The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Gov. Janet Mills has taken the appropriate step of prohibiting Maine agencies from cooperating with other states’ efforts to investigate and restrict abortion care. This recent executive order shouldn’t even be necessary, but the intellectual inconsistency and selective reading of the Constitution on display in other states makes it so.
“A woman’s right to choose is just that — a woman’s, not a politician’s,” Mills said in a Tuesday statement. “This executive order makes clear that access to reproductive health care, and the health care providers who offer it, will be protected by my administration.”
Plenty of Republicans have heralded the recent (and dangerous) Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade as a win for states’ rights and constitutional interpretation. Now some conservative state officials seem to be overlooking constitutional protections and the principle of state’s rights when those forces stand between them and another desired outcome.
Zero states currently prevent their citizens from traveling to other states to receive abortion care. But officials in several states are already considering this outrageous idea. Mills and other governors are right to get ahead of these potential power grabs and the restrictions they would place on women and medical providers.
Republican-led legislatures considering these policies might want to review the first clause of Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment. For that matter, they might want to review Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion in the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
“[A]s I see it, some of the other abortion-related legal questions raised by today’s decision are not especially difficult as a constitutional matter,” Kavanaugh wrote, even as he voted to overturn Roe. “For example, may a State bar a resident of that State from traveling to another State to obtain an abortion? In my view, the answer is no, based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”
That conservative state lawmakers are even considering such travel restrictions is an affront to both the Constitution and to consistency of thought. As Kavanaugh indicated, this shouldn’t be a difficult constitutional question.
It speaks to a selective invocation of states’ rights and situational adherence to the Constitution. Certain Republicans have been leaning on states’ rights arguments until they want to tell other states what to do, or try to limit what their citizens can do in other states.
Look at the way U.S. Senate Republicans deployed arguments about states’ rights in the debate over federal voting rights legislation, only for Sen. Rick Scott of Florida to release his version of a Republican platform shortly thereafter. Apparently Senate Republicans don’t think the federal government needs to do more to safeguard voting rights across America, but it seems that Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, thinks a national requirement for American students to stand for the pledge of allegiance is necessary. Interesting.
And similarly to all the states’ rights arguments, it seems that individual liberties are sacrosanct, except when they aren’t. We struggle to see how liberty apparently doesn’t include bodily autonomy, just as we struggle to understand how various freedoms quickly go from fundamental principles to afterthoughts.
For example, many Republicans were thrilled by the news about Elon Musk purchasing Twitter, calling it a win for the First Amendment and free speech absolutism. But now, some Republicans in South Carolina want to make it a crime just to share information about how to recieve abortion care.
Consistency, it seems, is dead — or close to it. And in the case of abortion rights, it could cost lives. As other states look to engage in dangerous inconsistencies, Mills is right to keep Maine out of these efforts.