The Supreme Court didn’t just silently overturn Roe v. Wade by allowing a Texas law banning abortion at six weeks to go into effect. The Supreme Court, with its three Trump justices—two of them appointed through precedent-shattering Republican maneuvering—allowed Texas to put a bounty on the heads of anyone involved in any way in an abortion performed after six weeks gestation. (And never forget that six weeks is six weeks after the first day of a woman’s last period—meaning many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant at that time.)
In a must-read Twitter thread, legal analyst Jay Willis spells out the ways the new Texas law enables anti-choice vigilantes. That starts with the fact that anyone, whether or not they have ever met the woman obtaining medical care, can sue anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion. If the vigilante wins in court, they get $10,000 and their attorney’s fees. Someone who’s wrongly accused and proves it in court gets … to pay their own attorney’s fees. But it gets worse.
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“SB8 also allows lawsuits against people who INTEND to perform abortion or ‘aid or abet’ abortion,” Willis writes. “This is an open invitation to anti-choice activists to file lawsuits against everyone they don’t like and try to drown them in frivolous litigation.” And since the anti-abortion right has been funding networks of lawyers for years, they’re equipped for a lot of frivolous litigation. On top of all of the abusive ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands seeking to use the law to continue victimizing and controlling women who have left them.
Not only that, Willis explains, ”People can bring suits up to FOUR YEARS later. And if a court decision briefly protects the right to abortion and then gets overruled, defendants can’t rely on that, EVEN IF the decision was good law at the time. Perpetual threat of devastating liability.” That’s not the only failsafe Republicans built into the law to make any victory over it fragile and temporary, either: “the law specifies that any court ruling that any part of SB8 is unconstitutional is temporary and can be overruled as soon as a friendlier court comes along. Utterly deranged, but also, what the conservative legal movement has been working for for decades.”
Banning abortion at six weeks is an extreme attack on women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies. But it wasn’t enough for Texas Republicans. They went ahead and hedged it around with financial penalties even for the falsely accused, and attached to it a license for personal cruelty.
This law is just one of a series of laws Texas Republicans have just passed to turn the state into a dystopian hellscape in which violence, ignorance, and vigilantes rule:
That Texas Republicans would do all this is horrifying but not surprising. The far bigger problem is that the Supreme Court let them.
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