September 9, 2021

Unacceptable Texas Abortion Ban Calls for Court Reform

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

I am outraged. I don’t use that term lightly or often. In politics, there are always contentious issues and ups and downs. This is different. What the Supreme Court did last week in allowing Texas’ abortion ban to take effect is unacceptable. It’s ruthless. And it’s sent this country into a constitutional crisis.

My heart goes out to the people in Texas for whom last week’s decision could be life changing. For many people in Texas, they now live in a reality that most of us hoped would never again come to pass in this country, when the government forces people to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. Worse, the state of Texas is incentivizing private bounty hunting to enforce this inhumane law. This is horrifying and blatantly unconstitutional. And yet, a majority of justices on our highest court ok’d this barbaric regime.

As many have noted, people in Texas with financial means will retain access to abortion services by being able to travel across state lines to access medical care. This abortion ban will disproportionately impact and harm already marginalized people, specifically people of color. In this regard, it is just the latest example of how our laws and legal systems entrench white supremacy.

The truth that anti-abortion advocates choose to ignore is that banning lawful abortions does not stop abortions. Instead, laws like this too often force pregnant people to pursue unsafe and unconventional abortions. This was the reality for far too many people pre-1973. It sickens me that this reality has returned in Texas.

The right to abortion services has been a core constitutional right for fifty years. Five Supreme Court justices, two of whom occupy stolen seats, brushed aside those fifty years without even a substantive explanation. This fall, those same justices will have the opportunity to reverse Roe for the country when the Court hears Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The Supreme Court’s highest and most sacred obligation is to uphold constitutional rights and principles. The Court disregarded this mission in favor of political ideology last week. For many months now, we’ve been talking about the theft of the Supreme Court and the impact of such theft on the legitimacy of our Court. We cannot be certain, but I have a pretty good idea how the Court would have handled the Texas law if Merrick Garland had been confirmed and if President Biden had been allowed to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. Instead, we find ourselves subjected to the political whims of this extreme conservative supermajority.

The Right spent forty years capturing our courts and laying the foundation to overturn Roe v. Wade. Today’s reality is a reflection of how successful the Right was in packing our courts with right-wing idealogues, particularly over the last four years. This Court is a testament to the lengths that the Right will go to control our judiciary, stealing seats and confirming political extremists to the Court.

If you’re like me, you are waking up every day asking yourself, “what more can I do?” The most important answer to that question is that you do something! As Kitty Kolbert and Julie F. Frey say on this weeks’ Broken Law podcast episode, “it’s time to get up off the couch.” Never has there been a more pressing example of the need for the progressive legal community to rally together. If you have not caught it already, I encourage you to listen to this week’s podcast episode. ACS’s Lindsay Langholz interviews Julie and Kitty about their new book, “Controlling Women,” and they discuss how we can save reproductive rights in this country. In sum, we save reproductive freedom through collective action at the state and federal level, through grassroots mobilization and elections. Also check out Lindsay’s recent blog post on the Texas decision: Protecting Abortion Means Reforming the Supreme Court.

This is why ACS is identifying and recruiting diverse candidates for the bench and working with the White House to fill federal vacancies. It’s why we have and will continue to call for Supreme Court reform. When our highest Court no longer fulfills its most sacred duty, to protect constitutional rights, reform is needed.

This will not be easy. But the alternative, to accept this new reality where Roe is a chapter in our history books, is unacceptable. ACS and our network have never been more important than they are right now. I am so grateful to be working alongside you to protect reproductive freedom and to restore the legitimacy to our judiciary.