Michael Leppert

When I was a little boy in the ’70s, TV options were scarce in a way kids today struggle to imagine. The first TV I remember in our house was black and white, and while the second one was color, neither of them had a remote control. And so what if they did? There weren’t too many channels to surf with one anyway. During the day, we could watch “Bonanza” or “Gunsmoke,” two Westerns that I don’t recall anyone in the house actually enjoying. But it was here where I learned what a “posse” is.

The new Texas abortion law empowers a posse to enforce an extreme policy that government apparently lacks the courage to do on its own.

The policy goal of the new law is to prohibit abortions in the state once “cardiac activity” can be detected in an embryo. It is common to refer to this level of restriction as a “heartbeat law,” and since that cardiac activity occurs generally around six weeks into a pregnancy, that time frame is also often used to describe the new Texas law. Abortion providers there estimate that from 85% to 90% of abortions currently occur after that estimated point in pregnancy.

However, what is not yet fully understood by Americans who are rightfully outraged by this attempt to eliminate a woman’s right to reproductive health, is how this bizarre new law will be enforced. For starters, it will not be enforced by the government. Huh? You read that right. The law creates a right to sue by seemingly anyone in America, against anyone, again seemingly anywhere in America, who “aids or abets” an abortion that occurs in Texas after cardiac activity is or should be detected. Whew. Except for the woman who allegedly receives the abortion. Yes, she is exempt.

The “aiding and abetting” language is bizarre all on its own. What is regularly in the news on this front is the discussion of the Uber or Lyft driver who transports the pregnant woman to the abortion clinic. Will that driver have civil liability under the new law? It obviously has not been tested yet, but it certainly will be. But this part of the law creates liability for anyone who intends to aid or abet a prohibited abortion. Really? An Uber driver who meant to take a woman to an abortion provider but failed can be sued in Texas because he or she intended to do so? It appears so.

But let’s take that a step further. Did the man responsible for the pregnancy itself aid the abortion simply by playing his necessary biological role in creating it? I sure hope so. Let’s see if the Texas legislature means what it says.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been on the hot seat for his moronic comments about the law’s lack of consideration for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. When asked about the law’s silence on this issue, he responded by saying, “…Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas…” Wow. If defending this goofy law leads to a big state like Texas eliminating rape, that actually would be something. Sadly, that statement is dumber than the law he was trying to defend with it.

The deafening lack of celebration by most politicians who should be celebrating can be explained with ease. The rabid anti-abortionists who understand basic legal principles have no confidence that this law will actually survive an actual judicial review. Not the lack of judicial review that the U.S. Supreme Court gave the law last week by actively taking a pass on reviewing it, but an actual challenge to the litany of legal weaknesses contained in this trash law.

Republicans know this can mobilize a Democratic base in a midterm election next year that normally would benefit the minority party. So, celebrating this one is an electoral risk for the GOP because Republicans primarily want congressional control back.

For those of us who have spent considerable time in a statehouse, any statehouse, we have been witness to countless abortion protests. Many of them are characterized by graphic and shocking materials on signs and literature to provoke emotional responses to their viewpoints. Usually, they appear to be unmoored mobs.

Sort of like a posse. The very type of group the Texas legislature is attempting to call on to take care of its dirty business.

American government is not a posse or a mob. At least it didn’t used to be.

Michael Leppert is a lecturer at Indiana University, an author and a consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com.

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