Usually, you end a column with the “bottom line.” But this column demands the opposite. Because the “bottom line” on the new Texas abortion law is simply this: If it’s too extreme for Chief Justice John Roberts, it’s too extreme for the vast majority of Americans.
In case you missed it: Texas now prohibits any abortion after six weeks. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Not only that. The Texas law now puts citizens, not public officials, in charge of enforcing the law. Suspicious private citizens are authorized to sue anyone they suspect of “aiding or abetting” an abortion after six weeks: not only any health professional, but any spouse, mother, grandmother, aunt, brother, sister, friend or neighbor. Citizens who prevail in their lawsuits are entitled to $10,000 per abortion, plus legal costs.
No wonder Roberts was jolted into joining the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices in opposing the law. Many, if not most, women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. Forcing a woman raped by a total stranger, or a 13-year old raped by her uncle, to give birth to an unwanted child is unbelievably cruel. Not even Ronald Reagan went that far. And unleashing a horde of anti-abortion citizen vigilantes to file lawsuits left and right sets a horrible legal precedent. Will citizens in blue states now be authorized to sue anybody they suspect of owning a gun?
But here’s the key: the Texas abortion law is not only bad public policy, it’s political suicide. What were Republicans thinking? Looking ahead to the midterm elections of 2022, where they only need a handful of wins to regain control of the Senate and House, they have a lot going for them: a messy exit from Afghanistan, a still sluggish economy, distrust of masks and vaccines, the lingering belief by many that the 2020 election was stolen, and a new president who hasn’t exactly caught fire.
Instead, what have Republicans adopted as their No. 1 issue to run on in 2022? Abortion! And not just in Texas. Republican governors in at least seven red states, including Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota, have said they’re considering copycat laws. And the Trump Supreme Court is expected to gut Roe v. Wade.
Already, abortion’s emerged as the big issue in the California recall election and gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. And every Republican running for office in 2022, at every level, will be forced to defend the Texas law. Forced to explain why an Uber driver can be sued for driving a woman to the nearest health care clinic.
This is insane. What are Republicans thinking? Given that women are now America’s largest voting bloc and a majority of suburban women abandoned the GOP to vote for Joe BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE in 2020, do Republicans really want to make outlawing abortion their No. 1 issue? Especially when, according to the latest surveys by the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
It’s the classic case of the dog chasing the car, catching it, and not knowing what to do next. Since the 1970s, Republicans have talked about overturning Roe v. Wade. Now, starting at the state level, they’re actually doing it. And they’ll have to live with it.
By forcing Republicans to campaign as the anti-abortion party, Texas has given Democrats a huge gift. When they defy the odds by holding onto the House and Senate in 2022, it won’t be because Democrats are so smart. It’ll be because Republicans are so dumb.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”