Texas abortion law would re-create Wild West law enforcement
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether to allow a Justice Department suit to proceed against Texas' near ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The final outcome is pivotal not only to women's basic right to an abortion but also to sanctioning an unwelcome new era of citizen law enforcement.
The Texas law empowers private citizens, rather than the government, to enforce the ban. It allows private citizens to bring civil litigation against providers or anyone who helps a woman access an abortion after six weeks. The $10,000 bounty creates a Wild West approach to law enforcement that will only further widen the nation's political divide.
The Supreme Court must stop the Texas law in its tracks before state legislatures start writing similar laws on other hot-button political issues, including gun control, free speech and gay rights.
The law is already having a chilling effect. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte provides reproductive health and primary care services to more than 220,000 men, women and children every year at 35 health centers throughout the Bay Area, mid-California and northern Nevada. It is already experiencing an influx of patients who cannot access an abortion in Texas or neighboring states whose clinics are scrambling to keep pace with the demand.
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center based in New York and Washington that supports abortion rights, issued a report Thursday on the expected impact if the court weakens or overturns Roe vs. Wade. The report anticipates that 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion, including the Western states of Idaho, Utah and Arizona. The report said that California could expect a 3,000% increase, equal to 1.4 million women of reproductive age (15-49), who would likely drive to California for abortion care.
It presents a daunting challenge for California providers who, like other health care operations in the state, are already dealing with staff burnout due to the impact of COVID-19.
One other unintended consequence of the Texas law is the prospect of states that ban abortions creating a generation of clinicians without the skill set to deal with medical issues related to abortions.
Legal experts have also warned that the law could be used by lawmakers — both conservative and liberal — to try to circumvent Supreme Court rulings they don't like. The Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit organization fighting against gun control laws, has issued a court brief warning that states such as California and New York could use the law to adopt "equally aggressive gambits to not merely chill but to freeze the right to keep and bear arms."
Vigilante-style law enforcement is not the solution to America's challenges. And overturning Roe vs. Wade won't stop abortions from taking place. It will only make them more unsafe for millions of American women.
The Wild West model of law enforcement encouraged vigilantism at its worst. The court should stop the Texas law before it unleashes a new era of citizens taking the law into their own hands.
— From The Mercury News (TNS).