The SCOTUS abortion ballet

“enlisting private citizens to do what the State could not”

abortionIt’s not that I’m happy that the Texas state legislature passed legislation severely restricting abortion. It’s that I’m unsurprised. I’ve come to expect dreadful things from the Texas legislature – see its recent restrictive voting bill.

These bills were signed by its terrible, awful, not very good governor, Greg Abbott, who’s always in fierce contention with Florida’s Ron DeSantis as my least favorite state chief executive.

The latest bad law in Texas bans abortion as early as six weeks. For women with regular menstruation cycles, they have only two weeks after missing a period to determine pregnancy. This is before most people even know they are pregnant.

Vigilantes

Worse, the state law allows anyone to sue a person or organization that provides abortion care or even helps someone obtain an abortion. As Truthout notes: “The drafters of SB 8 established a novel scheme to prevent lawsuits against state officials by privatizing enforcement and deputizing private persons to sue people who provide abortions.

“The bill gives any non-governmental person the right to sue abortion providers and those who ‘aid and abet’ them, financially or otherwise… Defendants must pay plaintiffs who win their lawsuits a $10,000 bounty plus attorneys’ fees. In other words, Texas is bribing its residents to sue people who help women get abortions.”

This variation on vigilante justice is not only constitutionally dubious but potentially dangerous to the potential defendants. The targets “could include anyone — doctors, nurses, friends, spouses, parents, domestic violence counselors, clergy members or Uber drivers.” Given the rage people have over vaccine requirements and mask mandates, this is scary stuff. As VoteVets noted: “In a state with fewer restrictions on guns than on reproductive health care, that kind of vigilante justice is pretty terrifying.”

Supreme Court punts

So I’m furious with the SCOTUS abortion ballet. In a one-paragraph, unsigned order, the court acknowledged that the providers had “raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law.” But that was not enough to stop the law from going into effect. The court explained it’s because of the way the law operates.

Specifically, the court observed, it wasn’t clear whether the state officials – a judge and court clerk – and the anti-abortion activist whom the abortion providers had named as defendants “can or will seek to enforce the Texas law” against the providers in a way that would allow the court to get involved in the dispute at this stage.”

That’s legal mumbo jumbo for BS. As Chief Justice John Roberts notes, SCOTUS has allowed the state to allow the implementation of a law that could be unconstitutional. “The Court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in dissent, the Texas “Legislature took the extraordinary step of enlisting private citizens to do what the State could not…The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligation to not only protect the rights of women but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Onerous

In a state that leads the country and much of the developed world in the rate of maternal mortality, women in Texas will now have to travel to another state to secure an abortion or resort to life-threatening back-alley coat-hanger abortions. There is no exception for rape or incest.

Biden said the Court’s [in]action in Woman’s Whole Health “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts.” He added, “Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.”

Future

Does this mean that Roe v. Wade has been overturned? Not necessarily. This was a wuss non-action by SCOTUS. The Court will address Roe in a  Mississippi case soon. The Court’s actions in Texas DOES make me nervous about Roe’s future.

It’d be nice if Congress would pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, but I’m not encouraged.