Many crack-brained ideas are riding the winds in this country, noxious seeds bound for the ears of sympathetic legislators.
And given the divided state of our nation at the moment, there is a decent chance even the most cringe-worthy could pass into law.
Below, I have highlighted a handful of these stinkers, in this instance dreamt up by abortion opponents, and given legs by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country.
Among the most odious of these ideas is something proponents call “long-arm jurisdiction,” which suggests not only going after in-state abortion providers with fines and prison, but also women who travel from one state to another to obtain legal abortions and anyone who provides those women with support or services, including transportation.
The National Right to Life Committee has posted a model law on its website that would extend penalties beyond illegal abortion to “aiding or abetting an illegal abortion,” and going after people who provide “instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication.”
Texas law now empowers any resident of that state to spy on anyone whom the resident suspects of plotting to obtain an abortion in a state where the procedure is legal to report them and collect a $10,000 bounty.
Not so long ago, any measures so baldy anti-democratic and anti-American would have had zero chance of becoming law.
But as we all know, the political landscape has recently shifted. In the ascendant now are the God’s- mouth-to-my-ear zealots, and people at all levels of state and federal government whom the zealots hold in thrall by sympathy or by the sheer muscle of their voting numbers.
More worrisome, they have the ear of the Supreme Court.
In such an environment, anything could happen.
Chelsey Youman, the Texas state director and national legislative adviser to the Human Coalition Action, an anti-abortion organization that aims to effect new laws nationwide, recently talked about the connection between vigilantes and abortion rights.
In place of the state regulating abortion providers, she said: “You and me as citizens of Texas or this country or wherever we can pass this bill, can instead sue the abortion provider… We have legislation ready to roll out for every single state you live in to protect life regardless of the Supreme Court, regardless of your circuit court.”
The supreme irony is that the very people who so consistently insist on states’ rights are suddenly avid to enforce their laws on other states that don’t share their opinion. Did I miss something? Didn’t they ask for each state to be able to make its own laws?
This should concern every thinking American.
It’s worth a moment of one’s time to consider the Pandora’s Box such proposed legislation would open.
Imagine two adjoining states, State A, where the purchase and consumption of marijuana is legal, and State B, where it isn’t. One day, a resident of State B crosses state lines to State A to buy pot and smokes it there. When he returns to his own state, someone catches a whiff of weed on him, reports it, and collects a reward for so doing.
Next day, police show up at his door to haul him off to jail.
“Yes, sir, you are right, marijuana is legal there and illegal here. But see, there’s new law that allows us to arrest you for traveling to another state and buying cannabis and smoking it there,” says the arresting officer. “Hands behind your back.”
A state patrol trooper in State B gets word that a roadside camera has clocked a resident of State B doing 50 mph on a road in State A,where the like-rated roadway in fact sets the limit at 50 mph not at State B’s 40 mph.
“I know, sir, it’s 50 miles per hour there, but it’s 40 here. License and registration, please.”
A possible future is taking shape here. And the question we all need to ask ourselves at this critical moment is, what sort of nation do we want ourselves and our children to live in?
As for me, I want nothing to do with the one now lighting up the eyes of zealots.
Robert Whale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.