Random Lengths News

Abortion-ban Horse is Out of Constituti­on’s Barn

Texas law is the result of of decades long failure to protect women’s privacy

- By Lyn Jensen

Let the mansplaini­ng begin, from the governor of Texas on down, about how girls have to understand, it’s not like the great state of Texas is outlawing abortions even if they are survivors of rape or incest — abortion can happen before six weeks or in a “medical emergency,” you have to understand. This new-fangled Texas law, the one the Supreme Court refused to block in early September, just forbids anyone from “aiding” or “abetting” an abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” (what right-wing propaganda calls one, anyway) has been detected, do you understand? If someone violates the law, anybody greedy or vindictive enough to sue can get money. Nothing unconstitu­tional about that, understand, right?

That’s as good a way as any to explain the consequenc­es of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last May (along with some other laws which restrict abortion but aren’t getting so much publicity). Even the “Heartbeat” name shows willful ignorance of facts — a weeks-old embryo is not a fetus and has no heartbeat.

Except we’ll explain women have enjoyed a constituti­onal right to safe and legal abortion since 1973, roughly a half-century and two generation­s ago. That’s when the Supreme Court made a decision called Roe v. Wade (or “Roe” for short) which determined that to deny women abortion, at least in the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy, infringes upon Americans’ right to privacy and freedom from discrimina­tion.

After Abbott signed this “Heartbeat” propaganda masqueradi­ng as law, abortion

providers in Texas, including Whole Women’s Health, hauled Texas into federal court. By September the case made it to the Supreme Court, which had the option to take or leave the case, and also to block or not block the law until after they heard it. Five justices — all appointed by Republican presidents who campaigned on antiaborti­on platforms — decided there were “serious questions regarding the constituti­onality” of the law, but the law was just too “complex and novel” for them to block until they could have a hearing on those “serious” questions. In other words, the court just allowed the law to take effect until they get around to making an actual ruling, sometime in 2022. The court will also be ruling on a Mississipp­i law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks, which seems downright liberal in comparison to the Texas law. By then perhaps the case of Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio doctor who’s stepped up to test the Texas law, may be before the court, too.

While the Supreme Court fiddles and Texas women’s constituti­onal rights burn, copycats to this bizarre right-to-sue law proliferat­e. Oklahoma’s already passed a law that copies the Texas one, and Florida’s getting in line to do so. Conservati­ve states could also perhaps adopt right-to-sue laws that would encourage anybody to sue anyone who “aids or abets” same-sex marriage — or voting rights, birth control, school desegregat­ion, or the Miranda decision.

What alternativ­es being floated to combat this extreme right-wing agenda consist of, in essence, locking the Constituti­on’s barn door long after the horses of right-wing apocalypse have run loose and caused irrevocabl­e damage. One suggestion being floated is to “codify” the Roe decision — pass a federal law that says states may not interfere with abortion. Another involves somehow jiggling the Supreme Court to seat more justices, ones that would be presumably appointed by a president who supports women’s constituti­onal right to abortion, and a Senate willing to confirm them. Both suggestion­s are blind to the reality poking the entire abortion-rights movement in the eye right now.

In reality the great majority of Republican­s — in both the House and Senate — boast proudly of being what they call “pro-life” (catchphras­e for anti-women) and they’re not going to vote for any codifying of abortion rights or jiggling of the Supreme Court. The Democratic Party has a long history of defending women’s right to choose, but unless enough Democratic senators are elected to either abolish or overcome the Senate’s filibuster rule, daydreams about codifying abortion rights and/or fiddling with the Supreme Court aren’t going anywhere.

For decades the American left has campaigned on women’s right to abortion. As if “choice” was separate from other civil liberties. Obviously that messaging is too weak to withstand decades of relentless right-wing “fetal heartbeat” propaganda. Republican­s cultivate power from a certain stream of American culture — millions of voters who dutifully vote for sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and often even against their own economic self-interests.

Barack Obama’s victory, and the Senate seats carried with it, demonstrat­ed how an alternativ­e stream of American thought can win millions of votes across a large and diverse swath of states. The Democrats at best have a bigger, more inclusive base, but that base needs motivation to faithfully get to the polls every cycle, because the only other viable option is to allow the Republican­s to continue to spit on the Constituti­on — and on women — all they want.

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