In a surprise development last week, an influential gun-rights group sided with abortion advocates in protest of Texas’ new six-week abortion ban.
What are the details?
The Firearms Policy Coalition filed an amicus brief in support of abortion providers in a legal challenge to the new law, arguing that the legislation sets a dangerous precedent that could potentially be exploited to limit constitutional rights, Bloomberg Law reported.
The law, which took effect in September, bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, something that typically occurs at around six weeks gestation. But unlike similar laws passed in other states that have been blocked by the courts, Texas’ ban relies solely on private individuals for enforcement by empowering citizens to file civil lawsuits against those who perform, aid, or abet an abortion after six weeks.
That unique approach has angered abortion advocates both in the state and across the country and now has attracted opposition from a gun-rights group that is usually supportive of conservative causes.
“The approach used by Texas to avoid pre-enforcement review of its restriction on abortion and its delegation of enforcement to private litigants could just as easily be used by other States to restrict First and Second Amendment rights or, indeed, virtually any settled or debated constitutional right,” representative counsel Erik Jaffe wrote in the brief on behalf of FPC.
Jaffe — a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas who has elsewhere defended abortion restrictions — claimed that such a result “is wholly anathema to our constitutional scheme regardless [of] what one thinks of abortion or, indeed, of any other hotly debated constitutional right, such as the right to keep and bear arms.”
“It’s hard to miss the parallels between abortion and guns,” he said, Bloomberg reported.
Similar arguments have been offered by those on the other side of the political spectrum, such as Brigitte Amiri of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Take almost any individual constitutional right and it “could easily fall into a similar scheme by any state that disfavors that right,” Amiri, an attorney representing the Texas abortion providers in their complaint, argued, according to Bloomberg.
She suggested that the Texas case is essentially about whether a state can “pass an unconstitutional law and do so in a way that would evade court review,” not necessarily about the right to an abortion.
Since its passage, the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, has been the target of legal challenges. It was briefly blocked earlier this month by a district judge before being reinstated only days later as the result of an appeals court ruling.
The jockeying comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on a separate state abortion ban out of Mississippi that could also have major implications on abortion precedent in America.