Welcome back Chaise Lounge readers! I had a completely different article prepared for today, but it can wait. We are in an unprecedented situation here where the Supreme Court refuses to uphold our laws and is allowing vigilante justice to roam in Texas. I fear for what this means going forward. Will we be a nation of laws or only laws that certain people want to follow? This week’s post outlines the issues that Texas’s SB 8 presents. I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment or send me an email.
Last year, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ran for president of Belarus against Alexander Lukashenko after her husband was imprisoned for running for the same office. The election was full of corruption and she was declared defeated. In a new op-ed in the New York Times, she writes asking Western nations to intervene in Belarus. She says, “Belarus is on the front line of the struggle between autocracy and democracy.” She welcomes the current sanctions and asks that Belarus be denied access to the International Monetary Fund. She also wants Lukashenko to be brought before international courts to answer for his crimes. We will keep an eye on this story and see what happens if there is ever a next round of elections.
In an ironic twist of fate, the funds that were meant to rescue a Jewish man in Afghanistan who would not give his wife a divorce ended up being used to get many women, including some from the national women’s soccer team out of the country. The man, Zebulon Simantov, would not leave because he was afraid that he would be in trouble with Israeli law because he would not give his wife a get, or permission for a divorce. It turns out his recalcitrance was the key to helping many women but not his wife.
In a possible representation of the ways that the pandemic has made us all decide what we won’t put up with anymore, students at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln have spent multiple nights protesting an alleged sexual assault at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. The protesting students are pushing for the fraternity chapter’s closure. The fraternity chapter has been fraught with issues causing multiple suspensions over the past six years. Students have had enough. We will see how the university responds.
Ipsos commissioned a study of the connection between women’s representation in advertising and women’s loyalty to that brand. The study has three key findings:
1. When advertisements positively portray women, there is an increased likelihood to have a positive impact on long-term brand relationships as well as short-term behavior change.
2. The role and portrayal of women in advertising can influence attitudes towards the evaluation of an ad.
3. There are category-specific lessons to be learned about positive female portrayal in advertising. For example, in traditionally male categories like durable goods, financial services, and beverages, the advertising scored lower on the scale as many of those commercials only feature females as ancillary characters.
The trial of R&B star R. Kelly is underway where he faces charges of racketeering based on sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting anyone across state lines for prostitution. Throughout the week, women who visited his “Chocolate Factory” and men who worked there have given incriminating evidence of sexual abuse and control the singer held over the women. Kelly was acquitted in a 2008 case where he was charged with child pornography because the girl from the video would not testify.
We Cannot Let This Be The End of Roe
Vigilante justice has no place in medical care
Back in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected President, women across the country felt a chill go down their collective spines. We knew that the election of a misogynistic grifter would spell the end of abortion rights. At the time, we were told we were “histrionic” or “overwrought”, but we knew.
With the complicity of Mitch McConnell, Trump was handed three Supreme Court picks. And with his pledge to the Evangelicals, Trump followed through in appointing justices who he believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, they have followed through by failing to overturn the Texas state law that bans abortions after six weeks without so much as hearing an argument.
What does State Bill 8 do?
For those who have not followed the intricacies of the Texas law SB 8, let me give you a quick primer. The law outlaws all abortions after which a heartbeat can be heard. This is typically around six weeks into a pregnancy. Of course, the heart is not even formed at this point, rather what the law is calling a heartbeat is really just electrical signals coming from tissue that will eventually be a heart, but I digress. At six weeks, most women do not even know they are pregnant.
Because this law is unconstitutional, the Texas legislature created a workaround. The law allows anyone to sue a person who performs or aids and abets an abortion after six weeks. These citizens can collect $10,000 from the person they sue and collect lawyer’s and court fees, although they cannot sue the pregnant person. If they lose, they do not have to pay for the legal fees of the defendant. This would include an aunt who might give the woman money for an abortion, anyone who gives her information on where to get an abortion, or the Uber driver who takes her to the clinic. Texas has deputized anti-abortion groups and individuals to invade the personal health decisions of women. The intent is to make it impossible for women’s healthcare clinics to operate by filing lawsuits left and right.
Yesterday morning, when the law went into effect, I received this email from prolifewhistleblower.com:
There was a form for me to fill out to send an anonymous tip or to join the team. From this email alone, we can see that Texas Right to Life is well-funded and ready to bring its first case to court.
The law does make exceptions for cases of a medical emergency but not for pregnancies that are the result of rape and/or incest.
The Supreme Court’s Role
Abortion rights activists asked the Supreme Court to block the law from going into effect while a constitutional challenge is pending in the lower courts. The court did not act and the law went into effect on Wednesday morning.
Overnight, the Court issued a 5-4 opinion denying an injunction saying, “To prevail in an application for a stay or an injunction, an applicant must carry the burden of making a “strong showing” that it is “likely to succeed on the merits,” that it will be “irreparably injured absent a stay,” that the balance of the equities favors it, and that a stay is consistent with the public interest.” The court majority did not believe that they saw proof of that burden, at least at this point. I guess they are waiting for those who have been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term to sue. Or perhaps, those who are brought into court for frivolous lawsuits.
Justice Sotomayor, in her dissent, states it like it is. “Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance—of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.”
The court took the easy way out. Instead of having to rule on a case, they are allowing vigilantes to carry out a law that they know refutes the constitutional protections that Roe provides. Current law states that abortions are legal up until the point of fetal viability, about twenty-four weeks. With its six-week ban, Texas upends Roe.
Vigilantes should worry us all
SB 8 is the first law of its kind, and if it is allowed to stand, we should all be worried because abortion is not the only issue that the far right is addressing. In Texas, they also just passed a law allowing the permitless carry of guns. And SB 1, the contentious voting rights bill that is likely to pass, contains a provision for “free movement” of partisan poll watchers at the polls. This means that armed partisans can freely intimidate voters. Are we returning to the elections of the Jim Crow era?
As historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote in this morning’s newsletter, “Taken together with the vigilantism running wild in school board meetings and attacks on election officials, the Texas legislation is a top red flag in the red flag factory. The Republican Party is empowering vigilantes to enforce their beliefs against their neighbors.”
The direct effect on women
The far-right has been chipping away at access to birth control that women have at their disposal. From abortion rights to birth control, their political aim is to prevent women from having control over their reproductive systems at all.
Women who have miscarriages can now be accused of having had an abortion. How do you prove that you had a miscarriage?
Women who have an incomplete miscarriage may have difficulty finding a doctor to remove the fetal remains. This can lead to sepsis and death.
Women who are told later in their pregnancy that the fetus will not survive are forced to carry a dead baby for weeks or months at a time.
Women who have an abusive partner can be forced to have an abortion by their partner and then accused by that same partner to get the $10,000.
Women who are raped and try to obtain an abortion can be sued by their rapists.
Women who have been raped will be unlikely to confide in counselors at their rape crisis centers due to worrying about getting the rape crisis center sued.
People can game this system to try to settle petty grievances with frivolous lawsuits. They have nothing to lose and $10,000 to gain.
Men are affected by this legislation as well. If your lover or wife becomes pregnant and neither one of you wants to keep the pregnancy, you will be responsible for child support.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
We know that it is only a matter of time before other Republican legislators take the Texas blueprint and make it their own. With Roe effectively dead, there are eleven states with triggers to immediately ban abortion and eleven others with laws that would effectively ban abortion.
By allowing the Texas law to stand, the Supreme Court creates a legal netherworld for abortion laws. Is Roe the law of the land or not? The next few weeks will determine the response of those who support abortion rights and/or oppose vigilante justice.