Texas GOP Shows Ugly Truth About Letting States Ban Abortion

UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch Hosts Governor Of Texas Greg Abbott

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Donald Trump hopes that taking a “states-rights” approach to abortion policy will take this issue off the table for his presidential race. That gambit should fail, for multiple reasons. First, nobody has any reason to trust a hands-off pledge from the man who promised and then secured a Supreme Court that would reverse Roe v. Wade. He’s had a more malign effect on abortion rights than any one person in America, with the arguable exception of Samuel Alito. Second, there are a lot of things short of a legislative ban that a President Trump could do to make life hell for women needing abortion care and those providing it.

But beyond all these ways in which bad national abortion policy might be made under an allegedly state-run legal regime, let’s not forget the injustices being performed regularly in Republican-controlled states themselves. Seventeen states currently ban abortion either totally or by six weeks of pregnancy. One of the 14 states with total bans is Texas, the second-largest state with a population of 30 million. This is a state totally controlled by one of the most radical Republican parties in the country, particularly on any issue related to reproductive rights. And without question, Texas Republicans want to make it hazardous for women and their health-care providers, families, and friends to even think about obtaining an abortion. The Texas GOP platform adopted this week makes that abundantly clear.

Let’s take a look at some of the language in this platform relating to abortion policy. It begins with the preamble, which includes a pledge to do “our solemn duty to protect innocent life.” We learn this means banning abortion in the next section of the platform, the party’s “Principles,” the second of which professes belief in the “sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, which should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death.” Note the reference point of “fertilization,” not just “conception,” to make it clear every fertilized ovum should be regarded as equal in legal status to the woman in whose body that ovum is produced. Texas prosecutors haven’t yet gone after IVF clinics or the use of IUDs or emergency contraception, but it looks like Republicans may be going there eventually.

At first, the omission of any federal “right-to-life” constitutional amendment in the long section on such amendments seems like a sign of moderation, until you realize Texas Republicans believe the U.S. Constitution already confers absolute fetal rights: “We urge lawmakers to enact legislation to abolish abortion by immediately securing the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilization, because abortion violates the United States Constitution by denying such persons the equal protection of the law” (Plank 35).

Perhaps the zaniest provision (Plank 95) of the Texas GOP platform mandates anti-abortion education in public schools, which are otherwise banned from any instruction touching on human sexuality (Plank 85). This mandate is incredibly prescriptive:

We support requiring Texas students to learn about the humanity of the preborn child, including life-affirming definitions of life and the study of life, the concept that life begins at fertilization, milestones of fetal development at two-week gestational intervals, use of fetal baby models, witnessing of a live ultrasound, viewing the following videos: Meet Baby Olivia, A Glimpse Inside, and Miracle of Life, and (for high school students) the contents of the Woman’s Right to Know booklet. In addition, students should receive instruction on the dignity of human life and the principles of equal protection that were instituted in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

There are random anti-abortion provisions scattered through the rest of the platform (e.g., Plank 163, which essentially calls for charging physicians performing elective abortions with homicide), until you reach the mother lode, Plank 191, entitled, rather redundantly, “Abolish Abortion”:

Since life begins at fertilization, we urge the Texas Legislature to abolish abortion through enacting legislation that would immediately secure the right to life and would nullify any and all federal statutes, regulations, orders, and court rulings that would deny these rights. We urge the Texas legislature to enact legislation to abolish abortion by immediately securing the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilization and to oppose legislation that discriminates against any preborn children and violates the United States Constitution by denying such persons the equal protection of the laws, and to adopt effective tools to ensure the enforcement of our laws to protect life when doctors or district attorneys fail to do so.

Keep in mind that Texas already has world-class anti-abortion laws that aim to discourage out-of-state travel to secure legal abortions and authorize private lawsuits against anyone aiding or abetting in abortions, legal or illegal. Apparently, Texas Republicans fear the possibility of loopholes in the forced-birth system.

Believe it or not, the explicit abortion provisions of the Texas Republican platform I’ve cited don’t make their overall extremism as clear as they really are, as abortion-rights journalist Jessica Valenti explains:

We need to talk about Plank 35 in the Texas GOP platform

The GOP’s platform demands “equal protection for the preborn,” and for Texas legislation to give fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses “equal protection of the law.”

Actually, this “equal protection” language is repeated multiple times in the document.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that “equal protection” is a call for abortion to be treated as homicide, and for abortion patients to be prosecuted as murders. (Remember South Carolina’s Prenatal Equal Protection Act, and Georgia’s Prenatal Equal Protection Act? Both were bills to make abortion punishable as a homicide.)

That’s because “equal protection” is the polite-sounding rallying cry of abortion ‘abolitionists’ — radical anti-abortion activists who say women aren’t victims in abortion, but killers. The once-fringe group has been gaining more power and influence since Roe was overturned, with some running for and winning state office.

Recall that Plank 191 adopts the “abolitionist” framework, intended, among other things, to identify radical anti-abortionists with those who fought to abolish slavery. Talk about an Orwellian inversion of language!

Trump and other Republicans can prattle all day long about respecting the autonomy of the states and their voters and legislators in setting abortion policy as though it’s strictly a matter of common-sense federalism. But you can’t talk away the fact that thanks to Trump and the U.S. Supreme Court, women in Texas (and other states) are treated like potential murderers and (if they try to flee to “free” states) runaway slaves if they seek to exert any bodily autonomy. That is no “compromise” position — especially because Republicans are clearly looking to eventually outlaw abortion from Maine to California.

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