When the U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to strike down a Texas law that allowed citizens to sue other citizens who might help someone have an abortion, it put the law in the hands of those not democratically elected to enforce it.
That’s bad for democracy and threatens the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Abortion rights and women’s health organizations challenged the Texas law asking the U.S. Supreme Court to enjoin implementation of the law and its enforcement. But the Supreme Court did not stop the law from taking effect saying because the law was enforceable by citizens and not the government, it had no power to enjoin implementation of the law that banned abortions after six weeks.
The court made clear it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law.
Three liberal justices and conservative Chief Justice John Roberts objected to the majority’s ruling, with liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor saying: “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
So the law, which bans abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, went into effect last week.
The majority’s reasoning was thin on such a serious issue that will likely impact the 80 to 90% of women who have an abortion after the sixth week, when many don’t even know they’re pregnant.
The law allows any citizen to file a civil lawsuit against doctors who would perform an abortion or someone assisting her and be awarded a bounty-like fee of up to $10,000.
The law is as cruel as it is unconstitutional.
And now lawmakers in other conservative states like Florida and South Dakota may follow suit and create their own Texas bounty-for-abortion laws.
The Supreme Court’s paramount duty is to strike down laws that are contrary to the U.S. Constitution and contrary to previous rulings that interpret that Constitution. The court is this case has done neither. The Texas law goes against Roe v. Wade and its interpretations, which allow abortions up to 24 weeks.
But the court not only let an unconstitutional law stand. It gave states a blueprint of how to get around democracy’s rules, which call for enforcement of laws by the duly elected governments, not to the highest bidder in a bounty competition.