Assuming the Supreme Court follows through with its expected gutting of Roe v. Wade, a number of Republican-led state legislatures are erecting a terrifying legal infrastructure that they hope will curtail abortion nationwide.
That includes liberal states like New York where abortions would ostensibly remain legal post-Roe. In addition to passing so-called trigger laws to automatically outlaw abortion in their own states, some GOP-controlled legislatures have drawn up shady mechanisms by which anti-abortion zealots could use the courts to target women wherever they go for an abortion.
On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (who ironically assumed the office from a guy who left under a disgraceful cloud of sexual harassment accusations) may have given the rest of the non-Gilead states a framework for fighting back. Hochul signed a new law allowing doctors and patients in her state to sue anyone who tries to bring a legal claim against them under one of the anti-abortion states’ new measures, Reuters reported. The law also forbids law enforcement in the state from assisting with outside states’ investigations into abortions that take place in New York.
Typically, a law passed in New York state might not matter in Texas or Alabama. But this new statue is tailored to specifically counter the impact of anti-abortion efforts in those places and beyond. Abortion is currently legal everywhere because of the 50-year-old decision in Roe, but if the Court reverses that decision, it would be left to the states to decide if women can legally have the procedure.
But some state legislatures have ambitions beyond their borders. Texas’ anti-abortion statute was the first shot fired in an increasingly complex legal fight over abortion’s legal future nationally.
The law effectively bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant. Instead of the state enforcing the ban, which would make it susceptible to legal challenges, it deputizes private citizens by allowing them to sue Texas women who leave the state to have abortions, as well as those who help facilitate the process.
Under the law, a Houston woman could fly to New York for an abortion and find herself, her doctor and anyone who booked her flight or made her appointment, dragged into court facing a minimum of $10,000 in judgments against each of them.
Enter the law Hochul signed yesterday, which pretty much dares anyone from Texas or states with similar laws to go after a woman who has an abortion in New York. The New York measure gives women and abortion providers the right to countersue if somebody in Texas or elsewhere comes for them in court. Try to drag a woman or a doctor to court in Texas over an abortion that happened in New York, expect a subpoena to appear in New York shortly thereafter.
Or to paraphrase my grandmother, a Black woman born in 1920s Virginia who had an extremely colorful vocabulary: New York just told Texas and everybody else, you gotta bring an ass to get an ass.