Still Haunted by the Ghosts of Roe

Last week the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in the case of FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. The suit was argued by the Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing 25 states, 145 members of Congress, women who have been harmed by chemical abortions, and a broad coalition of doctors and advocacy groups. The purpose of the suit is to address the danger posed to women by the FDA’s lowering of its own standards for the drug Mifepristone (which is responsible for over 51 percent of all chemically-induced abortions in the US).

The drug was approved by the FDA for use in 2000 but it could only be approved and obtained at a doctor’s office, abortion clinic or through the mail, and required (as per FDA rules) “doctors to provide ongoing care to women and girls using the drugs, including in-person visits to check for ectopic pregnancies, severe bleeding, and life-threatening infections.” In 2021 the Biden administration allowed the dispensing of the drug at pharmacies and drugstores as a Covid-era policy, which it later made permanent in 2023. Despite awareness of the harmful side effects of Mifepristone, the Biden administration codified a lower safety standard for the drug, in addition to ignoring (i.e. violating) the Comstock Act, which prohibits contraceptives from being sent through the mail.

Although this is the subject matter that was supposed to be covered in discussions before the SCOTUS, Auguste Meyrat, writing in The Federalist, pointed out that, “nothing like this was debated in the oral arguments. Rather, the lawyers and justices debated whether the group bringing the charge, an association of health care professionals, had legal standing.” The U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar (representing the FDA), made the argument that just because doctors involved in the suit treat women (who are also part of the litigation) who suffer as a result of the horrible side-effects of Mifepristone, this does not mean they are entitled to have a say on this issue. Meanwhile, Justice Neil Gorsuch pushed things even farther when he made the case that it is the lower courts, and not the SCOTUS, who hold the responsibility for forcing the FDA to reinstate their original safety standards. Finally, regarding violations of the Comstock Act, “Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only ones to bring this up." And, because this issue was ignored by lower courts when plaintiffs included it in their case, the fear is it is likely to be ignored by the Supreme Court as well.

Over the course of my adult life, my appreciation for how exceptional America is has grown immensely. Nonetheless, along with a sense of gratitude for our nation’s founding principles has come a sort of Gen-X jadedness at why the founders chose those principles in the first place. I have come to appreciate that our government works best when it safeguards our rights and liberties, and that it works worst when it tries to impose duties and obligations which infringe on those freedoms. This, of course, requires ongoing vigilance on our behalf to know, understand and pass on to future generations those things that keep us free. When we fail in that vigilance and our society falls apart as a result of it, it is far easier for a pampered and distracted citizenry to turn to the government for a small, quick and easy fix.

However, these “small” fixes begin to add up until you eventually have an intractable amalgam of regulations and rulings which can keep the political peace, but only for a time. Eventually those conflicting intents and purposes will bog down our governing structures until it will overheat and eventually cease to work as intended. Now it seems we may be at the overheating stage, where almost every act by one of the branches of government (in this case the judicial branch), ends up creating a monkey’s paw effect whereby any political achievement creates a whole host of other problems that require additional acts of government to fix. Certainly nothing will be accomplished in the abortion debate absent a lot of hard work, since we apparently are doomed to be haunted by the ghosts of Roe, as evidenced by the fact that the Biden administration is willing to violate its own laws and ultimately to accomplish an end-run around the Dobbs ruling by federally sanctioning the dispensing of Mifepristone in all 50 states.

Of course much of this could be solved, as Meyrat mentions in his article, if individual Americans and grass-root organizations can get back to doing the work of changing hearts and minds in order to influence our culture, which in turn will impact our politics. Until we decide to stop turning to the government to fix our problems and begin to unravel the power that we have abdicated to it, not much is going to change.

The Rise of Criminal Squatting

Several stories in the news recently, which probably went unnoticed to most Americans, covered the rise of criminal squatting that has been occurring in many cities across the country. For example, in mid-March a woman named Adele Andaloro was preparing her recently deceased mother’s home for eventual sale in Flushing, Queens, when she discovered that a group of squatters had taken up residence in the house. After she called the police, the squatters left, and Andaloro had the locks changed to the house. However, the squatters later returned and broke into the house, and when Andaloro told them to leave, the squatters then called the police on her. When New York’s finest arrived in an attempt to sort out the situation, they ended up arresting Andaloro, since according to New York law, her changing the locks on her own house amounted to an unlawful eviction.

A news crew was on hand to record the whole incident, and it is amazing to watch how the squatter attempts to show phony documents proving that he is a lawful tenant, before being called out by the reporter. After being exposed in a falsehood, the squatter then proceeds to cite New York civil law, which provides that squatters have certain legal rights in cases where they have resided at a residence for at least 30 days.

Herein lies the gravamen of this issue. As one YouTube commentator recently quipped, "there was a time when, if criminals stole your stuff, there was an agency you could call for help, it was called the police, but now, not so much.” As pointed out by noted newsman John Stossel, laws that were initially set up to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords are today being used by a new breed of criminal squatters against homeowners, in an effort to take control of homes for their own purposes. Apparently now when homeowners call the police on squatters, they will be instructed that it is a “civil matter,” one that needs to be handled through the courts. This will require a significant expense of time and money for landlords, and in some places (like New York) it can take up to two years. During this time squatters can destroy a house, sell off parts of it, or rent it out to other “tenants” (which only compounds the problems). These modern criminal squatters often have detailed knowledge of the law, and seek to use it to their advantage.

The epitome of this problem can be seen in the case of a Venezuelan TikTok influencer named Leonel Moreno. A video went viral where he bragged (and appeared to threaten) that he and other illegal alien invaders are gaming the current housing system laws in order to take over unoccupied homes. Further, if you agree to subscribe to his channel, he promises to show you how it is done. Moreno currently has thousands of followers, as do a whole host of other online Marxist personalities, who disparage landlords and encourage the kind of predatory squatting that Moreno practices.

Of course, pride typically goes before the fall, and it was Moreno’s brazenness that brought him to the attention of the authorities. It turns out that he was wanted by ICE for failing to show up at his own asylum meeting, after having lived illegally in the country for over two years (you can’t make this stuff up). Moreno made a living by posting on TikTok, so in order to keep his income flowing he continued to post videos, which meant that it was only a matter of time before ICE was able to figure out where he was living. He is now in federal custody.

Hopefully, the justified arrest of Squatty Gonzales (Moreno) and the unjust arrest of Adele Andaloro will encourage a more positive and forceful change in how the law deals with such criminals, as Ron DeSantis has already accomplished in Florida. Private property rights are the hallmark of our republic and is one of the key factors that makes America both a free and prosperous country. Unless laws are changed to reassert the primacy of the homeowner’s rights, other means will be taken. Some of them may be good in practice; others, not so much.

On the positive side, there are now private “contractors” (you’ve got to love America’s entrepreneurial spirit!) such as Flash Shelton for example, who runs a site called "Squatter Hunters," which provide homeowners with important legal advice and shares tactics on how to get rid of squatters. Shelton became a victim of a squatter when one moved into his mother’s home, so he drew up a lease agreement with his mother and eventually “out-squatted” the squatter. The existence of the lease agreement was sufficient for the police to tell the squatter to leave the premises. On the other hand, if you have a squatter problem and cannot deal with it directly, perhaps you can hire the Squatter Squad. Like a modern-day “A-Team,” this group of men, some of whom are military vets, will use their own “propriety means” (which vary from state to state) to get rid of squatters. The most common tactic used is to obtain written permission from the homeowner to conduct a home inspection. They will in turn, scour the house inside out collecting a list of violations. Ultimately, once the squatters see their stuff tossed out into the yard, they often leave. After all, what are they to do? Call the police? What cop or city bureaucrat is willing to interfere with an inspection (and the potential fees and fines that would fall into the public coffers)?

While, all of this may be encouraging news, homeowners shouldn't have to engage in any of these activities. Yet, this is the world that we live in, one that is filled with outdated laws and progressive attitudes about private property. If the tenor of our times doesn't change, there is the danger of people engaging in a kind of squatter eviction that is not so "nice." For example, in the case of Adele Andaloro’s house in Flushing Queens, two men from the neighborhood showed up to speak with the squatters. The conversation was not recorded (so we do not know what was said), but we do know that the following day the squatters left the house.

The undercurrent in this scenario is plain for everyone to see, even if we don’t know exactly what words were exchanged. If the property rights of homeowners and landlords continue to be ignored by those tasked with upholding the law, sooner or later people will feel they have no other option than to take the law into their own hands. This will be especially true for those who can't afford to hire lawyers or the aforementioned contractors. Instead they may turn to self-styled vigilantes, militias, or outright criminals, such as the character of Bonasera in the film The Godfather going to Don Corleone for help when the police and the courts failed to give him justice. It is one thing to achieve a cathartic feeling by imagining a scene where the squatters are awakened in the middle of the night and told by a group of men holding baseball bats, "You have two choices, you can pack up you stuff and walk out of here now or you can crawl out of here, which will you have?" But in the real world, that is not the kind of world that anyone should wish for, as it would signify a slide into outright barbarism. Let us hope and work towards rectifying this problem.

Photo Credit- Mordern Healthcare