Conservatives are giddy over the new Texas abortion laws—the giddiness may be short-lived.
Wait until we start turning in gun owners for illegal weapons. Texas may regret emphasizing the citizen in citizen’s arrest.
So you’re talking to a neighbor, and he’s bragging to you about the new weapons he just purchased at a local gun sale. You’re pretty sure they are basically assault weapons which, though they may be legal, he has no intention of registering. He’s a big Second Amendment guy, hellbent on owning whatever he wants. On the other hand, you aren’t crazy about guns, and you want them off the street.
Up until last week, all you could do was whine to your Facebook friends about gun nuts, but now, since you live in the great state of Texas, you can do more. You can sue, and if you’re successful, that’s $10,000 in your pocket.
Of course, you can’t sue him, but you can sue his son—yeah, that kid across the street who’s learning to drive and, for practice, drove his father to the gun sale and waited in the car watching videos on his phone while Dad went inside. And you can sue his wife who reminded him of that gun sale, and maybe the newspaper that ran the ad. How about the guy’s cousin a few states over who lent him the money? Ten grand is just the beginning of your windfall—and all your legal fees are comped!
Thank you, great state of Texas.
Far-fetched? Not if you pore over the new Texas abortion law and extend it logically to other Constitutionally legal acts—like owning a gun—that some people may not like. And before you say, “oh those poor women in Texas,” here’s a thought: the law contains no geographic limits, and lawsuits may be brought from anywhere. Let’s say you live in Connecticut and know a Texan about to have an abortion, using money she received from her family in Hawaii. You can still sue the family, or at least the person who signed the check or made the online transfer. And the person in Michigan who provided the name of the abortion doctor? Hell, sue him too.
It’s citizens’ arrests on steroids, and for this newfound power you now retain, you may thank the radical-right Republicans of Texas, their goofball governor, and the Trump Supreme Court, whose selective amnesia has allowed them to forget the division between church and state, between law enforcement and vigilanteism.
But why stop with controversial issues like guns and abortion? The neighbor with a noisy car? Sue his auto mechanic. Friend stiffing the IRS? Sue TurboTax. Your son’s teacher makes a smarmy comment about smarmy Donald Trump? Sue the principal. Some blogger calls Donald Trump smarmy? Facebook can part with $10,000.
The problem with laws targeted for certain people is always the same: the collateral damage spreads well beyond the target. Already Texas business leaders are concerned about the well-being of female workers who, having been denied basic health care, will take their talents to another state. Law enforcement officials are worried about frivolous reporting and false alarms tying up the courts, hamstringing necessary judicial activities.
Draconian laws like this one demand justification, and that is almost always wanting. For example, Texas’s governor Greg Abbott was asked why the law made no allowance for rape victims. Abbott, never one to waste time on thought before speaking, said he would simply get all the rapists off the street. That response will serve as great consolation to all the women who have been assaulted “on the street.” It will be much less reassuring to those against whom the crime was committed in the victim’s home, car, hotel room, workplace, dorm room, or any number of other locations where rapists lurk when they’re not on one of Abbott’s streets. Since 70% of rapes are committed at home, the streets may already be safe enough. The idiocy of his “plan” is almost unfathomable, but I’m pretty sure the women in Texas are fathoming it quite easily. They are the collateral damage in a long-running conservative attack against women’s sovereignty. And don’t be distracted by the existence of female Republican governors—they long ago chose ideology over humanity and won’t be riding to any of their fellow mortals’ rescue.
In the long run, the state of Texas will suffer—the Department of justice has already initiated a lawsuit against it. But that’s cold comfort to the many women and men who will undergo personal hardship and financial loss from a law whose only objectives are retribution and domination. There’s plenty of sanctimony there, but not a whisper of moral imperative. Greg Abbott is no more champion of the unborn child than Donald Trump was champion of the coal miner. The fetus, the laborer—these are pawns in a political game whose only successful ending is the abrogation of human rights and the coalition of church and state.
Texas and its legislators are simply following the Trump playbook and rewriting the Constitution, and the Trump Supreme Court, which should have been defending it—and us—chose to protect them instead.