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  • Walter Weber

Activist Attorney Stumbles on Hellerstedt

The legal publication U.S. Law Week recently (Aug. 3, 2017) reported on developments in an Arkansas abortion case. The article quotes Danielle Wells, "a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America," as follows:

"Just last year, the Supreme Court reaffirmed every person's right to access safe legal abortion and ruled that politically motivated laws like this one are clearly unconstitutional," she said, referencing [Whole Woman's Health v.] Hellerstedt.

While calling a law "politically motivated" may make quotable copy, there are two big problems with its use here.

First, as I explained in a blog about the Hellerstedt case at the time, the Supreme Court's decision did not find any improper motive:

Nowhere does the decision impugn the state's motives. While the Court concludes that the challenged regulations are ultimately unjustified, the Court does not accuse the state of having some sinister purpose. Nor does the opinion drip with hostility to pro-life efforts to stem the abortion tide.

So Wells is off-base as a factual matter.

Second, and more generally, since when do political motivations invalidate a law? Can anyone point to laws that are not politically motivated?

Legislators are politicians because they are elected. Those favoring abortion listen to their abortion-supporting backers and constituents; those opposing abortion listen to theirs. Ditto for any other issue of public interest. In short, labeling a law "politically motivated" is largely meaningless name-calling.

Walter Weber is a contributor at the Committee for Justice. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.

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