If Wendy Davis and Planned Parenthood are the face of the pro-abortion movement, then there may yet be hope that this is the last generation for legal abortion in the United States.
First some background: Yesterday the 5th-Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and allowed Texas’ new restrictions on abortions to remain in effect. This case will certainly be heard by the US Supreme Court, and is probably the most significant case in the struggle to end legal abortion.
The case started last year when abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of eight counts of murder for botched abortions. Essentially, Gosnell ran what was described by a grand jury as a “house of horrors” where young women were drugged, labor was induced, and if any babies were old enough to survive delivery, they had their spines cut with scissors. He continuously infected patients with STD’s, reused dirty instruments, and misused drugs. Cats roamed the halls, and the place was a urine and blood-soaked mess.
It was also completely legal from the state’s perspective. In hindsight, the state of Pennsylvania has said, had there been laws that mandated that abortions be done in a surgical center as opposed to a doctor’s office then this whole thing could have been avoided. One of Gosnell’s patients died because Gosnell had an unqualified anesthesiologist—a high school intern—who overdosed a patient causing cardiac arrest, and there was no working oxygen tank or shock paddles in the entire office. When an ambulance did arrive, there was no mechanism for delivering her medical files to the hospital, and Gosnell refused to cooperate.
So essentially there were two legal loopholes that allowed for these deaths. Abortions were not regulated as surgeries (meaning they didn’t have to be done in clinic where there were niceties like oxygen and actual nurses), and abortionists didn’t have to have a connection to a hospital.
In the fall out of the Gosnell convictions other doctors were found operating clinics similar to the “house of horrors.” One of those was in Texas, provoking the Texas legislature to pass a series of laws designed to close those sub-standard clinics. The two most basic parts of the law mandate that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital, and that abortions be done in a surgical center.
If you imagined that people on both sides of the abortion debate would be opposed to allowing places like the Gosnell clinic to continue to operate…well, you’d be wrong. Wendy Davis, a then State Senator and now candidate for governor, led a 12-hour filibuster against the laws. When the regulations did pass, Planned Parenthood declared that this marked the newest war on women, and sued to block them. Planned Parenthood and Davis pointed out that if the laws were upheld, they would have the effect of closing down many of the abortion clinics in Texas, and that some women would have to travel up to 150 miles for an abortion.
They won at trial, where a federal judge ruled that not only do women have a constitutional right to abortion, but that they have a right to have an abortion within a 2-hour drive from their homes. Texas appealed, and yesterday the appellate court reversed the judge’s decision.
The good news is that in the time since the law has gone into effect, 19 abortion clinics in Texas have closed because they were not able to upgrade to a surgical facility, or because their doctors could not get admitting privileges at a hospital. The bad news is that during the legal proceedings, Justice Breyer of the US Supreme Court issued a note saying that at least four of the Supreme Court justices want to take up this case, and are interested in overturning the Texas law.
This case is the most significant current legal challenge to the pro-life movement. The Texas regulations are brilliantly crafted because they actually do promote the safety of women—even women who are getting an abortion. They guarantee that abortions will be done in a safer environment (for the mother—obviously not for the child) than allowing them to continue in the run-down clinics that dot the US. People were literally dying from the lack of oversight governments gave abortion clinics, and these regulations aim to fix that.
But Planned Parenthood and Davis have continued to oppose the new laws. In so doing they have made their case clear: they would rather women have unsafe abortions than have any limit on abortion whatsoever. Beyond that, they have convinced at least one judge (and apparently four Supreme Court Justices) that any limit on abortion is inherently unconstitutional.
The contradictory nature of their argument should be obvious. The pro-abortion movement used to argue that back-alley clinics were a danger to women. Now they argue to keep them open.
Planned Parenthood says that the new laws will harm women by “forcing women to have abortions later in pregnancy.” Just pause and notice their presupposition—they are willing to grant that abortions later in pregnancy have the potential to harm women. That in and of itself is a huge concession from them.
Meanwhile Davis has likewise exposed that she doesn’t really understand the basics of the laws she is now the chief opponent of. In an interview in Washington DC she recently said:
“I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case. But I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And…changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn’t going to make a difference. The state of the law obviously has to assure that doctors are providing safe procedures for women and that proper oversight by the health and human services department is being given.”
In other words, she doesn’t know about the cause behind the very laws she’s suing to block… and the one thing she does “know” is wrong. In fact, it actually is an argument in favor of the laws. If anyone takes her at her word, her statement is a confession that government should regulate abortions by having them done in surgical centers.
Those who are committed to ending legal abortion in the US should take courage that the fight is slowly drifting our way. As science and technology advance, there remain really no plausible defenses of the legality of abortion. As laws continue to pass that regulate abortion, it becomes more and more difficult to pretend it is just like any other medical procedure. And as Wendy Davis and Planned Parenthood continue to explain why they oppose abortion regulation, the shallowness of their argument is laid bare.
The more they defend their position, the more they expose that abortion is indeed harmful, and must be stopped. As they explain why they oppose these laws, they are simultaneously ending the myth that they care more about women’s health than they do about promoting a pro-abortion culture, no matter the cost.