Opinion: Texas law invites a new Underground Railroad

Opinion: Texas law invites a new Underground Railroad

No matter how you feel about abortion or how strongly you feel it, you should be dismayed and distressed about Texas. Its new “Heartbeat Law” forbids any abortion after six weeks and explicitly removes government from its enforcement. The law sets up a Rube Goldberg system of enforcement through the state’s civil courts. It rewards so-called bounty hunters with a minimum $10,000 prize for any conviction, but nothing to defendants, even if they prevail. Its diabolical design reminded me of Bill Sizemore’s various anti-tax crusades that twisted Oregon’s systems in his favor. Describing some of his clever legislative contraptions will take up too much room here. Try searching his name and “double majority” or “property tax compression” to start. Attorney General Merrick Garland, no stranger to underhanded tricks, has vowed to defend women and clinics in Texas with federal agents. But his tools are extremely limited. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act protects women entering clinics, but that’s about it. Once they leave the clinic, Texas law takes over. It’s somewhat misleading to describe Senate Bill 8 as part of Texas law because law is defined as “the collection of rules imposed by authority.” But the authorities cynically removed themselves from this law’s imposition. Because its enforcement comes from random individuals through the civil courts, the federal courts cannot review its constitutionality. In place of any sort of government enforcement, Texas lawmakers have declared that vigilantism is a suitable substitute. This is what everyone should find disturbing. […]

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