After the Supreme Court declined to stop the new anti-abortion law in Texas, also known as Senate Bill 8, lawmakers around the country were quick to respond to the legislation that not only criminalizes abortion essentially after six weeks but allows any person to sue someone they believe has aided or abetted an abortion. The Texas Signal spoke with one of those lawmakers, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, about the new law, which she called a “travesty.”
“I think the Supreme Court’s failure to block a law that flies in the face of fifty years of precedent is devastating,” said Healey. She also noted that the actions of the Supreme Court will likely cause a ripple effect across Republican state legislatures around the country as they too enact similar laws to SB 8.
For Healey, SB 8 is the culmination of what happens when a state legislature is gerrymandered to the extreme, and when the Supreme Court is packed with staunchly conservative justices that also occupy stolen seats.
Passing anti-abortion laws was a huge priority for Republicans in Texas, despite current events that would seemingly take a higher precedence like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic or fixing the power grid. “Texas is experiencing dueling public health and climate crises, yet its government is pushing a culture war side show that is harming the health of its most vulnerable residents,” said Healey.
As for the U.S. Supreme Court, Healey acknowledged the current reality that multiple justices are on the court after partisan maneuvering. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the bench just eight days before the 2020 election even though Senate Republicans refused to consider Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in Barack Obama’s last year.
Despite a vast majority of Americans unsupportive of overturning Roe v. Wade, that’s exactly what happened with the new Texas law. “This is really undemocratic,” said Healey.
Healey also believes that in addition to being blatantly unconstitutional (despite the Supreme Court’s ruling), SB 8 is also dangerous. The law empowers anti-abortion activists who can harass a slew of people they believe are aiding an abortion. “It’s creating a whole new legal enforcement system,” said the AG.
In addition to her duties in Massachusetts, Healey is also the co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA). The organization certainly has Texas as a target next year when Ken Paxton is up for re-election (though he is also facing two Republican primary challengers). According to Healey, DAGA was the first democratic campaign committee to announce they would only endorse candidates who support the right to access abortion and would publicly commit to protecting reproductive rights.
Paxton is under felony indictment for securities fraud and is under investigation by the FBI for abuse of office and bribery in a separate case. Two candidates have filed as Democratic challengers though a primary date has yet to be set. In the meantime, Healey and the rest of DAGA will be waiting. “We’ll do everything we can to see Texas elect a Democratic attorney general,” promised Healey.