September 4, 2021
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
How a nation treats its women is a barometer for success. When women’s rights are protected; when women and girls are allowed to pursue an education; when women’s healthcare options are accessible; when women are represented in all levels of government, business and society, economies and societies grow stronger and prosper.
This is not another letter about Afghanistan. This is about the United States of America. Texas, specifically. However, the related actions of five conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States are also astounding. These justices knowingly allowed the anti-women’s health, pro-vigilante Texas law known as SB8 to stand, despite being unconstitutional under current, established law.
We warned that this would be attempted eventually. This Wednesday, Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, flexed their newfound power and pushed aside our constitutional standards by allowing Texas to ride roughshod over the right of women to make their own choices about their own health and well-being.
The Roe v. Wade decision has been the established legal precedent for more than a half-century. Wednesday that changed.
“The Court’s order is 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,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent.
From a practical perspective, the Texas law removes the ability to make critical health decisions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant.
Worse, the law will have the most profound effects on patients who cannot overcome the logistical and financial obstacles of traveling out-of-state for care. That means that communities of color and those with low incomes will face the worst repercussions of the law. There is no exception for rape or incest, and no thought to how a dangerous pregnancy may impact the future of a woman and her family for the rest of their lives.
Even worse still, the Texas law allows, and arguably incentivizes, private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone, from healthcare providers to family members, who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion. It is a brazen attempt to isolate women in need of care, counseling and services, and is a shameful attempt to sever women from legitimate medical care and support. It also allows self-anointed enforcers to inject themselves into the most personal and private of health decisions made by a woman – and it potentially gives them a financial windfall for doing it.
As Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post said aptly, Texas has “figured out a way to write an antiabortion law that everyone agrees is unconstitutional under current law — and to ensure that the women whose rights are being violated don’t have the ability to challenge it in court.”
Already, other states are lining up to follow Texas’ lead, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi and North Dakota, all of which previously tried to implement restrictive abortion laws that were declared unconstitutional.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, always ready to ride a conservative wave, also is threatening such legislation. The hypocrisy of states that have fought against the wearing of simple facemasks, under the guise of personal rights, having zero qualms about taking away the personal rights of millions of women, is blatant.
This Supreme Court action, and the Texas law it has empowered, must be blunted before its most tragic results can be realized. Most immediately, President Joe Biden must expedite his review of what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice, as well as other agencies, can do to safeguard the rights of women and health care providers in Texas – and all across America. The Biden administration must act where the Supreme Court failed.
Congress cannot sit on the sidelines. I understand the Senate stands at a 50-50 split right now, but it is imperative that we quickly find a path forward to support women’s wellbeing by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which I have co-sponsored, to prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services.
The House is expected to take action on this measure in the coming weeks. The Senate must join them in making a firm statement in support of women’s health and their constitutional rights as soon as we possibly can.
As a nation, we have made great efforts to promote equal rights for women and men. Yet, astoundingly, conservatives and other Republican enablers continue to push and adopt policies like Texas SB8 that are setting this country and women’s health and wellbeing in the wrong direction. Women and their healthcare should not be under constant threat.
I will use every tool available to protect the rights of women in this country. If we fail the women of America, we will fail as a nation.
Thank you for your calls to my office on this critical issue. I understand how important it is to protect the rights of Maryland women and women across America.
Stay well. Get vaccinated.