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The Subordination of Women in Texas

Texas's new abortion law subjects women to heightened surveillance and the whims of private parties. If the US Supreme Court upholds the law, it will set back gender relations to an era that precedes the living memory of most Americans.

CHICAGO – In 1984, the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a lecture on why Roe v. Wade, the Court’s 1973 decision recognizing a constitutional right to abortion, was wrongly decided. The case, she explained, should never have been framed as a matter of privacy or reproductive choice alone: Abortion was at bottom a question of gender equality.

Thirty-seven years later, Texas is proving Ginsburg’s point with its draconian and potentially transformative abortion law. If the Supreme Court upholds the law – it just heard oral arguments on whether to permit two legal challenges to proceed – it will set back gender relations to an era that precedes the living memory of most Americans.

The Texas law, Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), doesn’t just ban abortion after six weeks. It also empowers ordinary citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion: an employer whose paycheck is used to fund it, a driver who gives someone a ride, or a parent or partner who lends a shoulder to cry on. Liability requires no evidence of intent. The taxi driver who unwittingly takes a person half-way to an abortion clinic is subject to a minimum $10,000 fine. The Texas law is likely to be a model for abortion regulation if the Supreme Court uses the challenges to it to scale back Roe. Florida and Ohio are already champing at the bit to enact laws permitting analogous private “remedies” to curtail abortion.

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