Commentary: Non-partisan High Court needed after Alabama bill

There’s no denying the obvious ploy by Republican state legislators in Alabama to impose the most draconian restrictions on abortion rights this nation has seen in half a century. They, like their counterparts in Jefferson City, are fully aware that the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision remains the law of the land and that women still have a constitutional right to abortion access.

These lawmakers don’t care that they’re openly stomping on the Constitution. The entire idea is to approve such an outrageous, openly defiant restriction on abortion rights that an inevitable lawsuit would find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Multiple GOP-controlled state legislatures are passing these measures in rapid succession specifically because President Donald Trump has installed two conservative members who might tip the balance and overturn Roe v. Wade.

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In Missouri, conservative legislators were so anxious to get to the abortion issue that they caved on their filibuster to block controversial state subsidies to a General Motors plant in Wentzville. Allowing the filibuster to continue would have left no time to address pending legislation to restrict abortion rights and reverse Missouri voters’ will regarding last November’s “Clean Missouri” election-reform amendment.

Just as they don’t care if overturning Clean Missouri openly goes against the will of 62% of Missouri voters, conservative lawmakers don’t care if imposing even more draconian abortion restrictions on Missouri women and their doctors tramples on their rights.

In Alabama Tuesday, the state Senate approved a nearly total ban on abortions and set prison terms of up to 99 years for doctors who perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. Any doctor who performed an abortion for a rape victim could be subject to worse punishment than what the rapist might face.

Meanwhile, Missouri legislators kept working to advance a bill requiring doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. Failure to do so could lead to fines and loss of their medical licenses. The bill would ban almost all abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Like Alabama’s bill, there would be no exceptions for rape or incest victims.

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Seldom has it been more urgent for the Supreme Court to look beyond its own partisan divisions and stand behind justices’ own precedent. Women have a basic right to maintain control over their own bodies. They have a basic right to keep consultations private between them and their doctors. And all Americans have a right not to have someone else’s religious views imposed upon them.

If big government seizes control over women’s wombs, as these legislators advocate, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won’t look quite so bizarrely fictitious anymore. Gilead looms ever larger on America’s horizon.