After conservative justices in the Supreme Court upheld Texas Republicans’ draconian abortion ban this week, GOP lawmakers in other states are already considering similar infringements on reproductive rights, despite the ban’s unpopularity.
Republican officials in Arkansas, South Dakota and Florida are looking into how Texas’s “bounty hunter” method of enforcing the ban could be used to bar people from accessing the vital health care procedure in their states.
The Florida Senate president, Republican Wilton Simpson, told local media outlet WFLA that the state GOP is working on a bill already that would ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy — essentially a near-total ban like that of Texas.
One Republican lawmaker in Arkansas has already filed a 6-week abortion ban similar to Texas’s; and, in South Dakota, GOP Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday that she’s directing people in her administration to ensure that her state also has “the strongest” anti-choice laws possible.
As Axios writes, there are about a dozen other states that have tried to implement similar abortion laws recently but have had their efforts shot down by the courts. North Dakota, Iowa, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia recently tried passing restrictive laws that were shot down by courts. Other states like Ohio had laws that were temporarily blocked by courts.
Conservative justices in the Supreme Court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade across the country, which, if it occurs, would surely spark a wave of anti-abortion policies across states that haven’t already tried to pass such bills. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will issue a sweeping overturn of the decades-old abortion rights precedent, but the Texas decision blatantly guts it.
Critics say that the abortion ban — which effectively within Texas denies the reproductive freedoms that Roe v. Wade sought to protect, without expressly seeking to overturn the ruling — is cruel not only because it rescinds people’s rights, but also because of its “private right of action” enforcement mechanism. The law allows any private citizen to sue someone who aids a pregnant person in getting an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — or well before the vast majority of people even know that they’re pregnant.
If the defendant is found to have aided the abortion in any way, they will be ordered to pay court fees and $10,000 or more to the plaintiff. This will have a vast chilling effect on abortions in the state, as health care providers, abortion clinics and any family members or even Uber drivers who assist the pregnant person in obtaining an abortion could get sued, creating an atmosphere of terror around the procedure in the state.
Banning abortion is incredibly dangerous, and in countries that have adopted such bans, many people die from trying to obtain an abortion illegally. Texas’s law is incredibly strict, with no exceptions for rape and incest and very few exceptions for medical emergencies. If other states adopt similar policies, they could also severely endanger the life of pregnant people both during and after the pregnancy.
But Republicans may run into roadblocks when trying to implement such policies. The “bounty hunter” method of enforcing abortion and the abortion ban in general will likely end up being challenged in courts by pro-choice groups. On top of that, the GOP hasn’t even been publicizing what is an ostensible win for its anti-choice agenda — perhaps because abortion bans are unpopular, and near-total abortion bans even more so.
Democrats in the House have said they’re working on passing a bill to guarantee abortion access for all across the country. But the bill faces essentially zero odds of passing the Senate, so long as the filibuster and its defenders stay in place.
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