Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was the featured speaker at The Texas Rally for Life in front of the Texas Capitol Saturday, celebrating a new Texas law — SB 8, passed in the regular session of the Texas Legislature last year, and in effect since Sept. 1 — that essentially outlaws abortion after just six weeks into a pregnancy — before most women really know they are pregnant.

“There’s no freedom more precious than life itself,” Abbott told the enthusiastic crowd of several thousand. “I promised to protect the life of a child with a heartbeat, and we did,” Abbott said. “I am proud to join you in this fight to protect the sanctity of life, and we did.”

It’s oddly ironic that Abbott, a Catholic and foe of abortion, would be speaking to an anti-abortion rally — or anti-abortion rally, depending on your point of view — on the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made access to abortion the law of the land in 1973.

Since then, women who become pregnant have had the right to abort that pregnancy up to several months into the gestation period. But Abbott’s signing of the legislative bill last year, to outlaw abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, has set off a rush in several other states to copy the Texas approach. 

And rather than be enforced by state officials, the new Texas law essentially allows bounty hunters to sue any woman who gets an abortion, and anyone who helps facilitate it, from a doctor who performs it to a taxi driver who provides transportation, for $10,000 each.

Abortion providers say the law, by passing its enforcement away from the state to citizens, was written to evade official review. The law provides no exceptions for pregnancies due to rape or incest.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of three progressive justices remaining on the nine-member court, issued a strong dissent to the court repeatedly failing to take up the Texas case, leaving the law in force for the time being.

“Today, for the fourth time, this Court declines to protect pregnant Texans from egregious violations of their constitutional rights,” Sotomayor wrote. 

Sotomayor described the ban — the most restrictive abortion law passed in the United States since the procedure was guaranteed as a constitutional right nearly five decades ago — as “a convoluted law that instills terror in those who assist women exercising their rights between six and 24 weeks.”

“State officials knew that the fear and confusion caused by this legal-procedural labyrinth would restrict citizens from accessing constitutionally protected medical care,” she wrote.   

“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies. I will not stand by silently as a state continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee,” Sotomayor concluded.

There may be a glimmer of hope in New York, where former Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently took over the governorship after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned.

Hochul, New York’s first-ever woman governor, sought to reassure women around the country, and particularly in those other states which are considering copying Texas’s harsh and stringent anti-abortion law, that not all is lost.

After she took office, among a list of things she planned to do as governor was “establishing New York as a safe harbor for those seeking abortion care nationwide,” Hochul said.                                       

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema censured

It may be a little rocky for Arizona Democratic senator Sinema to look for a warm welcome back home in Arizona for a while. The Arizona Democratic Party recently voted to censure her.

Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, were the only two Democrats in the equally divided senate to vote with the Republicans against relaxing filibuster practices, to allow a vote on the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Act. It was aimed at preventing Republican-dominated state legislatures from their widespread efforts to make it harder to vote for Democratic-leaning minorities. Fortunately for both Sinema and Manchin, they don’t face reelection until 2024.

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