I’m sure you saw — and probably laughed when you did — that Marjorie Taylor Greene went to Twitter recently to propose a “national divorce” between red and blue states because, presumably, she thinks one Civil War wasn’t enough in America.
Her concept was, of course, entirely unserious and roundly ridiculed by the usual suspects — late-night TV hosts, liberal columnists and anyone who had ever heard of the Articles of Federation. Greene says she doesn’t want a real civil war, of course — that kind of talk is reserved for her pals over at the Proud Boys — but wants to live in a country, meaning the Red half of one, that encourages book banning, would agree that drag shows are the greatest threat facing Western civilization and could safely ignore all federal “ESG scoring measures,” not to mention most laws passed by Congress.
(By the way, if you don’t know what ESG is or why it has become a target of right-wing controversy, congratulations. I wish I didn’t know either.)
If you wanted to take Greene seriously, you could argue that defining a red state or blue state is a little more difficult than it might seem. For instance, Georgia, where Greene lives, voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and has two Democratic senators, a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature. But there’s no real point in debating Greene’s lunacy — beyond perhaps mentioning the irony in the fact that she serves on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee — when civil war over uncivil laws is already breaking out all over the place.
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I mean, it’s sort of happening right now in Colorado, which, as those more or less geographically astute already understand, is nearly surrounded by states that have severely limited abortion rights, if not actually outlawed abortion altogether, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s benighted decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. According to one study, 24 states have either effectively banned abortion or are moving toward that goal.
And now Colorado has become a haven for many women seeking a place where medical care is still rooted in the 21st century.
And so, Colorado’s largely Democratic legislature is considering — and is sure to pass — three laws meant to protect those who come to the state for either abortion services or gender-affirming care and protection for those who assist anyone coming to the state for those services and protection for anyone in Colorado providing those services.
Senate Bill 188 would not allow Colorado officials to assist in such action initiated in another state and would, in fact, directly block any such out-of-state legal action. Two other bills would prohibit deceptive advertising, particularly concerning misinformation about so-called abortion-pill reversal, and would make changes in insurance regulations for abortion and gender-affirming care.
Some are saying this would make Colorado an abortion sanctuary state — not unlike the sometimes controversial labeling of Colorado as a sanctuary state in the immigration wars — but I assume those prepared to afford sanctuary to women who live in states that don’t offer any would welcome the description.
A year ago, just prior to the Roe decision, the Colorado legislature passed a bill codifying abortion access in the state that Gov. Jared Polis signed into law. Polis later signed an executive order along the lines of Senate Bill 188, which would now codify those protections and others into law.
To understand what this means, you have to understand what it means to live in states that have effectively banned abortion and in some where offending doctors can be imprisoned. No state has yet passed a law criminalizing those receiving an abortion, but several have had such bills proposed.
In Texas, for example, five women and two OB-GYNs have recently sued the state over its near-total abortion ban, saying the laws, as understood or maybe we should say misunderstood, meant they were denied abortions when complications risked the lives of either the mother or a fetus or both.
This lawsuit doesn’t seek to overturn Texas’ anti-abortion laws — there are actually three overlapping laws in Texas, each worse than the next — but to clarify them so doctors will no longer be afraid to even the say the “a-word” or to mention the fact to at-risk patients that their situation is so serious they should go to another state to seek abortion services.
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In one of the cases, Lauren Miller of Dallas was pregnant with twins. One of the twins had a genetic abnormality that usually results in death. The other twin was healthy, but if the two fetuses were carried to term, it would put the healthy fetus at grave risk.
She says her doctor could tell her only this: “You can’t do anything in Texas and I can’t tell you anything further in Texas, but you need to get out of state.”
Yes, she traveled to Colorado for what they call a “selective reduction.” But when she went back to Texas, she didn’t know whether it was safe to say where she had gone or what procedure she had undertaken.
“You don’t know where anybody stands, so it feels like we’re all kind of talking in code,” Miller said.
As it turned out, she didn’t break any Texas law, but there are laws against anyone who “aids or abets” abortion in Texas. Under one of the other laws, doctors performing abortions could be imprisoned for life.
Here’s what fear leads to. In an interview with NPR, Miller’s doctor would talk but refused to have her name used.
“I have colleagues,” she said, “who say cryptic things like, ‘The weather’s really nice in New Mexico right now. You should go check it out.’ Or, ‘I’ve heard traveling to Colorado is really nice this time of year.’ “
Another of the women named in the lawsuit, Amanda Zurawski, who had undergone months of fertility treatment before getting pregnant, was diagnosed in her second trimester with cervical insufficiency. The doctors told her the fetus would certainly die, and the mother’s life was at risk, but that they could not, under Texas law, provide an abortion.
In Texas, if the mother’s life is endangered, there can be an abortion. But Zurawski said she was told that “my doctor could not intervene as long as (the fetus’) heart was still beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board at the hospital to consider my life at risk …. I cannot adequately put into words the trauma and despair that comes with waiting to either lose your own life, or your child’s life, or both.”
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And so doctors had to wait three days until Zurawski developed sepsis, an infection that qualifies as life threatening, and finally could receive an abortion. But, by that time, the infection had caused one of her fallopian tubes to be permanently damaged.
Several of the women in the lawsuit did travel to Colorado. That didn’t break any Texas laws — yet. But all we know is that more laws are coming, and there are certainly lawmakers who’d like to pass such a law.
Meanwhile, traveling from red-state Texas to blue-state Colorado is, in fact, nice this time of year. The weather is often good. And the state legislature is proposing bills ensuring all visitors will be welcome.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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