The Texas Heartbeat Act—the most restrictive abortion law in the country—is in full effect. Although the law commenced just a few months ago, the effects are widespread: women are seeking refuge in neighboring states, online pharmacies are overwhelmed with patient requests, and the future of Roe v. Wade is all but certain. The Supreme Court this month allowed challenges to the law, but they refused to strike it down.
SB 8 was designed to circumvent constitutional accountability by authorizing private citizens to sue physicians who perform abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat—at about six weeks—for at least $10,000. Vigilante behavior is not just lawful, it is endorsed by the Texas government.
Empowering citizens to take law enforcement into their own hands is undemocratic; it runs counter to our founding principles, which entrusts law enforcement not to private citizens but to government.
Hauntingly, SB 8 bears resemblance to tactics used by vigilantes throughout our racist history. Ku Klux Klan members, for example, appropriated governmental powers to act on personal hatred—killing, lynching, and plundering African Americans and their communities. Whereas the Klan was often exempt from governmental accountability, SB 8 blends the anarchy of private militias with the credibility of state government.
The anti-abortion lobby has organized for decades to realize the status quo. Their strategy shifted from securing the presidency to overtaking school boards, city councils, and state legislatures. The result is power exercised at the municipal and state level, where voters are less likely to be informed and civically engaged.
The new Supreme Court can make possible a post-Roe America. Their skepticism about abortion rights testifies to the high stakes of the 2022 ruling for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to Roe in which decades of political activism can be potentially erased with a single vote.
Arizona is ripe for attack. Just last week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the Supreme Court to lift a lower court’s ruling which blocked SB 1457—a law, passed in April, that charges physicians who perform an abortion because a fetus has genetic abnormalities with a felony. Medical providers who do not report the procedure are fined up to $10,000.
Republican members of the Arizona State House and Senate refer to themselves as pro-life, yet they are not concerned with what happens after a baby is born. What about improving the foster system, addressing child poverty rates, and ensuring women paid maternity leave and child care so that children who are forced to be born are given equal opportunity? Banning abortion is not pro-life, it is pro-birth and anti-women.
The similarities between SB 1457 and SB 8 are striking; however, this is just the beginning. Those bent on banning abortion are capitalizing on Trump’s installment of 54 federal appellate judges and three Supreme Court justices. The path towards a total abortion ban has been paved for decades; now, they are barreling down it.
Aiding the religious right, the Supreme Court continues to weaken the constitutional separation of church and state. The justices heard arguments for Carson v. Makin over whether Maine is required to subsidize religious education under certain circumstances despite some of those schools being sectarian. Many fear they will rule in the school’s favor.
The Court has eroded the Establishment Clause, giving religious arguments against equal protection and non-discrimination policies credibility. The right is concerned more about religious—is the fetus God’s creation?—than humanistic concerns —does the fetus feel pain?—even though the former is not pertinent to legislative policy.
Judicial loopholes are exploited to drive radical proposals through a divided legislature. Governor Newsom’s proposal of a copy-cat law to authorize private citizens to sue sellers, manufacturers, and distributors of assault weapons for at least $10,000 normalizes legal instability. By letting the Texas law stand, the Supreme Court is setting a dangerous precedent that can undermine trust in America’s legal system.
This undemocratic law has no place in Arizona: State House and Senate members must protect abortion rights. We have an opportunity to rise above the chaos and affirm Arizonans’ constitutional freedoms. So please, don’t Texas my Arizona.
Sami Al-Asady is a first-generation college student and a child of war refugees from Bosnia and Iraq. He is a board member of Secular AZ and of Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College.