On November 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two lawsuits challenging Texas’s extreme anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” SB 8, which went into effect September 1. SB 8 makes abortions illegal in Texas past the point of fetal “cardiac activity,” or around six weeks. Most people don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, making SB 8 virtually a total abortion ban.
SB 8 is already having a profound impact on the lives of working class people seeking abortions in Texas. Prior to the passage of SB 8, approximately 85-90% of people who obtained abortions in Texas were at least six weeks into their pregnancy. In the first month of the ban, Texas abortion providers reported a 50% drop in the number of abortions performed compared to last September. Since the law went into effect two months ago, many abortion providers across Texas have shuttered, forcing those seeking abortions to travel many hours out of state or resort to less-safe underground procedures. The small number of facilities in nearby states are straining capacity, evidenced by long wait times for appointments.
Despite the catastrophic impacts of SB 8, the Supreme Court has decided to intervene not because SB 8 is a gross violation of women’s basic rights and autonomy. Rather, both cases the court has agreed to hear narrowly concern SB 8’s enforcement mechanism and whether the federal government or abortion providers can bring suits against the ban in federal court.
Fundamental rights hinging on constitutional technicalities
While SB 8 plainly undercuts Roe v Wade which legalized abortions up to viability, or about 24 weeks, the Texas law was carefully engineered to evade challenges in federal court by exploiting a loophole within the United States’ archaic and convoluted legal system.
In 1908, the Supreme Court established that individuals have a right to sue and stop government officials from enforcing unconstitutional laws—but they can only bring suits against government officials directly involved in the enforcement of the unconstitutional law.
SB 8 utilizes a new enforcement mechanism—the law deputizes private citizens to enforce it. Under SB 8, “any person, other than an officer or employee of state or local government,” can bring a civil suit against anyone believed to have “aided or abetted” an unlawful abortion. They also get a bounty of at least $10,000 per unlawful abortion. If they lose or the case is thrown out in court, the suing party doesn’t face any penalty. The party being sued, on the other hand, is responsible for their own legal fees even if the suit is thrown out.
By passing on the enforcement of the law from the state’s hands to private citizens, the right-wing extremists behind SB 8 are trying to cut off all avenues to challenge the blatantly unconstitutional law in federal court.
For nearly three hours, the Supreme Court heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case. The two suing parties are a broad coalition of Texas abortion providers and the U.S. Justice Department. The defending party is the state of Texas.
In itself an inherently arch-reactionary institution, the Supreme Court now leans particularly hard to the right after Trump appointed three justices. The court now composes six hard-right reactionaries and three centrists (too generously called “liberals”). Five of the justices voted against stopping SB 8 from taking effect in September while its legality was argued in court. However, comments made by several of the ultra-conservative justices indicated it’s possible some may consider ruling against Texas in this case.
Amy Coney Barrett expressed discomfort with a federal court being barred from hearing the challenge and questioned whether constitutional grievances could be sufficiently “aired” in state courts. Chief Justice John Roberts also pushed back on Texas’ arguments at points. Brett Kavanaugh worried that other states could copy the enforcement mechanism of SB 8 law to restrict other rights, like Second Amendment or Free Speech rights.
Our rights can’t be left to the Supreme Court
As women around the country and especially in Texas anxiously await the Supreme Court’s ruling, for most of these justices, the real impacts of SB 8 on the people of Texas are not of the remotest concern. The wildly complex and convoluted nature of the U.S. legal system lends false legitimacy to the Supreme Court, making it appear as if the court is caught up in important deliberations based on timeless principles of justice. In reality, the Supreme Court—unelected, unaccountable, and untethered to the realities of life for working-class people in this country—is an entirely illegitimate institution.
While the fight to overturn SB 8 plays out in the courts, Congress has a direct avenue to end the tug-of-war over abortion rights once and for all by legalizing abortion. In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act which would legalize abortion in a statute equally binding everywhere in the country. All that is needed now is for the Senate to pass it, and the president to sign it. The Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House. If they wanted to respond to the urgent crisis for women in Texas and across the country and push this through, they could.
The reality is that the Democratic Party will only take the action they feel they have to take. It will take a mass, broad-based, and militant movement demanding abortion as an unassailable right to force the Democrats to stand up in the face of right-wing opposition and make the Women’s Health Protection Act a reality.
We need a movement for abortion rights now, and the fight can’t stop there. We need a government that actually represents the interests of the people of this country. We need a legal system based on the values and needs of the majority. We need a healthcare system that exists to provide for the health of the people. We can do away with the institutions that don’t serve us and build new ones that do.
Nearly 14,000 Haitian asylum seekers are being targeted for deportation by the Biden administration after sheltering in a makeshift camp at the U.S.-Mexico border. Large numbers of these migrants are women and children for whom life in Haiti is especially dangerous right now due to ongoing crises and poverty-spawned violence. This is the largest mass expulsion of migrants and refugees in decades.
Just last month, Haiti experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of thousands and injured many more, leaving the capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities and towns with food and housing shortages amid the destruction. These cataclymsic impacts come after months of political turmoil that both preceded and followed the assassination of former president-turned-dictator Jovenel Moise back in July. For years, if not decades, the nation’s infrastructure has struggled under the pressure of financial embezzlement and lack of social investment for Haiti’s majority poor population by corrupt misleaders.
The Biden administration is relying on Title 42, which uses COVID-19 as an excuse to not interview asylum seekers, in order to mass-deport Haitians. UN officials have challenged this action, calling this a violation of international law. On September 22 U.S. Special Envoy To Haiti Daniel Foote resigned, saying he will not be associated with the U.S.’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.”
Biden could offer protected status to all Haitian refugees today. Instead, he allows Haitian women and children to be brutalized by border patrol agents, and families to be ejected into the middle of a crisis. In many cases, Biden’s immigration policies are more cruel than those of Trump. Within weeks of taking office, Biden deported more Haitians than Trump did in a whole year. Despite the conditions in Haiti right now, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris continue to tell Haitian immigrants to not come to the United States.
The horrifying images of Texan border patrol agents on horses whipping Haitian asylum seekers of all ages are reminiscent of images of enslaved Africans being brutalized by slave masters. They should remind us that the racist system that has historically propped up and enforced anti-Black racism is still deeply entrenched in all facets of U.S. law enforcement and governance.
They should similarly remind us of the struggle that Haitians have faced since successfully waging the Revolution of 1804 that toppled slavery and created the first free Black republic in the world. Since this victory, the imperial powers, notably the United States, have served to create the very conditions that have forced Haitians to flee to the U.S. for refuge. The constant cycle of intervention, propping up of misleaders and dictators (like former president Jovenel Moise), and the blatant exploitation of Haitian labor by U.S. imperialism has created a situation in which families have no choice but to seek refuge.
In many cases, the so-called “aid” that the UN, the U.S., and the international NGO sector has provided to Haiti amidst these numerous crises has only served to make matters worse. Countless instances of sexual abuse against Haitian women and children, or the “loss” of $500 million intended for post-2010 earthquake housing illustrate just that.
It is time the centuries of abuse of Haitians by the United States and its cronies comes to an end. The safety and security of Haitians should not be at the whim of U.S. foreign policy and intervention. We must fight the cruel and inhumane immigration policies under Biden with the same energy we fought them under Trump (and Obama), and we must fight the hand that creates the conditions in Haiti forcing families to flee in refuge in the first place.
Every person who works on the magazine is a full-time or retired worker or student. We are all activists and organizers in our communities. We are revolutionaries, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We are people from a broad spectrum of nationalities, LGBTQ and other oppressed communities. We are mothers and daughters and nieces supporting our families and our communities in a myriad of ways.
The women of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have:
The murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta is a symptom of a much larger problem — the deep interconnection between racism and war, or more specifically, imperialist aggression on the part of the U.S. ruling class. Like racism, sexism and misogyny is deeply embedded in the machinery of capitalist war. U.S. domestic and imperialist policies toward Asians utilize racism and sexism as a tool putting women at the heart of U.S. aggression both as targets and as actors in resistance. In “Til all the Flowers Bloom” we seek to develop a framework we can use in struggles against patriarchal and racist oppression. This issue seeks to deepen our understanding of how U.S. imperialist expansion fuels racism and misogyny and what it means to struggle for solidarity.
This issue includes:
Support our work and gain access to exclusive content when you become a Patron of Breaking the Chains Magazine. Learn more at www.breakingthechainsmag.org/exclusive-content.