From free speech to gun control, the progressive left regularly advocates for restrictions and limitations on your rights, but don’t dare try to limit abortions in any way, shape, or form. The Texas bill is not what I would’ve passed myself, but the reaction is illustrative of how one right is elevated above all others for unexplained reasons.
Recently, Texas passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, essentially banning abortions after six weeks when a heartbeat can usually be detected. In addition, Texas lawmakers got quite creative with the enforcement: Rather than having the government enforce these restrictions, private citizens would instead be able to sue if they believe a provider performed an abortion in violation of the new law, or anyone that helped facilitate the abortion. Theoretically, this could include an Uber driver on the way to the clinic. It’s estimated that about 85% of abortions in Texas occur after six weeks and, while it is impossible to say what percentage of women opting for an abortion would have the procedure performed earlier, before the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, it is safe to say abortions would be greatly curtailed in the state.
Progressives had hoped the Supreme Court would block the implementation of the new law, but the enlarged conservative majority with Amy Coney-Barrett on the bench rejected the request from Texas abortion providers in a 5-4 vote with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal wing. The Supreme Court, however, was clear that they were not issuing a ruling on whether the law was Constitutional at this time. On the contrary, the unsigned majority opinion noted the abortion clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the Constitutionality of the Texas law,” but they failed to meet the burden to actually block the legislation before it was enacted. The majority stated clearly, “In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”
Perhaps needless to say, progressives were stunned and incensed, starting with progressives on the Court itself. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent, claiming the majority’s order was “stunning. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.” The Justice continued, “No federal appellate court has upheld such a comprehensive prohibition on abortions before viability under current law. Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance — of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.”
President Joe Biden responded quickly as well, promising a “whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision” and also to examine “what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.” Attorney General Merrick Garland also weighed in, issuing a statement stating the Justice Department was “deeply concerned” and “evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion.”
The mainstream media also went into overdrive, outrage mode. CNN’s Mary Ziegler detailed the “sinister genius” of the bill, claiming a woman seeking an abortion in Texas “found themselves in a dystopia worthy of ‘Brave New World.’” The LA Times also picked up on the dystopian angle. Jackie Calmes claimed “a far-fetched dystopia has come to pass,” saying it was “more dystopian than anything I thought I’d ever see” because the law empowers citizens to enforce it, apparently unaware that progressive cities and states set up snitch lines during the pandemic for exactly that purpose. Describing the legislation as “plainly unconstitutional,” Ms. Calmes wrote, “This threat to individual liberties — for Texas women as well as those in contact with them — comes thanks to Republican politicians from Gov. Greg Abbott on down who purport to prize freedom so much that they oppose mask mandates during a deadly pandemic.” Even celebrities piled on, with Brooklyn Decker, an Austin resident, taking to Instagram with a message for Governor Abbott. “Governor Abbott and Texas lawmakers, ya’ll passed a law in 2015 that allows kids to bring their concealed-carry gun onto campus and you say you’re pro-life. Really? OK. You won’t let schools mandate masks, all while your hospitals are filling up with COVID patients, and you say you’re pro-life? And you believe in bodily autonomy? OK.”
Personally, I am nominally pro-life and believe life begins at conception, but abortion has never been a hot topic for me. As an atheist, I don’t have particularly strong feelings on the morality of the procedure given we make moral compromises all the time in a complex society with different points of view, nor do I think outlawing abortion is a feasible option. I guess you could say I’m in the old “safe, legal, and rare” camp, with an emphasis on rare, and I would allow the states leeway in deciding their own limitations on the procedure. If the residents don’t like it, they can vote the party in power out and change the law easily enough. This is not to suggest the Texas law is how I would proceed. I think six weeks is likely too short, but given the choice between six weeks or abortion on demand at eight months, I’d choose six weeks. Nor am I a constitutional scholar capable of declaring its validity. The courts will ultimately weigh in.
At the same time, there’s an ancillary angle to this debate: Why do progressives consider the right to abortion to be above any and all restrictions while they routinely recommend limitations and loopholes for other rights? It’s especially ironic when you consider the “Right to Privacy” upon which abortion is based didn’t even exist until Roe v Wade in 1973, the infamous “penumbras” of emanations in the Constitution, yet actual rights outlined in the Bill of Rights for hundreds of years aren’t given near the same level of deference and respect. In some cases, progressives are fine with either trampling them or bypassing them entirely in the name of whatever cause strikes their fancy at the moment.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and is generally taken to guarantee freedom of expression, but none of these rights matter at all in the face of the coronavirus pandemic or other progressive schemes. The government can, apparently, completely waive your right to freedom of religion for a public health purpose, barring people from going to church, even policing church parking lots for outdoor gatherings. Further, the technocratic left has recently found a giant loop hole in free speech protections. Where they can’t limit your speech under the law, they pressure allied technology providers to police speech on their behalf in the name of misinformation, whether health or politically related, even suppressing true stories about Hunter Biden that were unflattering to then-candidate Biden.
As most speech these days occurs on electronic platforms, the social media companies are serving as a censorship arm of the progressive movement, blocking speech they do not like, regardless of whether or not it’s true. Nor are their ambitions limited merely to social media; the telecom providers are also being recruited to police your text messages. When confronted with the fact that this clearly curtails first amendment rights, they hide behind the canard that these are private companies and can do what they want, even as the Biden Administration brags that they’re collaborating with all these companies to achieve their goal of suppressing misinformation, as they define it of course.
The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but progressives are keen to pass legislation that would ban the most popular rifles in the country, arbitrarily limit the capacity of magazines, place burdens on a father or mother gifting a gun to their son or daughter, even seeking to set up a national registry of gun owners. Nor are their efforts limited to a national level; in progressive states and localities like New York City, local regulations have made it practically impossible to own certain types of firearms, effectively eliminating their citizens ability to exercise their second amendment rights with endless restrictions. No restrictions ever appear to be enough, however, and President Joe Biden has been repeatedly calling for more “gun control” this year in the face of rising inner-city violence, despite that none of the violence has been remotely linked to changes in gun laws.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees protections against unlawful search and seizure, but has also been steadily eroded over the years with ever more intrusive government surveillance and a rather insidious “third party” loophole that gets continually extended to cover ever more cases where you don’t control your own personal information. The loophole is a simple one: The Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to information held by third parties like banks and phone companies. Normally, accessing personal information held in your home or on your property would require probable cause and a search warrant, but the Supreme Court has held for years that this doesn’t apply when the information is held by a third party, despite that few things could be more personal than your bank records or who you speak to on the phone, nor can you participate in modern society without both. This is how the government was able to embark on their massive surveillance scheme after 9-11, collecting the records of every mobile phone call in the entire country en masse. In the wake of the riot at the Capitol Building on January 6, progressives are calling for even more government surveillance power, turning the force of the intelligence community on our own citizens, and even seeking the phone records of members of Congress without probable cause.
The Tenth Amendment reserves powers to the states that are not specifically given to the Federal Government, but progressives have no problem pushing for a government takeover of everything and anything, from the energy industry to elections. Their new elections legislation would federalize voting in direct contravention of the constitution under the guise of “voting rights.” Their green new deals schemes would essentially take over the energy industry in its entirety, as they want to do for healthcare with Medicare for All.
In none of these cases do progressives give the slightest thought to your fundamental rights. In fact, they openly mock people that believe these rights, enshrined in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution and more, actually mean what they say they do. Nor is the Bill of Rights their only target. Pick a topic, almost any topic and you’re sure to find a progressive openly arguing to limit your freedoms or taking aim at the fundamental principles of American democracy. The Biden Administration aided by progressives in Congress brag about legislation that violates the core principle of equality under the law, providing benefits based exclusively on racial heritage instead of need. They want to strip minority rights in the Senate that have been in place for almost two hundred years, and change the size of a Supreme Court that’s been set for a hundred and fifty. They want to mandate vaccines and police them by asking people to present their papers every time they go into a restaurant or other establishment. They openly talk about making life “difficult” for you if you disagree with their approach to coronavirus, make no attempt to hide that they seek to restrict your rights, and silence you when you dare to disagree.
Somehow, however, abortion remains sacrosanct, subject to none of the restrictions they’d happily apply everywhere else. The next time a progressive complains about restrictions on abortion, someone should ask them why it’s perfectly alright to restrict everything except abortion. By what principle does that work? Perhaps we’d be more open to their position if they weren’t so closed to everything else. If abortion rights are important, all rights are important, or else they aren’t really rights at all.