The question today is what horror is next after the end of abortion rights for Arkansas women.
The dissenting three-member Supreme Court minority rightly scoffed at Samuel Alito’s assurance that the decision Friday was only about abortion. The same reasoning underpins, as Clarence Thomas pointedly noted, past decisions that legalized same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and birth control.
“No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work,” wrote dissenters.
Be assured the landmark decisions noted by Thomas, incidentally one of two sexual predators on the court, are in peril. Legislators in various states are already at work. It shouldn’t be long before Arkansas legislators join the anti-woman cavalcade. Precedent and sworn testimony from Supreme Court nominees and candid conversations with U.S. senators by those seeking confirmation have been conclusively proven to be meaningless garbage. The majority now consists of activist ideologues intent on imposing their religion and political beliefs over those of the American majority.
Some specifics to look for when the cruel Arkansas legislature — and its equally cruel governor and attorney general — get a crack at reinforcing the criminalizing of women’s medical rights.
Charlie Savage, writing for the New York Times about the grim future, noted these specific questions raised by the court dissenters:
Under Justice Alito’s opinion, so long as a state legislature has a “rational basis” for imposing a limit or ban on the procedure, the courts will not intervene.
But in a blistering but impotent joint dissent, the court’s three remaining Democratic appointees — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said the ruling would instead force the Supreme Court to wade further into hotly contested moral and philosophical issues, listing a dozen examples of new questions.
Those included whether and when a state must allow exceptions for a woman’s life and health, what the ruling would mean for in vitro fertilization and miscarriage management, whether a state could bar advertising for out-of-state abortions or helping women get to out-of-state clinics, and whether it could bar women from traveling out of state or receiving abortion medication mailed by out-of-state pharmacies.
“The majority does not save judges from unwieldy tests or extricate them from the sphere of controversy,” they wrote. “To the contrary, it discards a known, workable and predictable standard in favor of something novel and probably far more complicated.”
Expect all these theoretical problems to become real in Arkansas.
The Arkansas law now in effect provides these only exceptions:
(i) Save the life or preserve the health of the unborn child; (ii) Remove a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion; or (iii) Remove an ectopic pregnancy.
This is cold and mostly non-existent comfort for women with difficult pregnancies. What does “save the life” mean, exactly? What doctor will be willing to make that judgment call against potential imprisonment? Note that the measure puts the health of a fetus (including a microscopic fertilized egg) ahead of the health of a woman. No protection is provided to preserve her health. Remove a dead child caused by spontaneous abortion? Again, what doctor will risk that call against the likelihood of the religious extremists reviewing every miscarriage for potential criminal violations. Remove an ectopic pregnancy? See this:
Though abortion restriction bills contain carve-outs for lifesaving care to the mother — which technically includes ectopic pregnancies — the vague language regarding what is and isn’t legal could confuse healthcare professionals and cause them to delay care out of fear of being prosecuted, according to experts.
Any delay in treatment for an ectopic pregnancy can be dangerous.
And what about Plan B, the so-called morning after pill, or IUDs, both of which may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus? The Arkansas law nominally seems to protect such means of contraception by saying the law does NOT:
Prohibit the sale, use, prescription, or administration of a contraceptive measure, drug, or chemical if the contraceptive measure, drug or chemical is administered before the time when a pregnancy could be determined through conventional medical testing and if the contraceptive measure, drug, or chemical is sold, used, prescribed, or administered in accordance with manufacturer instructions.
But the law also says that an abortion is prohibited if a termination will “with reasonable likelihood cause the death of the unborn child.” And what is an unborn child?
“Unborn child” means an individual organism of the species Homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.
Anti-abortion religionists are already moving against Plan B and IUDs and birth control in general precisely to protect fertilized eggs (which they delight in calling babies, children and bodies, among other misleading terms). As we know from long experience, science has little to do with decisions of the Arkansas legislature.
Of all the disturbing things said by Arkansas politicians yesterday, I still think the worst was the dismissal by Leslie Rutledge, a woman, of questions about problem pregnancies and the likelihood that women might have to carry unviable fetuses to term at risk to their own health. She wanted to dodge the questions, but finally said, almost angrily I thought, that the law is the law. “Life of the mother” — whatever that may prove to mean — is the only exception.
The life of a mother forced to complete a dangerous pregnancy or to deliver a children soon to die is of no concern to Rutledge, the governor or the 76 representatives and 27 senators who endorsed this legislation. They also have no concern for minors impregnated by their fathers, other rape victims or women who learn of potential health damage from a pregnancy.
This is “pro-life”? Expect more of this cruelty in the months ahead and the certainty that deaths will follow.
Some words from the Supreme Court dissent, meaningless though they are as a legal matter:
Enforcement of all these draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences. But some States will not stop there. Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, a state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion. And as Texas has recently shown, a State can turn neighbor against neighbor, enlisting fellow citizens in the effort to root out anyone who tries to get an abortion, or to assist another in doing so.
The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding. Today’s decision, the majority says, permits “each State” to address abortion as it pleases. That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision. In any event, interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing. After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State. Some may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services. Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, “the views of [an individual State’s] citizens” will not matter. Ante, at 1. The challenge for a woman will be to finance a dissenting trip not to “New York [or] California” but to Toronto.
Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.