The PJ Tatler

A Few Thoughts on the Texas Filibuster and the Supremes

No one really covered themselves in glory in Texas’ capitol Tuesday night. The Senate’s leadership bungled its handling of Senate Bill 5. The Democrats filibustered the bill, and then a gallery mob packed with Democrat supporters shouted down the process long enough to temporarily kill the bill.

SB 5 itself is modest. It bans late-term abortions after 20 weeks, not “all abortions” as some of its opponents dishonestly claimed. It also improved standards in women’s health clinics in Texas. It would stop a Kermit Gosnell from materializing, killing babies just after birth, and killing mothers with unsafe and unsanitary conditions and procedures.

Planned Parenthood demonstrated its power, but it also demonstrated its depravity, Tuesday. Planned Parenthood distanced itself from Gosnell once he was caught and on trial, but for years its clinics referred patients to him despite his reputation for unsanitary conditions and untrained staff. The state of Pennsylvania turned a blind eye to Gosnell for years, no doubt due to political pressure exerted on it by Planned Parenthood and its allies. In Texas, Planned Parenthood fought a bill that enjoys majority support and would improve women’s safety. A hard question must be asked of Planned Parenthood: Is the money you earn from the services you render really so much more important to you than both women’s health and the basic rule of law? A harder question must be asked of Democrats who support Planned Parenthood: Is there any place you won’t go and any tactic to which you won’t resort to support your benefactors? To both: Do you want more Kermit Gosnells and more dead and mutilated women?

A mob shut the process down last night. Some say that the mob was merely citizens making their voices heard. Citizens make our voices heard in who we elect and what laws our representatives pass. Anybody can import a bunch of people who will make enough noise to wrench the legislative process. It takes a bit more to get elected, get a bill on the calendar, and get it passed. The latter is the rule of law. The former is anarchy. A majority of Texans support what SB 5 would do. Do those citizens not have the right to be heard in having the legislation that they favor pass?

The answer would seem obvious, but it isn’t. Today the US Supreme Court issued a strange ruling on California’s Prop 8 that may be relevant. The court ruled that the citizens who supported and passed that constitutional amendment by a large majority had no standing to defend it against a lawsuit. The decision granted a district court unchecked power to overrule the express will of the people. The Supremes in effect said that the people’s will is reviewable, but a court’s will is not. At least, on some subjects.

The rub here is that the court ruled that citizens using the legal process had no standing to defend a law that they had already passed. But in Texas, the mob in effect grabbed standing not granted to it in law to stop a bill that the majority favors. In both cases, ordinary citizens in the majority lost in what is supposed to be a representative republic.