Texas Is Just the Start: Other Republican States Are Plotting Attacks on Abortion Rights
Republican lawmakers in Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, and other states have expressed interest in turning private citizens into deputized vigilantes to halt women’s reproductive freedoms.
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Republican lawmakers and governors in several states are planning or considering forced-birth legislation mirroring Senate Bill 8 in Texas, which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to go into effect this week — stunning and angering abortion providers and rights advocates across the country.
In a number of states where extreme anti-choice bills have been blocked by courts in recent years, far-right legislators are seeing the court’s decision as tacit approval of future laws that, like S.B. 8, would authorize private citizens to sue anyone who aids someone in obtaining abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy, enabling plaintiffs to win at least $10,000 in court and getting around Roe vs. Wade by keeping the state government itself from enforcing the bans.
“This is not a ‘What happens in Texas stays in Texas’ situation,” Kristin Ford, acting vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told HuffPost on Wednesday. “There’s also the very real threat that this has a domino effect in other states that are hellbent on ending legal abortion.” Florida State Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Republican president of the chamber, said Thursday that the Supreme Court’s refusal to block S.B. 8 was “encouraging.” “I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida,” Simpson said, while GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Texas Republicans’ approach to banning abortion care was “interesting” and something he would look at “more significantly.” With the Supreme Court effectively rendering Roe vs. Wade terminated in Texas for most people seeking an abortion while lower courts consider the law, the pro-choice research group Guttmacher Institute said S.B. 8 was “the tip of the iceberg.”
Abortion providers in states including Tennessee and Mississippi expressed fear on Thursday that their Republican governors would push for similar laws; in both states, forced-birth legislation has been blocked by courts in recent years, and the Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban — a decision which could overturn the precedent set by Roe. Jennifer Pepper, executive director of the women’s healthcare center Choices in Memphis, told the Washington Post she was “quite terrified” that Gov. Bill Lee and state GOP legislators will try to model a new bill on S.B. 8. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel told the Associated Press that he would “absolutely” be filing legislation modeled on the Texas law.
“It’s not a matter of whether that could be the end of Roe; it would be the end of Roe,” Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, told the Post. “What’s going on in Texas and Mississippi is that they are showing their hands. It’s a clear tell as to where the end game is.”
The AP reported that legislators in Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, and South Dakota are considering new laws deputizing private citizens to enforce abortion bans, and reproductive rights groups told Politico that they expect similar bills to be proposed in Arizona, South Carolina, and Ohio.
The laws could have the effect of intimidating providers out of offering abortion care and patients out of seeking care, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It creates a situation in which, even if the defendants were to win every single case, the burden of having to defend themselves, of getting attorneys, of having to go to around to rural courts across Texas’ 258 counties — that alone threatens to stop the provision of abortion across the state,” Marc Hearron, senior counsel with the organization, told Politico.
“The sooner anti-choice lawmakers act on this signal, the harder it will be for providers to survive the litigation wars to come,” tweeted journalist Jay Willis.
This story was first published at Common Dreams.
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Julia Conley is a Maine-based staff writer for Common Dreams.