The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: abortion bans

Abortion Bans Don't Protect The Rights of 'The People'

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a Mississippi law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The law roundly defies the court's decisions affirming a right to abortion, but the state portrays the ban as the mildest of correctives.

All Mississippi wants the justices to do, insisted state solicitor general Scott Stewart, is defer to "the people." The law, he said, came about because "many, many people vocally really just wanted to have the matter returned to them so that they could decide it — decide it locally, deal with it the way they thought best, and at least have a fighting chance to have their view prevail."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to find the argument persuasive. It's his understanding, he said, that Mississippi believes "this Court should be scrupulously neutral on the question of abortion, neither pro-choice nor pro-life."

Letting the people decide, and aligning the court to neither promote nor prevent abortion, sounds sensible — even libertarian. What neither Stewart nor Kavanaugh acknowledged, though, is that, in a fundamental sense, these conditions have already been met.

Under the court's major abortion decisions, the people, as individuals, already have the full authority to make up their minds on the issue. Those who believe that every pregnancy should be carried to term are free to forgo abortions. Those who disagree are free to procure abortions. No woman is forced to abort her fetus, and no woman is forced to undergo childbirth.

By the same token, the Supreme Court has adopted a position of neutrality. Just as the Constitution does not let government forbid or require anyone to worship, the Constitution does not let the government forbid or require anyone to bear a child. Each pregnant woman is free to decide for herself.

But when Stewart and Kavanaugh use these terms, they have in mind a different meaning. If Roe and Casey were overturned, the people would be empowered not as individuals but as a collective. The court would be "neutral" only on the matter of whether states allow abortion or ban it.

Apply these meanings to a different constitutional right and the defects in their logic become clear. Champions of gun rights have always argued that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is an individual liberty — as the court agreed in 2008.

They believe the court must keep "the people" of any state from using the power of government to abridge this right. Americans who believe in free speech and religious liberty feel the same way about First Amendment guarantees.

Stewart insisted that abortion rights are different because the framers didn't explicitly protect them. The Roe and Casey decisions, he argued, "have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions."

In fact, they have a spacious place in our history and traditions. In his 2017 book Sex and the Constitution, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone notes that abortion was legal and widely performed in the United States at the time the Constitution was ratified — and wasn't outlawed for more than a century afterward.

It's true that the Constitution doesn't mention the right to abortion. But the Constitution protects many freedoms it doesn't mention — the freedom to marry, the freedom to refuse medical treatment, the freedom to have children and govern their upbringing, and more.

The Ninth Amendment stipulates that not all protected liberties are spelled out: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

If the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, does that mean a state could require some women to have abortions — say, to prevent the birth of children with serious congenital defects?

Of course not. Requiring abortion would be a gross violation of physical autonomy, which enjoys broad constitutional protection. But banning abortion has the same effect. And the Supreme Court appears poised to let it happen.

Pro-life advocates say abortion ends a human life, as if that settles everything. But the issue is not whether a fetus is alive or human. It's whether and when its preservation is sufficiently important to override a woman's fundamental right to control her own body.

Americans have long disagreed on that question. Our disagreement is a powerful argument for leaving the choice to each pregnant woman.

Right now, we let the people decide, one by one, under the protection of a neutral government. But probably not for long.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Republicans Push Texas-Style Abortion Bans Across Country

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Last week, the U. S. Supreme Court let stand a Texas law that is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. With that green light, other states are lining up to pass similar laws, and at this time, there isn't much way to stop them.

Anti-choice legislators in four states — Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and South Dakota — have already stated they will follow Texas's lead. They're planning on introducing bills that will mirror both the restrictive nature of Texas's law — a ban on abortion at six weeks — and the unique enforcement mechanism, which allows any citizen to sue someone who aids or abets an abortion. Several other states, including Nebraska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Ohio, will likely be considering similar laws.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis, the anti-abortion GOP governor, said his state would "look more significantly" at the Texas law and that he found it "interesting." In South Carolina, Larry Grooms, a GOP state senator, said the state would "move to pass legislation that would mirror what Texas did."

Jason Rapert, a GOP state senator in Arkansas who is mounting a lieutenant governor bid in that state for 2022, immediately posted a model bill from his organization, the National Organization of Christian Lawmakers. Rapert has stated he will file a Texas-style bill in his state immediately.

Rapert's Twitter feed makes clear that some legislators pushing bills that functionally outlaw abortion no longer feel tethered to whether those bills are good law under existing Supreme Court precedent. Instead, Rapert tweets about how the left has an "unrelenting demand for the innocent sacrifices of unborn children" and repeatedly refers to abortion as a "demonic force."

One day after the Texas law took effect, GOP Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota tweeted her office would "immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in SD."

Noem's tweet is emblematic of the approach being taken by many abortion-hostile states. There's no discussion of what the voters might want. There's no belief that the existing restrictive laws might be enough — even in a state like South Dakota with only one clinic that offers abortions only twice per month. Rather, there's a rush toward imitating the Texas law simply because it is the most restrictive that has yet succeeded.

The states that have announced their intentions to replicate the law so swiftly may be taken by the notion that since the Texas law offloads enforcement from the state to private citizens, it insulates the state from lawsuits. States likeSouth Carolina and Arkansas just saw courts block their highly restrictive abortion laws. However, if they took those laws and "piggybacked" the Texas enforcement scheme onto them, a court might have to let the law stand, given that the Supreme Court did so in Texas.

There exists a chance that the Texas law will be overturned once it is completely litigated, as what happened at the Supreme Court was only that the court refused to block the law from taking effect. Indeed, some anti-abortion groups have stated they will continue to focus on the Mississippi 15-week pre-viability ban that the Supreme Court is set to hear this term. However, all that really means is that anti-abortion activists have more than one opportunity to utterly undo Roe v. Wade.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Confronted Over Abortion Bans, Pence Says Democrats Push ‘Infanticide’

Mike Pence resorted to telling lies about abortion at a joint press conference in Canada Thursday after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the GOP for their recent actions to restrict women’s health care.

Before the meeting, Trudeau, who is pro-choice, said he would raise concerns about anti-choice legislation enacted by Republicans when meeting with Pence.

He explained how he approached the topic with Pence at the press conference:

I highlighted to the vice president that there was a significant amount of concern amongst Canadians on the new anti-choice laws being passed in American — a number of American states… Canadians and this government will always be a staunch defender of women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose.

Instead of defending the Republican position in a straightforward manner, Pence chose to use the international venue to promote abortion lies about Democrats.

“Our administration has taken steps to stand for the sanctity of life, at home and abroad,” Pence said. “What we found troubling is the Democratic Party in our country and leaders around the country supporting late-term abortion, even infanticide.”

Pence’s claim is untrue.

No Democrats have supported infanticide or passed legislation on the topic. What Democrats have done is pass measures that allow women and doctors in extremely rare occurrences to make medical decisions to save their lives.

Pence has based a significant amount of his political career pushing for restrictions on women’s rights. Pence and his fellow Republicans, including Trump, are now twisting facts and using the “infanticide” label to help bolster their side. It’s a tactic to demonize women, and it also has the side effect of encouraging anti-choice terrorism.

Meanwhile, Republicans are running away from unpopular anti-choice legislation passed in states like Alabama that would force rape and incest victims to give birth no matter what the woman wants.

Americans support the right to an abortion, and the Republican position is unpopular and has repeatedly been on the losing end of the political spectrum.

Faced with a respectful rebuke from Trudeau, Pence could do no better than to keep up his lies and deception on the world stage.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the annual March for Life rally in Washington. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Missouri Joins Alabama In Criminalizing Abortion Providers

Missouri is about to become the latest GOP-led state to try to make doctors criminals for providing women the basic health care service of safely ending an unwanted pregnancy.

Missouri’s Republican-held legislature passed a bill on Friday that bans abortion after eight weeks gestation, and subjects doctors who perform the procedure after that point to five to 15 years in prison.

The bill is likely to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson. If and when that happens, Missouri will become the sixth state just this year, and the eighth state overall, to pass a law criminalizing most abortions starting in the first trimester of pregnancy — often before women even know they are pregnant.

The other states passing extreme abortion bans this year have been Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi; similar laws passed in 2018 in Iowa and in 2013 in North Dakota. Alabama’s law bans abortion regardless of when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, and the others ban abortion at six weeks — which is just two weeks after a missed period.

Missouri is also the second state legislature this week that has voted to ban abortions even in the case of rape or incest, an especially draconian move that re-traumatizes victims.

Alabama’s near-total abortion ban that was signed this week also has no exceptions for rape or incest, and only makes exceptions for when a woman’s health is at “serious” risk — making it the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country. It also subjects doctors who perform the procedure to up to 99 years in prison.

All of these extreme bills either have been, or likely soon will be, blocked from going into effect by federal courts. That’s because they blatantly violate Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing women the right to an abortion.

But these GOP-controlled states are passing the bans anyway, in the hope that the legal challenges to their anti-woman laws will make their way to the Supreme Court — where they believe the two Trump-appointed conservative justices will help overturn Roe.

Republicans have painted their crusade as “pro-life.” However, abortion bans like those in Missouri and Alabama put women’s lives in danger.

This is also the same political party that’s seeking to take away health care protections from Americans, refusing to accept refugees who face violence in their home countries, and traumatizing children by jailing and separating them from their parents at the border.

The GOP is not a “pro-life” party. It’s an anti-woman one.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: An anti-abortion protester demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst