In a major blow to reproductive health and the separation of state and church, an appeals court yesterday effectively ended the court battle to overturn the infamous Texas abortion-ban-and-bounty law.
On Tuesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld SB 8, dismissing the remaining challenge, brought by Whole Woman’s Health and other abortion providers. The law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, has shut down most abortion care in Texas, forcing women to travel thousands of miles to end unwanted pregnancies. Amy Hagstrom Miller, the principal plaintiff as CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, will be receiving FFRF’s “Forward Award” at its annual convention in October. Earlier this spring, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that state licensing officials are not responsible for enforcing the ban and therefore cannot be sued, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
These legal outcomes are exactly what was intended with the creation of this law, drafted by Texas Right to Life, which describes itself as an entity that “legally, peacefully and prayerfully protects the God-given Right to Life of innocent human beings from fertilization to natural death.” The organization crafted SB 8 to be difficult to challenge in the courts because it deputizes everyday people — not state officials — as enforcers of the law.
“The court that is really to blame is our U.S. Supreme Court, which from the get-go failed to protect constitutional rights, since SB 8 so clearly violates Roe v. Wade,” notes Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it in her dissent last fall, the impact of the Supreme Court’s inaction has been “catastrophic.” After failing to act, the high court in December then dismissed all but one of the challenges brought by abortion providers. That suit against state licensing officials was dismissed Tuesday by the appeals court.
Abortion bounty hunters can sue anyone suspected of aiding a pregnant person in obtaining an abortion, from Uber drivers to babysitters, and can successfully win up to $10,000. Not only has this made abortion care almost inaccessible in the Lone Star State, but other states are following suit. Just last month, Idaho passed a copycat bill that awards up to $20,000 to abortion bounty hunters.
When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 8 into law, he remarked, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” As there is no scientific or medical reason to ban abortions, this comment is reflective of religious ideology that imbues a conceptus, embryo or fetus with personhood. Legislation, including laws regarding health care, should be rooted in science — not religion.
The future of abortion in the United States appears grim. Secular activists more than ever must speak up for a separation between religious dogma and our laws.