Pennsylvania doesn’t need Texas abortion ban

York Dispatch editorial board
In this photo from May 29, 2021, protesters hold up signs at a protest outside the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images/TNS)

Reverberations from the Supreme Court’s incredible, indefensible decision to let Texas’s draconian new abortion law stand are being felt as far as Pennsylvania, where efforts are already underway to replicate the all-but-complete ban.

The decision also ensures the issue of reproductive rights will receive outsized prominence in next year’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections in the state.

But first things first.

More:Texas law banning most abortions takes effect; Supreme Court mum

The Texas law, which bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — before most women even know they’re pregnant — is clearly unconstitutional. Women in America have had the right to obtain abortions prior to fetal viability since the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision.

Unfortunately, that right is in name only in many parts of the country. State laws that mandate 24-hour waiting periods, one-sided “counseling,” and parental notification (and, in more than half the country, consent) for minors, along with stringent limits on facilities, physicians and insurance, make abortions all but unattainable in vast swaths of the country.

Add to that the fact that six states have but a single clinic performing abortions and the ability of many women — especially those without adequate insurance or the means to travel — to exercise this right is non-existent. All of which makes a mockery of the 1992 Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that states could not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

That mockery is now being magnified in Texas, courtesy of the Republican-led legislature and GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who took time off from their campaign of voter disenfranchisement to enforce pregnancies on the women of their state, even — shockingly — those who are victims of rape or incest. (There are no exceptions under the new law.)

To get around the constitutional guarantee enshrined in Roe and affirmed in Casey, the Texas law deputizes private citizens to sue — for $10,000 — anyone performing or even assisting in an abortion. (And the definition of assisting is absurdly broad; an Uber driver dropping someone off at a health facility could, theoretically, be sued).

If it seems odd that any anti-abortion buttinski suddenly has legal standing to sue a complete stranger over a private health matter, that’s because it is. Unprecedented, in fact.

That aspect of the new Texas law will likely wind up in court. (It better; and it better be struck down or we could be on the cusp or a frightening new era of vigilante lawmaking where copycat Republicans use the citizen-enforcement model to sidestep all manner of constitutional concerns.) In fact, it is confounding that the Supreme Court would let the Texas law stand without it being argued — not only before the high court but any court.

Taking advantage of this opening, lawmakers in Pennsylvania and other states are rushing to replicate this affront to women. In fact, state Sen. Doug Mastriano has already sponsored a bill that, like the Texas law, would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (about six weeks). He’s using the Supreme Court’s failure to halt the Texas law as a rallying point for the Pennsylvania measure.

No, thanks. Pennsylvania doesn’t need Texas’s horrific, hurtful anti-abortion measure any more than it needs Arizona’s nonsensical “audit” of the 2020 election.

Pennsylvania needs lawmakers who will honor and respect the women of this state by not promulgating laws that would require them to carry to term the offspring of their sexual assailants. Pennsylvania needs lawmakers who will not cede the duties of the state and the courts to payday-hungry bounty hunters. Pennsylvania needs lawmakers who will not echo the worst impulses of a party hellbent on limiting the rights of Americans.

The Department of Justice has brought legal action against Texas’s anti-abortion law. Good; it should be summarily struck down. As should the idea of even entertaining such a law in Pennsylvania.