A group of House Republicans has proposed a nearly complete abortion ban for a noteworthy jurisdiction… the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States, which can be generally understood to mean U.S. waters under federal control, though there can be cases of federal and state standards applying to the same dispute in this area.
“The Court has held that, under the Constitution, admiralty jurisdiction extends to all navigable public waters, regardless of whether they are saltwater or freshwater, or subject to the ebb and flow of the tide,” information from Congress.gov says. And these Republicans want to ban most abortions there. (Is performing an abortion in the public waters of the United States… even a thing?) The list of those who attached their names to the initiative includes GOP Reps. Randy Weber (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Greg Steube (Fla.), Alex Mooney (W.Va.), and others, reaching 14 total.
While it’s unclear that this initiative has any reasonable chance at becoming law, especially with President Joe Biden still in the White House, it demonstrates the extremes to which certain Republicans are willing to go after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing for new legislative action at both the state and federal levels around abortion. The proposal, provided the abbreviated title of the Ban Offshore Abortion Tourism Act, appears designed to ban all abortions except those in isolated cases covered by exceptions for rape and potentially fatal dangers to the life of the pregnant person.
The problems with this approach are evident in the language, as the exceptions allowed for pregnant minors are only permitted if the violent circumstance underlying their pregnancy has been reported to certain authorities. And what if something means they’re logistically unable to do that? What if they’re doubly traumatized by being forced to recount an instance like rape before receiving what until recently was available health care? This GOP proposal also outlines methods for obtaining judicial relief against someone who performs an abortion, though the measure notes that a parent whose criminal activity is responsible for a minor’s pregnancy may not benefit from civil relief should there be an abortion or attempt at such. When you as a federal legislator have to specify such a thing, perhaps it’s time to go home and look in the mirror.