Recently, former Baltimore Sun reporter, “The Wire” creator and editorialist-at-heart David Simon announced on Twitter that his newest TV project, a nonfiction miniseries “based on events in Texas” won’t be filmed in the Lone Star State. His reasoning was simple. The state’s abortion law, the most restrictive in the U.S. as it essentially bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, precludes it.
When closely questioned on this point (which is apt to happen on the social media platform), his response was, if not perfect, at least in proximity to it. Skipping over the more profane moments (another Simon trademark), he observed: “I can’t and won’t ask female cast/crew to forgo civil liberties to film there.” Or, as he later explained: “My first obligation as an employer is to the people working on the production. I can’t ask them to locate in Texas and forgo civil liberties. Not ethical. Ever.”
Well said, native Marylander.
The Texas law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, gives no exceptions for rape, incest or sexual abuse. And it comes with a peculiar, very Texas-like means of enforcement, offering awards of $10,000 to private citizens who sue abortion providers — or mere friends of patients, as even driving a woman to a clinic could get you sued under the law. This privatization of enforcement, aka vigilantism, seems to have helped Texas avoid the obvious obstacle that it runs contrary to the well-established, decades-old legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court’s five-member conservative majority chose to let the law stand despite its scandalously obvious adverse and unconstitutional impact on women. Might it signal an intent to overturn Roe? And now other states, the usual Republican-run suspects including Florida, of course, are charging forth with copycat legislation. Rarely has reproductive freedom been under such an assault since the landmark 1973 court case, with Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointees helping lead the charge.
Yet here is what the attack on women’s rights has also wrought: a gathering storm. Losing a David Simon miniseries is one thing. A lot of other employers are speaking out against this attack on women as well. That includes 52 companies, from Lyft to Yelp, that recently issued an open letter calling the law bad for business. Considering how rarely businesses choose to speak out on contentious political issues given how it can cost them customers, it was a noteworthy display. But perhaps just the beginning of a trend. In Portland, Oregon, there’s a plan to boycott all Texas goods and services. But that’s small potatoes. There is concern that the law may drive the lucrative technology sector including the space industry away from Texas entirely as educated women recognize that they are seen less like the real-life heroes of “Hidden Figures” and more like the women of “The Handmaid’s Tale” where religious fanatics in a fictional dystopian society keep natal slaves.
Meanwhile, political leaders in more sensible states are looking to buttress laws that support reproductive rights. That includes Maryland where lawmakers are even now debating what form abortion-rights legislation might take in the 2022 session. Abortion rights are established law in this state, but amending them more explicitly into the state constitution is one possibility. Another might be to expand public funding for abortion. Both have been controversial in the past, but the Texas law may prove an effective motivator. In 1992, state voters backed Question 6 to preserve abortion rights by a roughly 62% to 38% margin. And polls suggest support for abortion “in most cases” has only gotten stronger in Maryland. No wonder Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, along with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, seems to be looking for every opportunity to attack the Texas law in court.
Those are just some of the reasons you don’t hear leading Republican Party figures like Sen. Mitch McConnell crowing about the Texas law and the prospects for a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe. They may like their culture wars for fundraising and organizing purposes, but they aren’t prepared to win them. Democrats aren’t united on taxes, spending and a host of other issues that have bogged down President Joe Biden’s agenda in recent weeks, but such a terrible assault on the fundamental rights of women could do wonders for the Democratic Party’s midterm prospects and beyond. Average Americans who weren’t all that concerned about Supreme Court nominees (or at least not energized like white evangelicals) may be awakened from their slumber. Be warned. It’s not just some TV executive (currently filming the six-hour series “We Own This City” about police corruption in Baltimore) who is paying attention now.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.
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