We are entering grim days, mockingly unconstitutional days, with the U.S. Supreme Court.
A 5-4 majority of the court on Wednesday, minutes before midnight, refused to block one of the most absurdly unconstitutional and unworkable laws to come out of any state legislature in decades. The Texas law not only bans almost all abortions, but does so in a way that puts a bounty on the head of anybody remotely involved in the procedure in any way — including an Uber driver who takes a woman to a clinic — and deputizes everybody else to be a posse of vigilantes.
If a majority of the Supreme Court is good with letting this radical law go into effect, for any amount of time, it’s fair to fear the court will not rule with judicial dispassion and sound legal reasoning on any abortion case soon to come before it.
Good luck with getting a fair hearing on the actual constitutionality of the Texas law, which the court has yet to rule on. Good luck, as well, with getting a fair hearing on the legal merits of a separate case this fall that could decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to an abortion, should be overruled.
Good luck, for that matter, with getting an objective judicial review on any matter the court’s conservative majority might find objectionable, from taxes to the separation of church and state. With its decision on Wednesday, the court’s majority revealed like as never before its agenda-driven bias.
In May, Texas not only passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation, banning all abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. But it also, in a remarkable feat of contortions, did so in a way that attempts to shield the state from challenges to the law.
The Texas law actually bars state officials from enforcing the law. You won’t see Texas Rangers closing down abortion clinics that continue to perform abortions after six weeks. Instead, the law grants private individuals the authority to sue anybody — except the actual patient herself — who “aids and abets” such an abortion, including doctors, counselors and drivers.
The bounty is $10,000. That’s how much the State of Texas will pay if you sue and win. Plus, the state will pick up your legal bills. You don’t even have to have some connection to the abortion. You can live in Peoria and sue a stranger in Houston.
But what if you are the person who is sued and you win? Texas will not pay your legal fees. And the state sure as heck won’t fork over $10,000.
The absurdity of the law — hey let’s just sic everybody on anybody who has anything to do with abortions and watch them go bankrupt from legal fees — was not lost on the Supreme Court’s minority, in this case including Chief Justice John Roberts.
“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” Roberts wrote about the Texas law. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”
This editorial page stands with the right of a woman to obtain a safe and legal abortion if that is her choice. And in Illinois, that right is not in imminent danger, thanks to a state law, the Reproductive Health Act, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago this month. The Illinois law confirms that abortion will remain legal here even if the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back Roe v. Wade.
President Joe Biden, for his part, vowed Thursday to launch a “whole of government” response to the Texas law, directing the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department “to see what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”
But as welcomed as the White House response may be, it’s unlikely to be of immediate help or solace to women in Texas, who now can be forced to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of the circumstances. Even if tests show that a fetus is terribly deformed. Even in cases of rape and incest.
“It is just blind cruelty,” said Ed Yohnka of the ACLU of Illinois.
What we’re seeing in Texas is nothing less than state-sanctioned mob rule.
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