Guest Op/Ed: The Sanctuary County Ordinance Would Not be Pro-Life

Guest Editorial
When I was invited to come to Bradenton earlier this week to speak to your Board of County Commissioners about their proposed "Sanctuary County for the Unborn" bill, I eagerly accepted, because the implications of this bill, and others like it such as SB8 in Texas, have far-reaching consequences for the entire country.

Before we get into what this bill would do, let's talk about what it wouldn't do: 

It wouldn't stop a single abortion from happening in Manatee County. 

There are exactly zero abortion clinics in Manatee County, which means that if someone has an abortion in your county, it's already illegal. You can't just go into a back alley and have an abortion legally right now, it has to be done at a licensed and registered facility. Manatee has none. 

And if a resident of Manatee goes to another county to have an abortion, that's outside of Manatee's jurisdiction, and there's nothing they can do about it. 

So, wherever you fall in the abortion debate, this bill does absolutely nothing to change the status quo. 

Here's what it actually does do, and why we should be united in opposition to it: 

It uses the pretext of abortion as an excuse to give government a new, and frightening, enforcement power which, if it were upheld by the Supreme Court (and I strongly doubt it would be), would do away with any semblance of what our constitutional republic is supposed to provide you: due process, limited government, and respect for your inalienable rights.

Simply put, it would pave the way for an authoritarian police state the likes of which we saw in Stalin's USSR and Mao's China.

It would also lead to more abortions. 

And here's why: 

Under the current system, in order to punish someone for committing a crime, they must first be arrested and indicted by the government, and put through the criminal justice system, where they are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and under which the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. 

If you are convicted and appeal it on the grounds that the law you broke is unconstitutional, the state and federal appeals courts (up to the U.S. Supreme Court) can determine whether or not the law passes constitutional muster. 

Good, right? Just as the founders intended.

Now, here's where this proposed "Sanctuary" bill tries to destroy all of that: 

In order to get around Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision which ruled that a ban on abortion is unconstitutional, this bill seeks to create a way to sneak around that.

You see, instead of banning abortion through direct government action via the criminal justice system, it instead bans it by allowing any of us to sue anyone they suspect of violating the ban, and then if the accused is found guilty, they are fined $500 and can serve two months in prison. The person who switched on them is rewarded with $10,000. 

Now, because the civil courts are being used instead of the criminal courts, the burden of proof is much lower; instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, it's a "preponderance of the evidence." 

In other words, if it's likely you did it, that's good enough to convict. 

But wait, there's more!

According to this law, the accused has to prove that their action was necessary to protect the life of the mother. In other words, they are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

As bad as all of that is, here is the worst part: 

This bill doesn't seek to challenge the constitutionality of an abortion ban. 

It claims to magically sidestep constitutional limitations by using the civil courts and tattletales instead of the criminal justice system. 

If this bill were passed, it would inevitably be challenged, leading to one of two outcomes: 

1. Manatee taxpayers would spend millions of dollars defending it in court (Texas has already spent nearly $3.5 million defending their version, with many more challenges to come) only for it to be struck down. This would be an ironic outcome, considering the bill was first introduced by Commissioner James Satcher, a self-described fiscal conservative who promised to be a good steward of your money.


2. The courts would actually uphold it, in which case, a law would no longer have to prove its constitutionality to be valid and enforceable. 

If it were upheld, it wouldn't matter how much a law infringed on your constitutional rights, as long as they used incentivized snitches instead of the criminal justice system to enforce it. 

I probably don't need to tell you what that would lead to, but you've already read this far, so why not? 

Imagine a ban on all firearms. 

Or a universal vaccine mandate. 

Or government speech codes. 

How'd you like to have your neighbor report you to the courts for criticizing the President?

Once the limits of what the constitution allows are removed, the things you could be forced to do (or not do) would be limited only by the wildest imaginations of your least favorite politicians, not to mention the even worse ones who haven't graduated law school yet. 

There are three things that are required for an authoritarian police state to thrive: 

1. Government to grant itself the legal authority for the government to do whatever it wants to you. If this bill were upheld, they'd now have that authority. 

2. A sufficient number of people who are eager to snitch on their neighbors and loved ones for even the most trivial of infractions. How's $10,000 plus attorney's fees sound for an incentive? 

3. A citizenry that is so divided amongst themselves with hate and disdain for one another, that they have no hope to unite against the sociopaths who rule over them. We actually already have that now, but this bill would dramatically worsen that divide. "You want to sue me for owning a gun? Fine, I'll sue you for smoking a cigarette!" 

It isn't hard to see what kind of dystopian nightmare scenario this would lead to. 

And of course, we know that government loves to use pretexts to give themselves more power to use against all of us. 

The Patriot Act was supposed to target terrorists who sought to attack our country. Most recently, it's been used to target parents who speak at school board meetings. 

The income tax was supposed to only target the wealthiest among us. Now, virtually every working American pays Uncle Sam something.

Whenever government seeks a new power, remove the pretext (in this case, abortion) and ask yourself "do I want government to have this power, for any reason they choose?" If your answer is no, you should oppose it, regardless of the pretext.

Now hopefully, the courts would see this bill (and others like it) coming from a mile away, and strike it down before it opens Pandora's Box, which would mean that your county commission had wasted a bunch of your money. 

But if they upheld it, they will have wasted a constitutional republic.

And here's why that would lead to more abortions: 

According to every survey done on the subject that I could find, the number one reason women choose to get an abortion is that they cannot afford another child. Most of them are already parents of other children. They aren't the caricature of the "baby murderer" that some in the pro-life movement present them as, they are parents making an extremely difficult decision, often for financial reasons. 

The single biggest driver of abortion is poverty. 

And does anyone reading this doubt for a second that the kind of authoritarian nightmare scenario described in this article would lead to more poverty?

If this bill were upheld, it would assuredly create the conditions that lead to more babies dying. Not just from abortion, but from malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare, and much more. 

There are many ways to describe this bill. "Pro-life" isn't one of them. 

Make no mistake, the Manatee County Commission is going to make history, either as the villains who attempted to destroy the American tradition of limited government, due process under the law, and inalienable rights, or as the heroes who decided to uphold those traditions and rejecting this nonsensical bill. 

The heroes who reduced the number of abortions by actually listening to their constituents who've gotten one, and addressing those issues with free-market solutions to get government out of the way of the working poor, so more mothers can afford more children. 

The heroes who were actually pro-life, in action, and not just lip service. 

I hope they choose to be heroes. All they have to do is throw this bill in the trash where it belongs.

(Thank you to Women's Voice of SW Florida for inviting me to come to speak to your county commission, and thank you for reading and considering my thoughts on this.)

Jeremy "Spike" Cohen is an American libertarian political activist, entrepreneur, and podcaster. He was the Libertarian Party's nominee for vice president of the United States in the 2020 election.

Reader Comments
Rosemary Mascaro
OCT 31, 2021  •  FYI Sandra Gander … Even a full-term baby who is born can not live outside the womb without the care & feeding of his/her parents. Abortion kills babies throughout all 9 months of pregnancy and has been “forced” on all of our citizens for almost 50 yrs. Enough is enough! We are a country that gives us “Freedom OF Religion”, not “Freedom FROM Religion”. There is a difference!
Sandra Gander
OCT 31, 2021  •  A woman has the right to sovereignty over her body... even when pregnant. A fetus is not a baby until it can fully survive outside the womb. One religion's tenent on abortion cannot be "forced" on all citizens of a nation where "Freedom of Religion" is part of its founding principles.
Rosemary Mascaro
OCT 31, 2021  •  In his article, Jeremy Cohen paid a lot of lip service to an “issue” that supposedly isn’t even an issue for Manatee County yet. But, for the record, killing babies is a human rights abomination not an issue, like taxes and infrastructure. Making Manatee County a sanctuary county prevents abortionists from setting up shop here and pursuing their evil goals. While caring for the poor is a very important social issue to address, it’s not equal to the horror of abortion. Maybe everyone should work together to come up with an acceptable solution that eliminates abortion and helps the poor as well. God Bless James & Monica Satcher for their pro-life efforts!
Dee Dee
OCT 31, 2021  •  The real question is what exactly is the county hiding while they have the public's attention focused on an attempt to remove a women's right to legal medical care?  Maybe the corruption going on in BADS and Code enforcement? Thank you Women's Voice of SW Florida for showing up each week and speaking out for the rest of the women in the community who are at work.