News Release

Abortion: Supreme Court Effectively Deputizing Citizens as “Bounty Hunters”


CBS News reports: “The Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy includes an unusual measure designed to ensure the law is enforced: Residents of the state can sue clinics, doctors, nurses and even people who drive a woman to get the procedure, for at least $10,000.

“That financial incentive was singled out by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent late Wednesday after the Supreme Court declined to block the controversial law. In effect, Texas lawmakers have ‘deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures,’ she wrote.”

Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Cohn said today: “Texas Senate Bill 8 bans nearly all abortions in Texas and flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, in a 5-4 decision, the right-wingers on the Court refused to stop the Texas law from going into effect. John Roberts joined the three liberals in dissent. Although the majority claimed that it was not expressing any opinion on the constitutionality of SB 8, the split indicates that when the high court considers Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law next term, it may well overturn Roe v. Wade.”

In an news release in September 2020, “Packing the Court and Filling the Streets,” Cohn stated: “The Supreme Court now has eight members — three liberals and five conservatives. Until Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Chief Justice John Roberts had been the swing vote. Roberts, concerned with the legacy of the Roberts Court, voted with the liberals to strike down an abortion restriction and uphold the Affordable Care Act. A Trump appointment would substitute a right-wing member for Ginsburg, resulting in a 6-3 conservative majority. They would most likely overrule Roe v. Wade and strike down the Affordable Care Act.

“As it increasingly appears Mitch McConnell has the votes to proceed with filling  Ginsburg’s seat before the election or inauguration, the Democrats must play hard ball. They should pledge that if Joe Biden wins the election and the Democrats assume control of the Senate, they will raise the number of members on the Supreme Court from 9 to 13. The Constitution does not prescribe how many members will sit on the high court so Congress can raise the number.”

Following Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, Cohn wrote the piece “From a Justice for Gender Equality to a ‘Justice’ for Gender Oppression.”