The Republican rollback of human rights is happening in plain sight. On May 2, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented its “refusal of care” rule, a policy that enables individuals and organizations the right to refuse healthcare to anyone with whom they religiously or morally object, such as LGBT people or women exercising their reproductive rights.
President Trump and Vice Present Pence’s alignment with political evangelicals on the federal level has also emboldened ultra conservative anti-LGBT and anti-women state legislators to help pursue two primary goals: overturning Roe v Wade (1973) that grants women autonomy over their own bodies and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.
With 30 state legislatures controlled by Republicans, several states are passing extremist bills that they know are a legal challenge to Roe, hoping for a showdown at the conservative-majority Supreme Court.
On May 7, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “heartbeat bill,” banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy—a time when women might not even know they are pregnant. Georgia joins Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi in passing such a ban in 2019. Alabama’s bill goes further, disallowing exceptions for rape and incest and making abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure.
The reaction was swifter but less intense than in 2016 when businesses and Hollywood threatened economic boycotts of Georgia and North Carolina after they passed anti-trans bathroom bills. On May 9, five production companies announced a boycott. Out Killer Films CEO Christine Vachon said the company would “no longer consider Georgia as a viable shooting location until this ridiculous law is overturned,” Yahoo News reported.
However—as if political correctness and business acumen apply more to LGBT than reproductive rights— directors Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, while denouncing the new ban as unconstitutional, said they will nonetheless shoot the HBO horror film “Lovecraft Country” in Georgia.
But the biggest issue is the Supreme Court. As expertly laid out by the Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson, Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt suggests that stare decisis, or “let the decision stand,” may no longer strongly inform decisions. In his lengthy dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer concluded, “today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
“It’s not hard to guess which cases Justice Breyer was wondering about,” Michaelson wrote. “Because the same logic applied in Hyatt would overturn not only Roe v. Wade but also the court’s precedent on same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.”