A tourist watches a Nyala graze at the Sabi Sands nature reserve in South Africa

A tourist watches a Nyala graze at the Sabi Sands nature reserve in Mpumalanga, South Africa which is just like an unwanted pregnancy

Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images

On Winsome Sonograms, Grazing Wildlife, and the "Aesthetic Injury" of Abortion

In thenewest, lowest, dumbest, most scurrilous "argument" yet for forcing women to give birth, a MAGA "judge" has argued people like looking at sonograms and babies just like at wild animals and the FDA's approval of a widely used abortion pill deprives them of that God-given pleasure. "Friends and family cheer at the sight of an unborn child," writes partisan hack James Ho in a wildly misogynistic screed against women who want to decide what to do with their own bodies. But whadda they know. Just WTF.

The latest crackpot ruling on abortion, based on not law but fascist grievance seeking brazenly theocratic outcomes, comes amidst a stream of stories about the devastating impact of last year's Dobbs decision. The newest: A 13-year old Mississippi girl just gave birth after being raped by a stranger who came into her yard as she played outside; she couldn't get an abortion thanks to Mississippi’s abortion ban - and Alito's depraved "reasoning" - in an increasingly common chronicle of awful cause and worse effect the child's mother says "still hurts and is going to always hurt." Then came last week's ruling in a case from Texas' Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was hand-picked by a group of anti-choice doctors called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, essentially a front for the Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, who shaped the Mississippi abortion ban at the heart of Dobbs. The new ruling, by a panel of three GOP-appointed judges, will restrict access to mifepristone, the FDA-approved medication now used in over half of abortions in this country. It doesn't ban the widely-used pill outright - small mercies - but prohibits sending it through the mail or prescribing it through telehealth appointment; it also limits its use up to just seven weeks of pregnancy, when many women don't even know they're pregnant, down from the current 10.

Ostensibly, the fight is about whether the drug is "dangerous," an at-best fatuous argument. Since abortion pills became legal in 2000, they've been used over 5 million times; doctors cite "serious side effects" in less than 1% of patients and "major adverse events" like infection or hospitalization in under 0.3% of patients; an "almost non-existent" risk of death; and outcomes far safer than penicillin, Viagra or pregnancy, which oddly no forced-birth zealots are seeking to ban, strongly suggesting their claims of "injury" stem not from concern about the health of women or raped 13-year-olds but their own "conservative tears," ceaseless hubris, and stubborn belief all women want to be pregnant but may not know it. Self-appointed to educate them on that score is MAGA Judge James Ho, culture warrior, partisan hack, Federalist Society member and bestie to King of Corruption Clarence Thomas, for whom he clerked and who swore him into office (Ted Cruz was there!) in the lush library of mutual billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow, who he praises as "a respected business leader, devoted patriot, and generous philanthropist." "Many people genuinely enjoy spending time with - and learning from - interesting people who do interesting work," he's said in blithe defense of millions of bucks ibucks in chaste gifts. "We shouldn’t assume illicit motive with every justice who accepts a trip."

Ho is an extremist piece of work whose opinions have earned him a place in the FedSoc Twelve, a tally of the most unhinged Trump appointees who now form a grievous, bonkers, life-tenured "Originalism Caucus within the federal judiciary." He's argued convicted wife-beaters should get to keep their guns, killer cops should retain their immunity even if they fail at their job, the law can't protect trans workers (who he purposefully misnames) though SCOTUS says it should, hate speech should be allowed, and, while abetting war crimes in Bush's Justice Department (sic) with John Yoo, the Geneva Conventions don't apply to anyone in al Qaeda or the Taliban. Following his habit of often writing his own more-out-there opinions even when agreeing with a majority ruling because he "confuses being a federal judge with being a speechwriter for a right-wing shock jock's presidential campaign," he's often spewed frenzied anti-choice rhetoric: Pregnancy health care cannot be deemed a serious medical issue because, "When we celebrate Mother's Day, (are) we celebrating illness?" and abortion is "a moral tragedy." In the mifepristone case - which the Biden administration will appeal - Ho added his fervid two cents in yet another brazen display by GOP judges of "not caring what the law actually says if (it gets) in the way (of) a right-wing grievance, preferably in the 5th circuit."

Overturning a lower court ruling that said mifepristone should be banned and removed from the market, Ho's three-judge panel voted to keep it legal but restrict it - no mailing, no telehealth - to cut out midwives, alternative providers and pregnant women who may struggle to get to a doctor. Ho both concurred with but dissented from the majority, adding his own loopy, rabid opinion, arguing he had legal standing to do so and insist no pregnant women have access to the pill because people like to look at babies just like wildlife. (No, really). Citing cases where environmental groups have sued to stop development on ecologically valuable land, he argues the public has a right to preserve and view animals, birds, butterflies, etc, and fetuses are the same! "It’s well established that, if a plaintiff has ‘concrete plans’ to visit an animal’s habitat and view that animal, that plaintiff suffers aesthetic injury when an agency has approved a project that threatens the animal...The FDA has approved the use of a drug that threatens to destroy the unborn children in whom Plaintiffs have an interest...Expectant parents eagerly share ultrasound photos with loved ones....Doctors delight in working with their unborn patients, and experience an aesthetic injury when they are aborted...I see no basis for allowing (a law) based on aesthetic injury when it comes to animals and plants - but not unborn human life."

So: No abortion for the raped 13-year-old, the struggling mother of four, the woman whose distressed fetus is "incompatible with life" and other unthinking broodmares whose private "habitat" is now deemed a natural resource for public consumption, the provenance of doctors who will face "aesthetic injury" if each heedless fetus isn't forcibly carried to term by a woman who will then care for the person it becomes over at least the next 18 years, and never mind the " aesthetic injury" of an unregulated AR-15 cutting them down first 'cause shit happens, thoughts and prayers. Adding insult to the injury of Ho and fellow bigots "twisting themselves into hallucinogenic pretzels" to craft their barmy "legal arguments," it seems Ho was well-paid for his transgression. Politely citing "a financial ethics problem," news accounts have noted Ho declined to recuse himself from the case though his wife Allyson has for years collected speaking fees and God knows what else - golden toilets? - from, oh look, the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers argued the case. Huh. Ever-vigilant, Ho defended the utter integrity of the proceedings by noting he was advised "there was no basis for recusal" and "in any event, Allyson’s practice is to donate honoraria to charity." Like, say, the "non-profit" Alliance Defending Freedom. Nothing to see here. Just grazing wildlife. So cute.

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