Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Hacking the Constitution is a dangerous, bipartisan game

By Rick Henderson The Week

Democracy can’t survive if we change the rules every time our side loses.

There’s a new variant of partisan suspicion in America: The other side refuses to play by the rules and must be stopped at any cost or our country as we know it is over.

Whether America is really on the brink of catastrophe may be debatable, but the rulebreaking critique has truth to it, and both sides are right that the other is guilty. Republicans and Democrats alike are “hacking” the Constitution, upending longstanding procedures and policies when the rules mean they lose. They’re evading public scrutiny and accountability and further corroding confidence in government and other essential institutions.

The hacks I have in mind are things like Senate Bill 8 (SB8), the Texas heartbeat act, passed by a Republican legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Challenges to the law are now under review by the Supreme Court, and the justices may hand down their decision at any time.

SB8 bans most abortions performed after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. What makes it unusual, compared to something like the Mississippi law outlawing abortions after 15 weeks that the court considered last week, is the mechanism of enforcement. SB8 lets any U.S. citizen (not just Texans) file a civil lawsuit for $10,000 in damages against abortion providers and anyone else who enables a pregnant woman to get an abortion in Texas after the sixth week of pregnancy.

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