OKing the Texas Vigilante Law Declares Open Season on Abortion; Get Ready for What Comes Next
Caveats aside, the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut abortion in Texas will go far beyond women’s health decisions.
We should stop and shudder about the consequences for state-sanctioned intimidation by bullies who don’t like your decisions – something that did not seem to concern our esteemed Supreme Court justices one bit.
That law SCOTUS just permitted to take effect in a hurry-up midnight decision lets private citizens – vigilantes by any other name – intimidate anyone aiding an abortion. They can file lawsuits to stop Uber drivers, doctors, clinics, funders, anyone but the patient herself, for helping to make that abortion come about.
The state is even baiting that behavior with cash payments.
Once again, we have a court majority acting on some perceived moral principle without looking at the effects of the decision.
Forget lawsuits. This is the same Texas that has loosened gun laws to allow open carrying in bars, schools and churches. This is the same Texas that has declared open season on voting rights and against immigrants, so far asking its own state troopers to arrest migrants for trespassing and then offering them for deportation.
This is a state that looks kindly on protests of same-sex marriage and unkindly on protests organized by Black Lives Matter. It is among those states that allow gun owners to shoot people to stand their defensive ground.
How far away are we from having “self-anointed enforcers,” as President Joe Biden called them, perhaps with guns, showing up with threats and private lawsuits or in-your-face enforcement of whatever they think voting rights should be, never mind what even the new laws are still allowing?
We’ve been seeing the fistfights of would-be enforcers at school board meetings over mask mandates; we’ve seen intimidation against gender-fluid lifestyles; we’ve noticed the rifles borne by white supremacist enforcers at Black rallies.
Why are the immigration arrests still being limited to state troopers; how about anyone with a gun?
In the Wild West days, it was not uncommon to take out one’s six-shooter to settle some perceived dispute – ideological, personal or just plain hubristic. Then we thought we civilized ourselves.
Now when there is a weekend of gun violence in our cities, people’s hair lights on fire to call for more policing.
But what the court just did was to arm private enforcement of viewpoints that happen to run counter to current federal law.
How, then, can SCOTUS allow the prosecution of the hundreds of arrested Jan. 6 insurrectionists, private citizens, for going the next, illegal step with their desire to stop a social wrong?
Following the Absurd
Where’s the line here? The mere threat of litigation has prompted abortion clinics in Texas to immediately limit services in compliance with the new state law.
There are other laws that have provisions that allow private citizens to enforce them, including various environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, as well as statutes that encourage whistleblowers to report fraud and abuse within the government.
But these laws do not give people the power to sue to prevent someone else exercising a right recognized by SCOTUS.
What about vaccine or mask mandates? Do I now have the right or responsibility to sue the school or restaurant or subway if someone is not complying with a mask rule? Can I threaten the hardware store selling a flashlight to someone who is resisting a hurricane evacuation order?
The state government of Texas, Republicans of the sort who block school districts and cities from mandating masks in the name of choice, is running a sly, under-handed and hypocritical game on U.S. law. It is handing its enforcement to the public and then throwing up its hands and insisting that the state has nothing to do with the issue.
In Texas, choice is for masks, not reproductive health. That is BS.
There was an Associated Press article this week about the Chinese government running its own version of cancel culture, cracking down on revolutionary culture and broadening a campaign to tighten control over business and society to enforce an official view of morality.
The Chinese Communist Party is reducing children’s access to online games, insisting that broadcasters end the hiring of effeminate men, shunning a celebrity culture and others who “violate public order” or have “lost morality.”
This is weird, and highly objectionable, but at least the Chinese take responsibility for these outrageous acts (though we all would be much better served if the Chinese were equally forthcoming about Covid origins.)
Absurdities Follow Us
Juxtapose Texas law essentially disenfranchising women from their ability to make an individual choice and the re-imposition of Taliban rules over women’s choices. It is openly hypocritical.
It always has been my view that abortion, like any hospital procedure, may need to be regulated for safety conditions, but not for the essential decision. That indeed should be a matter of choice, and it should be an informed one. Women considering it should seek medical, religious and family counsel.
Indeed, for all sorts of contributing reasons including health insurance coverage of contraceptives, abortions in the United States have been in decline for two decades.
But it was never a consideration – any more than dealing with cancer or a broken leg – that needs the unwanted intervention of some would-be private detective watching the Ubers dropping patients off at a Planned Parenthood clinic with a tort lawyer on speed-dial.
This is raw politics in pursuit of a singular view of morality, one that feels that conception is the start of life, but that government’s responsibility to mothers and children ends at birth, not with the lifelong support of food, health and education required by that child.
We’ve learned the hard way that even trained police officers must adjust their attitudes and outlooks to achieve effective community policing. Even the most highly trained and focused military professionals can make mistakes in targeting. Bad assumptions about individual decision-making by people we don’t know can end in tragic circumstances.
Vigilantism solves nothing. If it did, I’d make a citizen’s arrest of the Texas Republican governor and attorney general for crimes against humanity.