Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mississippi Irony

Mississippi takes a step to ban all abortions. Boo. But this clause I find intriguing:
Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, persuaded the House committee to approve an amendment that says the state would provide free education and medical services to any child born in the state, until age 19.

Scott said her proposal could extend beyond the public schools and Medicaid already offered. She said it could make a significant difference for a poor woman who's trying to decide whether to have an abortion.

"Anyone who wants to take this language out of this bill is not for life," Scott said.

This would be a spectacular policy. And I agree with Representative Scott--a clause like this is make-or-break for being truly "pro-life" (as opposed to "pro-birth").

But here's the delicious irony. This clause would have never passed by itself. This sort of universal education and healthcare commitment is definitely not up the GOP's alley, neither in Mississippi nor anywhere else. But Scott convinced them that it kind of went part and parcel with a true pro-life position (and again, she's dead right), so they threw it in.

Now, the next step in the "banning abortion" theater game (assuming the bill gets passed by the full legislature) is where a federal Court immediately enjoins its enforcement. This isn't even a close call--even if the Court thought that abortion should be criminalized, it has to obey higher Court precedent (which is really clear in this case). But, Courts try, whenever possible, to only strike down the unconstitutional aspects of a bill. If they can "sever" the unconstitutional parts from the constitutional parts, they will. The "ban abortion" clause and the "free education and healthcare" clause are clearly separable, that is, you can enforce one without enforcing the other. So the latter will likely be preserved even if the former goes down in flames.

The upshot is that Mississippi's abortion ban will immediately be struck down, but the children's welfare statute will remain on the books, fully enforcable. Which puts MS politicians in the lovely position of either acceding to a massive new liberal program, or having to repeal healthcare for poor children (can you see the ads?).

Sometimes, the straightest path...

(TMVer Justin Gardner with the heads up)


jack said...

Two things. First of all this needs to be a policy advocated by every Democrat. If we ever want to win back the value vote we need to find ways to be both pro-life and pro-choice (not to mention that such a position is, ug, right).

Second, don't these states (South Dakota and now Mississippi) realize that the don't have the votes on the Supreme Court for overturning Roe/Casey? Even if Roberts would vote to overturn (a prospect I don't think likely) they still only have 4 votes. Hell I don't even think Roberts would vote to grant cert so these cases won't even be heard.

Are these people stupid or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Jack, you're missing something. This is yet another symbolic vote from the states that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided, in their view. They know it will be overturned. It will score them points with certain constituents. But they're the elected representatives, so if the people don't like them passing this largely symbolic legislation, they need to make their voices louder or vote them out.

jack said...

Oh thats right. I forgot Republicans don't actually care about abortion, gay marriage, media violence or any of the other culture war issues that get them elected. Their symbolic support gets them a ton of votes though. I'm starting to think the Democratic party should do the same thing. Once we're in power we can ignore rural voters like everyone else does.

I guess I just thought that the Mississippi legislature would be mostly made up of true believers- and if you actually cared about criminalizing abortion this would be the last thing you'd do. All of this legislative action is going to cause a huge backlash among single women. In 08 and 06 that demographic is going to flock to the polls like never before. From what I can tell the pro-life doesn't need these legislative initiatives drawing attention to a fight they're already winning.

(How was this attempt at being snark, furious and rational at the same time?)

Anonymous said...

Just a bit of correction - to be eligible for the child health care, the mother would have had to go through pre-natal counseling. As a (lonely) Mississippi liberal, I can't really say where this came from, other than being a re-election ploy and forcing Democrats to go on record. But our local Democrats are all "pro-life" anyway, otherwise they would never have gotten elected.