Written By: Anton Sawyer
Well, that didn’t take too long, did it?
Because the focus of so many articles I write is based on either the negative aspects of the way a law is written or the possible negative outcomes of a piece of legislation, I'm not always thrilled when I turn out to be right. And what makes it worse is when my “negative correctness” occurs quickly after my prediction is made. Usually, it takes a couple of years for the unintended consequences of a law to be seen when it eventually trickles down and starts impacting the average citizen in magnanimous ways.
Of course, Florida and Texas take pride when it comes to not being outdone by anyone and have not only made some seriously horrific laws during 2021 and 2022, but they were both able to write them with such vagueness as to allow the unintended consequences to be felt in just a few months.
And that is what this article is going to look at: the repercussions of when bad laws are written vaguely. In the piece, I’m going to look at two events that exemplify the unintended (or, I think in this case intended) consequences coming from both the Lone Star and the Sunshine states.
The first comes from Florida and their board of education banning math books due to the potential inclusion of material that is related to Critical Race Theory (CRT)—along with the content of those books from being released for the public to actually see what is in them. The second is going to look at the horrific tale of a woman mistakenly charged with murder under the new Texas Heartbeat Law, though she did nothing wrong. Buckle up, because I promise by the end, you’ll wonder what kind of world it is we live in that would see these infractions against personal rights as being legal.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!
FLORIDA MATH BOOKS BANNED DUE TO RACISM
Whenever possible, I try to think of the unintended consequences of whichever bill I’m looking at. Whether it’s presented by a Republican or a Democrat, I assume the worst and see what the potential of that outcome would look like. In 2022 a law was enacted in the state of Florida called “The WOKE Act” hit my radar. Though its intention is to stop CRT from being taught in public schools, the law was written incredibly vaguely. According to the bill, an individual shouldn't be made to "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin."
Initially, I found the law amusing given how frequently the GOP likes to call any liberal a “snowflake,” yet they’re passing legislation based on, and with the intent to protect, feelings. Because different people feel differently about different things, I knew this was a law that could spell trouble in any number of creative ways.
Sadly, I was right.
The state of Florida has banned 54 math books due to their controversial nature. The state school board said that the books have references to critical race theory among a range of reasoning for some of the rejections. The department said in a news release that some of the books had been rejected for failure to comply with the state’s content standards, Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST), but that 21% of the books were disallowed “because they incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT." Department officials disapproved an additional 11 books “because they do not properly align to BEST Standards and incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT."
Immediately these statements should raise questions as these are math books. Not history, social sciences, civics, etc. No, these are all math texts. It's difficult to fathom how a math book could delve into the world of systemic racism. I mean, are there story problems that say things like, "If white people who work in fast food are making $14 per hour, then how much would their black employees make given the monetary differences forced on the employer via reparation laws?" For those, like myself who are curious as to how CRT weaved its way into 5th-grade pre-algebra, you're out of luck. The released list of banned books does not include the titles of the books or provide any extracts to offer reasons why the books were removed ... at all.
To recap we have a bill that is based entirely on feelings and interpretive differences of the same source material. These interpretations are then going to mold what it is that is being taught to children in order to shade the world in a certain way … even in the way they figure out how many pints are in a pound. And then we find that there will be no way to allow for the parents of these children to see the texts and have a say in the kind of educational materials they are exposed to. Given the fact that we’re talking about Florida, there’s a very good chance that a huge portion of the parental population will agree with the bannings. But that still doesn’t negate the right the parent has to at least see the material and make an informed decision.
TEXAS ABORTION MURDER CHARGE
The other example of note when it comes to potentially negative outcomes due to legal confusion brought about by law vagueness is another one that I had written about recently as well: the draconian abortion laws enacted by Texas. Between the small window of opportunity for an abortion to legally occur (from conception to six weeks) to doctors being on the hook for litigation, in conjunction with somewhat confusing language, it was only a matter of time before someone was going to be arrested for ... something. And that's just what happened in the case of Lizelle Herrera when she was arrested for murder over a self-induced abortion in April 2022.
Remember, Texas passed the Texas Heartbeat law in 2021 that bans abortions for people as early as six weeks into pregnancy and permits private citizens to sue anyone who aids a person in obtaining an abortion, including doctors, awarding them up to $10,000 for successful lawsuits. The arrest came after authorities said she “caused the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.” Given the zealous nature of Texas legislators, lawmen, and pro-lifers, once this abortion came to light, the arrest had to happen immediately. The only problem with making Herrera an example when it comes to “you don't murder unborn babies in Texas without consequences,” is that her actions didn't break the law. One of the lesser-known parts of the law is that pregnant women are exempt from the charges when it comes to self-abortion. To be honest, I believe there is a direct correlation between how widely known this part of the law is with how often it has made the headlines (which is none).
Before I go too far, in the case of the incorrect arrest of Herrera, the Supreme Court of the United States does take some of the blame.
Remember, in the ruling of the 2014 SCOTUS case Heien v. North Carolina that police are not required to know the law before they enforce it. Between how vague the Texas Heartbeat Law is, combined with the emboldening by the Supreme Court, the cops, in this case, were just reacting to what they thought was included in the Texas Heartbeat Law—which is perfectly legal. They detained Herrera as her bail was set to $500,000. Shortly this news hit the mainstream and the outcry was swift. So was her release with all charges removed. “In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez, who represents the counties of Starr, Jim Hogg, and Duval, said in a statement.
Because the American prison system is based on profit gain, Ms. Herrera is actually lucky the charges dropped as this would have effectively landed her in jail for a very long time. One thing this arrest also does is shine a light on the fact that women are going to get an abortion whether it’s legal or not. But that’s another topic for another day …
PERFECT STORM/FINAL THOUGHTS
These laws, and the ways that they are written, are leading to real-life consequences for Americans. From pro-Censorship tactics toward education to the removal of someone’s freedom should be chilling. I understand that the Republican party will oftentimes say they are against something while voting for it as quietly as possible so as to not draw attention to themselves. But this isn’t that. These are laws that are open on the books and are often spoken about with pride when it comes from the lawmakers that penned them. I’m not sure exactly what can be done, as the GOP’s ardent supporters are only going to hear the beneficial talking points caress their ears and amygdala, all while discounting the disastrous real-world applications … all as intended.
Hey, it’s just business. Nothing personal …
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!