Belgium, 2021-09-15 06:00:57 , SAP anti-capitalists
Bounty hunters are back, facilitated by the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote that dissident Judge Sonia Sotomayor calls "mind-boggling," the majority of the Court declared that they had no choice but to pass an unconstitutional Texan law to answer a "complex and new question of a procedural nature."
What is the innovation? Simply that the law gives every private individual the power to file a lawsuit against anyone who would help a woman who wants to have an abortion after the sixth week of her pregnancy. Texas Right to Life has already set up tip lines to activate those interested in prosecuting such accomplices, whether it's the woman's family, staff at an abortion clinic, or the taxi driver who took her to a clinic.
Since the Texan law, SB8, also grants every vigilante who proves the charge in court a reward of $10,000 plus legal fees, the law intimidates those who could help a woman who does not want to continue her pregnancy. Texan clinics have already announced that they have no choice but to comply with this deliberately unconstitutional law by ending their abortion practices.
The court's anti-abortion judges use the excuse that SB8, because it gives avenging vigilantes rather than government officials power, is an "unprecedented" approach that must be reviewed in the rulings of lower courts. As the law makes its way through the system, Texan clinics will be forced to close. Even if the Supreme Court eventually reverses the law, a lot of damage will already have been done.
For nearly fifty years, the right has tried to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade arrest of the U.S. Supreme Court. They have won partial victories by allowing laws that imposed humiliating rules on abortion procedures and demonized women, especially women who needed a late-term abortion. Over the years, anti-abortion fanatics have held picketlines at clinics, set up fake clinics to lure and subsequently intimidate women who wanted an abortion, lied about the safety of abortion, and included these falsehoods in propaganda that providers must spread before the medical procedure is performed.
Texan law imposes the abortion limit at six weeks and builds a network of bounty hunters. The law was drafted to circumvent constitutional objections, but has an immediate effect on millions of Texan women. Although Texans who want to have an abortion can travel across state borders, this increases the cost of the procedure, both in terms of time and money. Since African-American women are more likely to have abortions than white women, SB8 has a greater impact on more vulnerable women.
SB8 punishes anyone who performs or encourages an abortion. Medical abortion was allowed in Texas according to the FDA protocol that abortion may be used up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, an earlier state law that prohibited telemedicine for doctors to prescribe the abortion drugs already restricted access for people who do not live near an abortion provider. A new law, SB4, that explicitly restricts abortion with medication to 49 days after the onset of pregnancy has been sent to the governor's office. To circumvent this new restriction on abortion by drugs in Texas, pregnant people could access the drugs through telemedicine with providers in other states. In an effort to cut off this path, SB4 prohibits the delivery of abortion medications by mail in Texas. It is unclear how this can be enforced; but it does form another barrier to access.
SB8 not only affects women in Texas, but will also be adopted by right-wing lawmakers in other states. Florida Senate President Wilton Sampson has already announced that this bill will be on their agenda in 2021.
In practice, SB8 offers a right-wing model on how to deal with progressive laws by bypassing legal challenges until they become meaningless by vigilantes. In fact, the history of the US provides a model for how this can be done! The adoption of the 14th, 15th and 16th Amendments abolished slavery as a legal institution and guaranteed citizenship rights to those who had been dehumanized. But within 12 years, a relentless counterattack resulted in the "redemption" of the white elites, the destruction of the multiracial democracy that had been built and the enslaving of the rights of former slaves through murder and intimidation by the vigilante.
Can this happen now? Of course. We need to be aware of the danger that SB8 represents, not only for Texan women, but for everyone. And laws that allow vigilantes to limit the right to vote are already in the works.
The Supreme Court's decision is another nail in the coffin of this supposedly public institution, because it violates the needs and aspirations of women and those who support us. Why would nine individuals have so much power? It's absurd.
What can we do? Learn from past movements in U.S. history that forced officials into positions they preferred not to take. Our immediate demand is that Congress guarantees reproductive rights through emergency legislation and does not allow the Senate to block this by stretching extremely long. Second, do not allow federal courts to evade their obligation to declare SB8 unconstitutional under the absurd procedural pretext that it establishes vigilantes as law enforcement officers rather than government officials.
The current crisis offers an opportunity to put forward the right to a full programme of reproductive justice. This starts with sex education based on science and not on superstition, an accessible health care system and a healthy environment to raise children. Such a program obliges us to build a movement that draws on our strength, creativity and determination. It obliges us to form an alliance with other social justice movements that deal with the same intimidating enemies, from Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights to environmental justice.
This article originally appeared on Solidarity. Dutch translation: editor Grenzeloos.
Read this article and more from www.sap-rood.org