uphill battle, and cannot win without changing that vision.

Chicago voters proved those national pundits wrong on Tuesday when they elected Johnson to serve as their next mayor. Presumably, as the people actually living in Chicago, they chose someone who they thought would keep them safe. So it’s worth revisiting those media narratives on crime and the baked-in assumptions beneath them—in the hopes that fewer people in the media will participate in these narratives, or that they’ll even just let them slide.

The main argument seems to be encapsulated in a New York Times headline on Johnson’s victory: “Brandon Johnson Elected Chicago Mayor, Turning Back Tough-on-Crime Opponent.”

Other stories perpetuated the idea that only one of the two candidates would be “tough” on crime.

In March, a Politico story read that “some in the [Democratic] party” believed that neither Vallas and Johnson were “particularly compelling.” But the story went on to quote Paul Vallas adviser Joe Tripp, who said, “You do have someone who has talked about defunding and I just don’t know why any national people would get into that debate.”

Another New York Post story postured Vallas as the only anti-crime candidate—which would, of course, imply that Johnson is somehow “pro-crime,” rather than someone proposing a different vision of how to be “tough” on crime.

“Look what happened in Chicago,” Democratic consultant James Carville told NBC News in early March, arguing why crime was the “front and center issue” that Democrats should be tackling. Carville seemed to be referring to the ousting of incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot and success of Vallas, as if Johnson wasn’t also still in the running for mayor.

Yet another Axios story boldly proclaimed, “‘Defund the police’ dogs Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson.”

The story, which did not include thoughts from voters actually interested in Johnson’s candidacy, focused on comments he made in 2020 expressing support to “redirect and defund the amount of money that is spent in policing.” The story was published a day after Johnson had modulated his earlier comments, saying in a debate that he would not defund the police.

But Johnson still maintained the broader spirit of his vision, one that he has spent months proposing to the public. In January, he told TNR that the best way forward for Chicago is to invest more in mental health, housing, year-round youth employment opportunities, and the like. He envisions deeper crime prevention, rather than just carceral crime response.

You wouldn’t have picked up on that from all the stories published on Johnson’s supposedly uphill campaign, all the result of assumptions—constructed and affirmed, year after year—about what it means to stop crime.

We are quick to deem throwing cash haphazardly at the police or building more jails as solutions; we are less conditioned to imagine preventing crime as meaning to ensure people feel economically secure, mentally healthy, or able to pursue a solid education. The default mindset persists even as our political and media apparatuses archetypically frame a “criminal” as poor, or mentally unstable, or uneducated.

But again, Chicago voters—like all voters—care about preventing crime and cultivating safe and healthy communities. They just happened to look past the media narratives that suggested that such a vision could only be accomplished in one way (a way that has not seemed to work despite its primacy the last few decades). And in looking past such lazy narratives, and holding onto their sincere hopes for a stronger Chicago, the people elected Brandon Johnson.

Two States Have Banned Health Care for Trans Kids in Less Than 24 Hours

Anti-trans legislation is picking up speed across the country. Is anyone paying attention?

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A protester outside the Indiana Statehouse on February 20

Indiana and Idaho banned gender-affirming care for transgender minors in less than 24 hours, as a Republican-led nationwide assault on trans rights appears to be ramping up.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 480 into law Wednesday, despite protests from hundreds of medical professionals and trans kids and their families. The law bans all gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers, for people under 18. It also bans surgical interventions, despite repeated testimony that no such surgeries were performed on minors in the state.

Minors currently receiving gender-affirming care can continue to do so until the end of the year. Health care providers who break this law will be subject to discipline by their regulatory board.

Less than 24 hours before, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a similar bill into law. House Bill 71 bans all gender-affirming care for trans kids, and makes it a felony for a medical professional to help a minor seek such treatment. Those care providers could face a $5,000 fine.

The ACLU announced Wednesday that it has filed lawsuits against both laws, calling the Indiana measure “cruel and unconstitutional” and the Idaho one “clear government overreach and … unacceptable” in separate statements.

These two laws are the latest in a Republican-led onslaught of anti-trans legislation that only seems to be picking up speed. Just last week, Kentucky lawmakers overrode Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto of one of the most extreme anti-trans measures in the country, forcing the legislative package into law.

Beshear had warned the measure would cause an “increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”

Republicans in Texas, Florida, and Kansas have pushed anti-trans measures in the last few days. North Dakota’s Republican-led legislature and Republican governor are in a standoff about yet another.

The bills’ backers argue that they are protecting children by barring them from gender-affirming care. But major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support giving gender-confirming care to children, deeming it medically necessary and even lifesaving.

Gender-affirming care actually decreases the amount of depression and anxiety that trans and nonbinary teenagers feel. It also makes them less likely to consider suicide. But targeting LGBTQ people through legislation only demonizes them and puts the community at higher risk of violent attacks.

Florida’s Anti-Drag Bill Is So Extreme It Would Ban The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair the Musical

Florida Republicans admitted as much.

Steve Wilkie/Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” film from 2016

Florida Republicans are pushing forward a bill that seeks to ban drag shows from allowing someone under the age of 18 to be in attendance.

But the bill is so vaguely worded, using the term “adult live performance,” that even Republican lawmakers have admitted it would prevent a high school kid from watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show or even the musical Hair.

The bill also explicitly targets Pride parades and celebrations, by preventing a government entity from issuing permits to an organization that may put on such a performance. If a violation occurs, say in a city like St. Petersburg, which hosts the largest Pride celebration in the state, the person who issued the permit could be charged with a misdemeanor.

In addition, any establishment that violates the law would be subject to license suspension or revocation and liable to large fines and a misdemeanor charge. One violation would spur a $5,000 fine; subsequent incidents would spur $10,000 fines.

The bill defines “adult live performance” to include “any show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience,” that in any form “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities,” such as “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

The bill is concerned especially with any such conduct that is deemed “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present.” It’s unclear what those standards are, and at which Adult Community Conference they were hashed out.

“Politicians are imposing their personal beliefs on Floridians by punishing businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community,” said the Florida ACLU. “This is a far cry from the ‘Free state of Florida’ that Governor DeSantis is claiming to promote.”

While Florida Republicans advance this bill, they and other Republicans have been busy just this week pushing forth other anti–civil rights legislation throughout the country. Idaho and Indiana both instituted bans on gender-affirming care for trans people under the age of 18. Florida and Texas advanced their own similar bills banning gender-affirming care, and Kansas advanced legislation banning transgender people from using public bathrooms or even being able to update their name or gender on their driver’s license. Florida Senate Republicans also passed an extreme six-week abortion ban. 

All in all, these Republicans are doubling down on infringing upon people’s civil rights under the guise of “protecting the children,” while thousands of students demand actual protection in the form of taking action on mass shootings and gun violence. But no matter for Florida Republicans; just last week, they made it legal to carry concealed weapons in the state without a permit, training, or background checks.

Don’t Let the Media’s Trump Fixation Distract You From These Local Threats to Democracy

Bills attacking civil rights are working their way through state legislatures in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and more.

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Protesters demand gun control at the Tennessee State Capitol on April 3, following a mass shooting in Nashville.

Amid a news cycle closely monitoring every one of Donald Trump’s moves—from the color of the SUVs in his motorcade to the post-arrest merch he was selling—it was easy to miss the serious, local threats to democracy happening across the country this week.

On Tuesday, the twice-impeached former president officially surrendered to arrest for a hush-money payment to a porn actress with whom he allegedly had an extramarital affair. And while this is a major news story, mainstream media’s live feeds were so focused on Trump it would’ve been difficult to not know when he was going to the bathroom.

Meanwhile, across the country, Republicans in state legislatures have continued their march against civil rights.

In Tennessee, the Republican-led state House is pushing to expel three Democratic lawmakers on the grounds that they broke “decorum” by interrupting proceedings to advocate for students protesting gun violence. Thousands of students, parents, and residents have been protesting in the state in the wake of a mass school shooting in Nashville that left three children and three adults dead.

On Monday, as protesters entered the House chamber and chanted from the gallery, demanding lawmakers’ attention, a much more real breach of “decorum” occurred on the House floor. Republican Representative Justin Lafferty—known for defending the three-fifths compromise—reportedly shoved Representative Justin Jones, one of the lawmakers facing threat of expulsion.

Jones and his fellow under-attack representatives have already been stripped of committee assignments and membership ID access for committing the high crime of caring about kids being shot dead at school. The vote to expel them from the legislature comes Thursday.

Meanwhile, attacks against women, trans people, and the LGBTQ community generally have continued to escalate.

In Florida, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow the state to take children away from their parents or guardians if they receive gender-affirming care. Health care providers who provide that treatment to people under the age of 18 would lose their license and could face felony criminal penalties. The bill also forbids any public money from covering gender-affirming care.

The bill’s passage comes just one day after the Florida Senate passed an extreme six-week abortion ban that could cut off abortion access for much of the South. Top Democratic leaders were arrested hours later during a protest for abortion rights.

In Idaho, Governor Brad Little signed a bill that bans trans kids under the age of 18 from accessing gender-affirming care. Doctors who provide such crucial care could be charged with a felony and face up to 10 years in prison.

In Texas, state senators also passed a bill to ban gender-affirming care for patients under the age of 18, similarly calling to revoke the licenses of doctors who do provide the care, and barring public money from any entities that provide the treatments. They also advanced two bills targeting drag shows, one of which would go so far as to defund public libraries where drag queens are allowed to read to children.

During the debate on those bills, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick threatened to silence Democratic state Senator Roland Gutierrez for continuing to speak about how gun legislation, not banning drag shows, should be a priority if they want to protect children. Gutierrez represents Uvalde, where 19 kids and two teachers at an elementary school were shot dead last May.

In Kansas, the Republican-led legislature passed a bill to ban transgender people from using public bathrooms or even being able to update their name or gender on their driver’s license.

And finally, in North Carolina, Democratic state lawmaker Tricia Cotham flipped her party affiliation, giving Republicans a veto-proof majority against Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Cotham has previously attacked Republicans on abortion, saying, “My womb and my uterus is not up for your political grab.” She herself has had an abortion, but since flipping parties on Tuesday, Cotham has said she is open to supporting restrictions on the procedure.

As conservative lawmakers continued their assault on civil rights across the country, voters themselves showed how differently they see things. In Chicago, voters elected Brandon Johnson—an unapologetic progressive, labor organizer, and former public school teacher—as mayor. In Wisconsin, voters overwhelmingly elected Democrat Janet Protasiewicz, flipping the state Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years. Such an occasion is all the more notable given that the court is set to address major cases on Wisconsin’s abortion ban and the heavily gerrymandered maps that have kept conservatives in control of the swing state since 2010.

But how can the mainstream media cover any of this when it is so obsessed with covering the minute-by-minute movements of a man who has been impeached twice, lost the election, and has since been arrested?

These local battles deserve the granular television play-by-plays, not the angry man whose politics keeps losing at the ballot box, who’s under an array of criminal investigations, and whose rambling speeches are so boring even some major news networks are finally choosing to cut away.

Texas Senate Votes to Defund Public Libraries That Host Drag Storytimes

Two bills passed by the Senate would further restrict drag performances in the state.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Drag Queen Ona Louise reads a book during a story time reading at the Cheer Up Charlies dive bar on March 11 in Austin, Texas.

The Texas Senate passed a double-whammy of bills attacking drag performances and the businesses that host them, the latest attempt by Republicans to criminalize drag.

Senate Bill 12, which passed Tuesday by a vote of 21-10, would criminalize drag performances that occur or could occur in front of a minor if they appeal to “prurient interest” or of a sexual nature. Performers could be charged with a misdemeanor, while any business that hosts the show would face a $10,000 fine. Two Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill, although one later switched his vote.

Senate Bill 1601 passed by a vote of 20-9, with the same two Democrats joining Republicans. The measure would defund public libraries that host drag storytimes (events where drag performers read to children). The bill does not mention “prurient interest” and so would apply to any event where “the person being dressed as the opposite gender is a primary component of the entertainment.” This means that a female librarian dressed as the wizard Gandalf, for example, could be banned.

Democrats slammed the bill for being overly broad, which could result in unintended consequences. Senator Roland Gutierrez pointed out that pop star Miley Cyrus has dressed “as a man” and danced sexually during her performance. Under the bill, her shows could be banned.

Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were killed in a school shooting last summer, pointed out that Republicans could protect children by passing stricter gun laws instead of drag bans.

His remark prompted cheers from people watching in the gallery, but the Republican Senate president warned Gutierrez that if he didn’t stick to the topic of the drag bills, he wouldn’t be recognized to speak again.

The bills now move to the House of Representatives. They are just the latest measures throughout the country attacking drag performers, who have increasingly become a target for right-wing bile, with attacks ranging from drag storytimes at public libraries to police investigations.

Tennessee was the first state to pass a law banning drag performances in public, although the measure was blocked by a federal judge at the eleventh hour. Florida’s Senate committees have approved a bill that would ban drag performances in public, including at Pride celebrations, and punish businesses that host such shows. And Montana’s Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday that would ban drag in public and label any business that hosts a drag show as a “sexually oriented business.”

Wisconsin Republicans Are Already Talking About Impeaching the Newly Elected Liberal Judge

Republicans have the majority needed to impeach Janet Protasiewicz, who has vowed to protect abortion rights.

Jeff Schear/Getty Images for WisDems

Wisconsin Republicans are already considering impeaching newly elected Democratic state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who won in a landslide victory.

Protasiewicz won Tuesday night with 55.5 percent of the vote, according to The New York Times, flipping the state’s high court to the left for the first time in 15 years. The election was the most expensive state judicial race in U.S. history, and the outcome will determine the future of abortion rights and electoral districts in Wisconsin.

Her win comes ahead of a challenge to Wisconsin’s abortion law. Abortion is currently banned in the state by a law from 1849, which was triggered after Roe v. Wade was overturned. A lawsuit challenging the legislation is due to be heard in court next month, and the case is expected to reach the state Supreme Court. Protasiewicz’s win means abortion rights are now likely to triumph.

And Republicans just aren’t having it.

Dan Knodl was elected to the state Senate on Tuesday, eking out a win with just 50.9 percent of the vote. His victory gives Republicans a supermajority in the chamber—and the power to impeach public officials.

Knodl has already floated the idea of impeaching Protasiewicz. Last week, he said he would “certainly consider” launching impeachment proceedings against her.

“I feel the Milwaukee County justice system is failing,” he told the local political talk show UpFront, adding that he thought Protasiewicz “has failed” in her then role as circuit court judge.

Knodl is no stranger to refusing to accept democratic outcomes: He was one of 15 Wisconsin legislators who urged then–Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

His idea to impeach Protasiewicz gained support from Republican state Senator Duey Stroebel, who called the plan unlikely but “certainly not impossible.”

“If she truly acts in terms of ignoring our laws and applying her own personal beliefs, then maybe that’s something people will talk about,” he said last week, referring to her stances on abortion and gerrymandering. “If the rulings are contrary to what our state laws and Constitution say, I think there could be an issue.”

Protasiewicz’s opponent, Dan Kelly—who gave a historically terrible concession speech—has also made his personal stances on issues such as abortion clear, arguing that pro–abortion rights groups want to “preserve sexual libertinism” and comparing the procedure to murder. Presumably, Republicans wanted him to win because of those views.

Brandon Johnson Wins Chicago Mayoral Election, Against All Odds

The former public school teacher and labor organizer won voters over with his new vision for Chicago.

Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Brandon Johnson has defeated Paul Vallas and won the race for Chicago’s mayoral election, projects the Associated Press.

Johnson leads Vallas 51.4–48.6 percent, with 91 percent reporting.

Johnson’s victory marks the success of a campaign with its back against the wall from the start. In December, over 70 percent of Chicago voters had no opinion of Johnson; meanwhile, the top four vote-getters were Congressman Chuy Garcia, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Vallas, and perennial candidate Willie Wilson.

But the Cook County Commissioner, labor organizer, and former social studies teacher steadily climbed the ranks. In February, Johnson edged out Lightfoot and Garcia, who both were seen as front-runners, to move on to a runoff against Vallas. After his victory, Johnson went on to gain endorsements from the likes of Jim Clyburn, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. And now he has defeated Vallas.

The mayor-elect comes into office with an extensive background in the public education system and in labor organizing. In 2011, Johnson joined organizing efforts with the Chicago Teachers Union, contributing to the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike that earned teachers a 17.6 percent pay rise over four years. The strike also reframed education reform efforts to speak more directly to student concerns: class sizes; funding for music, art, and physical education; paid teacher preparation time; and less standardized test emphasis.

While much of the race has been steeped in narratives and questions surrounding crime, Johnson has largely remained committed to a platform that aims to reimagine public safety.

“I’m grateful that there is so much hope that we can provide the city,” Johnson told TNR in January. “And to transform this city into a place where it’s safe for everyone … it’s very humbling to be in a moment where this could be a historical moment that people will look to for guidance as other cities look to do the same thing.”

Republicans Are Now Going After the Manhattan Judge’s Daughter in Attempt to Discredit the Indictment

This could incite political violence against the judge and his family.

Donald Trump Jr. sits at a table and points his finger angrily
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As twice-impeached Donald Trump became the first former president to ever be criminally indicted and arrested, his sons and Marjorie Taylor Greene were busy circulating stories from right-wing outlets drawing attention to the daughter of the New York judge presiding over Trump’s hush-money payment case.

This is sure to become a future line of attack for Republicans seeking to dismiss the entire case against Trump.

In seeking to discredit Judge Juan Merchan, the far-right Republicans argue there is conspiracy given that Merchan’s daughter previously worked for Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign.

They and others on the right argue that they’re simply sharing articles relevant to the trial. But given the heightened anger by some on the right as Trump confronts legal consequences, and given the precedent of conservative figures whipping up political violence, the fear is incitement against not only Merchan but his daughter as well—who has no involvement in the case at hand.

A Trump Tower Doorman Who Said Trump Had a Child Out of Wedlock Was Paid $30,000 in Hush Money

Well, this was unexpected.

Timothy A. Clary/Pool/Getty Images

Did Trump have a child out of wedlock?

Twice-impeached former President Donald Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records on Tuesday. Trump became the first former president ever to be indicted, for his role in disbursing hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. And what else was among those payments? A $30,000 payment to a former Trump Tower doorman for their silence about a potential Trump child out of wedlock.

“In one instance, American Media Inc. (‘AMI’), paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to have a story about a child TRUMP had out of wedlock,” the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced Tuesday, referring to the company that owned The National Enquirer at the time.

While the case’s focus has largely been on Trump directing his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels, another $30,000 appears to have been spent elsewhere.

“During the election, TRUMP and others employed a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects,” the district attorney’s office noted. “TRUMP then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws.”

Though the district attorney’s office did not specify, it seems the doorman might be Dino Sajudin, according to a 2018 report from The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. Sajudin allegedly told a National Enquirer reporter that Trump had possibly fathered a child out of wedlock with a former housekeeper. Sajudin apparently passed a lie detector test on the idea, prompting AMI to pay him for the exclusive rights to the story, all in order to kill it.

While the payment has been previously confirmed by other outlets and now affirmed in the district attorney’s statement of facts, there has not been confirmation on the affair, or whether a child came out of it, by any of the alleged involved parties. AMI also later concluded that the story was false, as the Manhattan district attorney’s office noted.

The housekeeper in question has denied the affair’s existence. “This is all fake,” she previously told the Associated Press.

So it’s not certain whether this child exists or with whom Trump may have allegedly had the affair, or even who the doorman was. But the new revelation adds yet another dimension to the financial entanglements Trump wound himself into in order to buy people’s silence.

This post has been updated.