Jim Beam column: Court rulings are complicated

Published 10:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2022

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By Jim Beam

American Press

During my long newspaper career, I can’t remember a time like this one when the courts were involved in so many issues. Trying to decipher what it all means is particularly frustrating while reading about the latest developments.

The big issue, of course, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Thirteen states that are happy about the decision passed what are called “trigger laws” that were designed to take effect as soon as the decision was announced.

Here was the situation as of Wednesday:

  • A federal court allowed Tennessee Tuesday to ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
  • In Texas, a judge temporarily blocked a strict law from taking effect. The Associated Press said the judge in Houston, “a Democratic city in a conservative state,” blocked the enforcement.
  • Judges since Friday have agreed to allow abortion bans or other restrictions to take effect in Alabama, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Some bans were temporarily blocked in Louisiana, Texas, and Utah. The Utah block is for 14 days to give the court time to hear challenges to that state’s trigger law.
  • A New Orleans judge, which the AP reminded readers is also a liberal city in a conservative state, said his ruling is in effect pending a July 8 hearing.
  • Decisions are pending in other places, including Florida and Indiana.
  • The AP said abortion rights advocates also dropped some of their legal efforts in Minnesota and Missouri.
  • In Wisconsin, the Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit challenging an abortion ban that has been on the books for 173 years.
While trying to figure out all of that Tuesday, I looked over to the left on Page 1 of the American Press and saw “Court revives block of vaccine mandate.” President Joe Biden’s administration has required federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and a three-judge federal panel upheld the mandate.

A new order that came from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans vacates the earlier ruling by the three-judge panel. The story said the new order means a block on the mandate imposed in January by a Texas-based federal judge remains in effect while the full court’s 17 judges take up the appeal.

You can’t help but wonder why this court confusion in Texas is continuing since at the time of the January ruling 98 percent of federal workers were already vaccinated.

Where this one involving vaccinations ends is anyone’s guess.

Now, back to Roe v. Wade. The Tuesday story said as of Saturday, abortion services had stopped in at least 11 states — “either because of state laws or confusion over them.”

Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University law school, said since the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide whether to allow abortion, “The expectation is that this will result in years of legislative and judicial challenges.”

The high court’s Roe v. Wade ruling also left a number of other problems. Idaho, Oklahoma, and Texas, for example, have adopted laws that allow people to seek bounties against those who help others get abortions.

The AP said, “It is an open question as to whether that means people can be pursued across state lines, and legal challenges over the issue are likely to come up in cases of both surgical abortions and those involving medicine mailed to patients.”

Complex and confusing legal rulings on abortion and mandates will apparently be with us for years to come. Multiple lawsuits have also been filed on the redrawing in some states of congressional and legislative election lines.

Whatever happened to the simpler lives we used to enjoy?