I've got a question for anyone who favors the recently-enacted Texas law that allows private citizens to seek $10,000 in civil court from anyone who provides an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, aids someone in getting an abortion, or even intends to seek an abortion.
Why do you think this law is a good idea? Before you answer, "Because it bans almost all abortions in Texas," consider the implications of what you're saying.
There's no doubt that the law is unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal in all 50 states until a fetus can survive outside the womb. That's long after six weeks.
Thus the Texas law basically sets a bounty on people who engage in a constitutionally protected behavior.
Because private citizens are enforcing the law, not government officials, so far it hasn't been possible to challenge the law in court. Who is the subject of a lawsuit, given that anyone can potentially file a suit against an abortion provider or someone aiding, abetting, or intending an abortion?
Those who oppose abortion are pleased with the law. After all, that's been their goal ever since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. To ban abortion. The Texas law is the most extreme of any law restricting abortion.
Since an abortion provider is put out of business after a single infraction under the law, almost all abortion clinics in Texas aren't providing abortions any longer. So for now abortion essentially is prohibited in Texas, even though abortions are still constitutionally protected.
Is this the sort of country you want to live in, supporters of the Texas law? Are you OK with the approach used by the law being exported to other states? Do you think private citizens should be able to earn a lot of money by suing people for engaging in a constitutionally protected act?
An example that's been brought up frequently is a blue state like New York passing a law that forbids ownership of a certain type of gun, like a handgun.
To make it difficult to challenge the law in court, private citizens in New York are authorized to sue anyone they suspect of owning a handgun. If they win the suit, the handgun owner has to pay them $10,000 plus attorney fees. If they lose the suit, the handgun owner can't make them pay their attorney fees.
So everything favors the person bringing a lawsuit against a handgun owner. Sure, the Supreme Court has said that handgun ownership is protected under the constitution. But since it isn't government enforcing the New York law, but private citizens, it's very tough for anyone to challenge the handgun ban.
Are you fine with this happening, anti-abortion advocates? If you're fine with the Texas law, you must be. A Los Angeles Times opinion piece raises other possibilities.
This [Texas] strategy has provided a road map for other states, not just to undermine abortion rights, but to endanger other constitutional rights as well.
For instance, even though the Supreme Court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the constitutionally protected right to marry, a state following the Texas blueprint could outlaw same-sex marriage and then allow private citizens to sue anyone who performs a same-sex wedding for money damages.
A state could ban handguns (even though the Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects a right to possess and own them) and authorize citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who has a handgun. In fact, a state could adopt a law banning criticism of the governor and then allow any private person to sue the critic for money.
So beware of praising the Texas abortion law too highly, anti-abortion folks. You just might find that your own constitutional rights are at risk by your own state using the Texas approach to forbid constitutionally protected behavior.