It is easy to get caught up in the politics of the Supreme Court, especially with the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia and the fight over his replacement. But meanwhile, the court is still hearing important cases.
This week saw oral arguments about a Texas law that requires stringent new standards on abortion clinics that will force many of them to close. The issue is whether these standards impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion. Texas claims that these standards are required to “protect women’s health”.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shot a huge hole in the arguments for the law. The law would shutter a clinic in El Paso, Texas, but Texas argued successfully at the appeals level that this did not pose an undue burden because residents of El Paso could merely go to a clinic in a town across the border in New Mexico.
Ginsburg pointed out the hypocrisy of this argument. If Texas is arguing that this law is required to protect women’s health, then sending women to a clinic across state lines, where the same standards don’t exist, has them claiming that these standards are not important. Or as Ginsburg put it “If that’s all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn’t it right for the rest of the women in Texas?”
Also hypocritical is that abortion clinics are being singled out as requiring tougher standards, while clinics that perform significantly more dangerous procedures (like colonoscopies) are allowed far more lax standards.
While not part of the Supreme Court arguments, I also have to point out the hypocrisy of conservatives who fight against the smallest restrictions against the right to own guns, completely ignoring the obvious safety issues. But the same people argue, without evidence, that safety is a valid reason to severely restrict a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.
One of the requirements of the law is that the doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Justice Breyer asked to be pointed to the list in the filing of women who had complications due to the fact that their Dr did not have admitting privileges. The attorney for TX conceded that there were none. So, like the voter ID laws that have been passed, this was a law that sought to fix a problem that did not exist.
The Texas law appears to be a pretext. They can’t ban abortion, so they try and impinge upon it. Same technique was tried with the old moment of silence laws that attempted to to get around the school prayer prohibition.
Nonetheless, can a pretext be truly “hypocritical?” Perhaps the correct word might be “disingenuous.”