The first response to the carpet bombing of official Washington about the Supreme Court’s leaked first draft in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. case came from Senator Thom Tillis, our junior Senator from North Carolina fairly quickly after I had mailed off the letters.
It was almost as if his staff anticipated the likely negative reaction to the Court’s decision and gender of those people who would contact his office and had a response ready to go to the constituents.
But I do appreciate that he did respond which was a first for any elected official that I’d ever contacted since moving back home to North Carolina almost thirty years ago after finishing my degree at university. And it wasn’t for lack of trying to get a response on my part…
And to be fair, the response is not particularly surprising given that he’s currently not up for re-election until 2026 and having the Supreme Court remand this thorny political issue to the states is taking away a headache he’d just as soon not have to deal with.
That would be reasonable, to an extent. However, his response did not address the original point I was trying to make in the brief I sent to Justice Alito et al that North Carolina is a prime case where remanding the question of abortion to our state is a really bad idea. We are so hyper-partisan gerrymandered in the General Assembly and our delegation to the US House of Representatives that we’ve been in front of the Supreme Court twice which agreed on the last trip that there was an unlawful partisan gerrymander but that the Court could do nothing about it.
Add to that the massive amounts of dark money political contributions pouring into this state with no accountability whatsoever and you’ve got a perfect storm of why Raleigh is the wrong venue to decide a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy!
That’s why he’s getting a rather long and pointed response to his letter that even though he’s not facing the voters now, we are very likely to remember if he is helpful to the cause of women’s reproductive rights when it comes time for him to seek re-election. The polling numbers from a GOP pollster who got him elected to his first term in 2014 couldn’t be more starkly clear that a super-majority of every political subgroup except the Republicans (and even they were at 56.1% in favour of abortion!) treat this as the existential threat to human rights that it is.
As he was striking a collegial tone, I chose to return the favour and include what I think would be a reasonable set of guiding principles to codify the rights granted by Roe v Wade once and for all in a way that balances the interest of the woman and the foetus with the thorny edge cases of interest to the state and society that he raised in his letter:
- Codify a woman’s unrestricted right to abortion at least to the standard of viability in Planned Parenthood v Casey which affirmed Roe and introduced a more scientifically-based and flexible standard than the strict trimester standard of Roe. Exceptions will be made in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother.
- Late-term abortions after viability require certification from a provider with appropriate safe-harbour provisions to prevent malicious prosecutions that the procedure is necessary.
- No law may be enacted making the providing and receiving of abortion services a criminal act.
- A person guilty of causing pregnancy via rape or incest is barred from parental rights should the child be carried to term unless the mother consents and significant court and social agency oversight is provided.
- The choice to have an abortion is between a woman and her provider with the woman’s choice taking precedence. A process would be established much in the way of a living will to express a woman’s wishes should she not wish to or is unable to make the choice for herself.
- No law may be passed mandating waiting periods or pre-abortion counselling. States may insist that the information be made available to the mother if she chooses to receive it and any such counselling must not require additional visits.
- States may expand upon the rights enacted in this bill but may not reduce them below the minimums established in this bill.
I don’t know that it’ll necessarily convince Senator Tillis to come completely on board. I was at least gratified that he does agree with the usual exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother which is at least more reasonable than one might have hoped.
For what it’s worth, he’ll at least have some food for thought should he choose to read it.
The next salvo of letters with my response attached as a basis for policy they should consider will be targeting officials here in North Carolina where the fight has been remanded whether we like it or not. I’ll keep you posted on how well it goes! 🙂
The response is below (warning, it’s 11 pages single-spaced!):