To Control Women’s Bodies, Texas Empowers Bounty Hunters

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We interrupt our regular programming of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan to bring you this bulletin about the Taliban takeover in Texas.

It’s horrific that Texas, assisted by five Republican appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, has been unleashed to essentially overturn Roe v. Wade, to decree that abortions are illegal after only six weeks of pregnancy. When many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. With no exceptions for rape or incest.

But what’s arguably most chilling – and expect this particular infection to spread to other red states – is the provision that deputizes citizen vigilantes to enforce the ban and turn neighbor against neighbor.

Welcome to the thugocracy.

We’re already seeing it with the anti-mask mobs that are terrorizing school board members, compelling them to quit. We’re already seeing it on the streets with the “stolen election” goons who use their fists to buttress the big lie. And now, we have a “law” that codifies vigilante justice.

Am I exaggerating? Read on:

Any citizen anywhere is now hereby empowered to sue any “abettor” of any abortion that’s performed after six weeks of pregnancy. An “abettor” is defined as anyone who assists in any way – including a husband, boyfriend, mother, father, sister, clergy person, rape crisis counselor, friend who drives a woman to a clinic, friend who provides financial assistance, or certainly anyone at the clinic – doctor, nurse, desk receptionist. Any or all of those people can now be sued in any Texas court, and the bounty hunter will earn $10,000 per abortion.

It’s a veritable Taliban Lottery. Or the Salem Witch Hunt 2.0.

To help make it happen, the group Texas Right to Life is creating a “whistleblower” website where tipsters can inform on neighbors and other conspirators whom they suspect might be engaged in the criminal act of protecting female bodily autonomy.

You might be thinking, “Come on, this must be unconstitutional. The law of the land, as established by the Supreme Court in Roe and other cases, says that states can’t summarily ban abortions that are performed during the first 22-24 weeks of pregnancy.” But ah, you’re overlooking the Texas Republicans’ dark genius. They came up with some very clever wording. State officials are not responsible for enforcing this abortion ban (roughly 85 percent of Texas women who seek abortions are pregnant for more than six weeks), so they can’t be enjoined from enforcing it. Instead, the prospective bounty hunters are responsible for enforcement – but none of them have sued anyone yet. Therefore, the Texas ban can’t be challenged in court until an actual “abettor” is named, an “abettor” who’s willing to challenge it.

That logic might sound a tad twisted, something reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, but it was predictably good enough for Trump’s three high court appointees, plus Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito. They decided that thug justice should not be impeded, at least until we see how things work out.

Fred Wellman, a 22-year military vet and current advisor to The Lincoln Project, can perhaps be excused for thinking the worst. He tweeted, “If you don’t see the inherent fascism in a law that allows anyone to accuse another citizen of an act for a $10,000 reward, whether they did it or not, you are absolutely deluded. This is a law that will turn Texas into Iraq under Saddam. Citizens turning each other in. It’s sick.”

Now that the high court has allowed Roe to be overturned via the proverbial back door, how long will it take for thug power to be codified in other red states? This day of reckoning has been a long time coming – with a big assist, along the way, from feckless Democrats who’ve never prioritized the composition of the Supreme Court as a first-tier issue and who’ve long been out-maneuvered by Republicans in state legislative races virtually everywhere.

Now we’re getting the usual calls for Democrats and progressives (stuck, as always, in reactive mode) to “mobilize,” to “rise up” against the burgeoning oppressors. Unless or until they can turn the tide, we have to ask whether it’s already too late, whether in fact we’re already on the road to a patchwork red state/blue state country, where bounty hunters cash in on the pregnant women who lack the money and means to cross a border.

I shudder to think what it might be like for them to live in a place where “my body, my choice” pertains only to the refusal to vaccinate.

Copyright 2021 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]