Sometimes legislators pass laws that are incomprehensible. Sometimes, they move beyond incomprehensible to counterproductive. And sometimes they move beyond counterproductive to simple silliness. Then, there are those times when laws are passed that are downright cruel. The Texas legislature passing SB 8 is one of those occasions.

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik states that SB 8 effectively criminalizes all abortions performed in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy. This, of course, is before many women even know they are pregnant. In his comprehensive opinion piece, Hiltzik generously quotes from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman’s 113-page ruling, blocking the law. Judge Pitman ruled that from the moment SB 8 went into effect, “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.”

This is the central moral, ethical and judicial point of the Judge’s ruling and requires no further elaboration. However, two days later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Pitman’s order. Hence, the law is again in effect.

SB 8 makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or for fetal health conditions “incompatible with life after birth.” Further, it creates liability for anyone who “knowingly” aids or abets the performance of abortions that violate its terms. Further, as Hiltzik points out, the law neither defines “aiding or abetting,” nor does it require a concrete act; “all that is required is that the person intended to ‘aid and abet.”’

One significant (Hiltzik uses the term “pioneering”) feature of the law is that it places enforcement in the hands private individuals (can we call them abortion vigilantes?) and not government authorities. Any individual can be a plaintiff—whether or not they have been harmed—and bring suit. I know Texas has a reputation for idolizing the Wild West—but seriously? Anyone can bring suit against someone who has an abortion? How does this enhance safety across the state of Texas? How does this dignify women?  

And the law goes on to constrain defendants: they cannot raise the defense that they believe the law is unconstitutional or claim they relied on a court decision overturning the law if that decision is later overruled, even if it was in place when they acted.

Abortion is a soul-wrenching decision, but it is one that belongs squarely with the woman and her doctor. Legislators have no business imposing their views on such an agonizingly personal decision. And the current divisiveness in our body politic on issues as diverse as vaccine mandates and the response to the January 6 insurrection—virtually guarantees that this issue will become even more politicized than it already is and women’s bodies will again be exploited for political gain.

This slippery legal slope—moving from counterproductive to cruel—is currently on display in this Texas travesty. Yet again we must affirm that decisions about a woman’s body must remain between her and her doctor and out of bounds for the vague and often vindictive tendrils of political considerations.

4 thoughts on “Texas Travesty

  1. I am wondering why and how the Government can create a right to money for someone in arresting me for exercising a constitutional right that the Government clams it is not violating. — call it Texas Logic. I grew up there and went to Law School in Austin, and fled before the Texas insanity virus developed and infected a majority of its political leaders.

  2. Republican-led legislatures throughout the U.S. are targeting Constitutional rights in what may arguably be the last stand of white male privilege, patriarchal entitlement and the hoarding of wealth. The efforts are short-sighted, culturally regressive and, increasingly, run counter to the broader public will.

    The recent and disheartening trend among non-white male voting blocks to align with Reagan-era values, thereby abandoning their still-disenfranchised sisters, will not stand those same males in good stead over the long run.

    It is fair to say History will mark the late 20th and early 21st centuries as a watershed moment when the global corridors of power were revealed to be empty of anything but fealty to greed, after which the tide turned from the needs of the few to the needs of the many.

    The arc of the moral universe, at times distorted by acts of self deception, remains determined toward an inevitable consolidation of Justice.

    Take action. Raise your voice. Vote.

  3. A plunge into Medievalism.
    Can we encourage Texas to secede?
    Stolen from Mexico by land-hungry adventurers, angry that Mexico had outlawed slavery, it had
    a dubious start….Yet these men are worshipped as heroes of the Alamo! See “Red River” where John Wayne,
    a Confederate vet, shoots two agents of a local landowner and says “It’s my land now”.
    My second cousin and her family, activists in Austin area for years, last spring fled to Oregon.
    They were frustrated their years of civic involvement were to naught, “trumped” by the Bible Belters.
    They didn’t want their children to be raised any more in an increasingly racist, selfish, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist environment. The trends are pushed by the current leadership of the party formerly known as Republican.
    We should offer vax-refusing teachers and health care workers a one-way ticket to TX.
    No, we can’t live together is my reluctant conclusion and I am actively considering moving to a civilized country: Scotland.

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