Culture Wars/Current Controversies

California shouldn’t use Texas’ abortion law as a guide

It wasn’t hard to see this coming: California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday threatened to use Texas’ unusual abortion law as a model for new gun restrictions in his own state.

“SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?! If that’s the precedent then we’ll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets,” Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted after the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to let the law remain in effect while abortion providers bring court challenges. “If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives.”

Newsom’s anger should be understandable, even if you’re against abortion. The Texas law’s enforcement mechanism — which encourages random private citizens to sue abortion providers in civil courts — is novel, alarming, and unjust. If the law is ultimately allowed to stand, it’s likely that blue states will continue to be tempted to match red states with similar laws aimed at lefty hobbyhorses.

That would be disastrous, for several reasons.

Ideally, civil courts exist to fairly arbitrate and resolve disputes between citizens — usually a case in which one or both litigants has suffered some kind of injury or loss. The Texas law does something different: It uses those courts to create a new class of conflict, one in which a plaintiff is allowed to sue even if they have no relationship whatsoever to the persons either providing or receiving care. (Indeed, the first Texas lawsuit was brought by a former lawyer from Arkansas,  more or less because he could.)

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