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Former Washington Journalist
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Like so many commentators and politicians, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has angrily denounced the new Texas abortion ban which went into effect Wednesday.
The ban, which the US Supreme Court allowed to go into effect by denying a challenge to the law, outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Many women who seek abortions are already more than six weeks pregnant by the time that they become aware of the need.
From President Biden on down, critics have been condemning the Texas law — known as SB8 — for essentially taking the teeth out of Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion services nationwide for the first time.
“The Supreme Court’s cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health is staggering. That this radically partisan Court chose to do so without a full briefing, oral arguments or providing a full, signed opinion is shameful,” Pelosi said in a statement. “SB8 delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities. Every woman, everywhere has the constitutional right to basic health care. SB8 is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.”
In her case, Pelosi’s protestations promise the lifeline of federal legislation to reverse the new state law, which is unique in that it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion — including those who give a woman a ride to a clinic or provide financial assistance to obtain an abortion. Private citizens who bring suits don’t need to show any connection to those they are suing.
Pelosi promised that the House will bring up Rep Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act in response.
The Women’s Health Protection Act, which has also been introduced in the Senate, would prohibit state laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services, according to the bill’s proponents.
Pelosi’s pledge to pass federal legislation might be entirely well-meaning, but it’s also a completely empty promise.
It’s not that she won’t be able to get the Women’s Health Protection Act approved in the House — she most likely can.
However, the truth is that it’s certainly dead-on-arrival over in the Senate.
Certainly, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will bring it up for a vote. At which point, it will be unquestionably filibustered by Senate Republicans. And there’s not going to be the necessary 10 Republican senators willing to cross over to break that filibuster on an abortion bill.
So the hard truth is that — at least in the short term — don’t believe anyone promising a legislative fix for state-level abortion restrictions.
It’s much more likely that lawyer, author and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is correct in surmising that the fight for abortion rights will now be in the states.
“You know, the only question to me is whether they give Roe a decent burial and overturn it or they create some are fiction where they uphold the Texas law, which they are clearly committed to doing, but somehow say that roe is still good law. I don’t see how that’s possible,” Toobin said. “I mean, a six-week law is a ban on abortion rights. You know, lawyers are lawyers. They can make up distinctions where none exist.
“But I think the die is cast here and we are now heading to a moment where abortion rights are going to be fought out state by state. And Texas has been won by the anti-abortion forces,” he added.
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