Conservatives are thrilled whenever they hear that another abortion provider has been put out of business – “We’ve made it a little harder for women to get that legally-protected medical procedure we don’t like? Hurray!” – but what if instead of abortion clinics, it was gun shops that were being forced to close? Welcome to the ingenious nightmare scenario that one judge dropped on people who want to impose their values on everyone else, but hate it when it happens to them.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson had just struck down the 2013 anti-abortion law which would have seen most of Alabama’s abortion providers being forced to shut down, when he couldn’t resist twisting the dagger a bit in the backs of supporters of the bill.
The bill in question required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, despite there being no medical reason for it. It’s real intent was to close down any clinics that couldn’t adhere to the arbitrary rule. It’s becoming a common tactic in the covert fight against abortion; Mississippi and Texas have passed similar laws. The effect in all three states is that many of the clinics become imperiled. In Alabama’s case, it would mean the shuttering of three out of only five abortion providers in the state.
Fortunately, Judge Thompson (like his colleague in Mississippi) saw through the gimmick and his 172-page opinion ruling against the law was blistering.
“The evidence compellingly demonstrates that the requirement would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability,” Thompson writes.
Taking it further, Thompson presents a thought experiment which may be my new favorite way of countering anti-abortion rhetoric from this day forward. It goes like this:
What if, instead of abortion, the issue were gun sales. Let’s say in an effort to bypass the Constitution and curb gun ownership, the state or federal government passed a law that effectively shut down every gun store in the state but two.
“The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining — and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe,” Thompson points out. “Similarly, in this case, so long as the Supreme Court continues to recognize a constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, any regulation that would, in effect, restrict the exercise of that right to only Huntsville and Tuscaloosa should be subject to the same skepticism.”
Remember, even the discussion about gun control is typically met with grandiose, overblown rhetoric about governmental tyranny and something, something cold, dead, hands. The idea that conservatives would allow their gun shops to be closed down simply because gun control activists don’t agree with their ownership of them is unthinkable.
It’s widely understood that if a law is deemed constitutional, people have the right to exercise that law even if other people still don’t approve – It’s the backbone of our pluralistic society. Judge Thompson nails the hypocrisy perfectly. If the shoe were on the other foot, there is no way conservatives would tolerate a law that tried to subvert their ability to enjoy their Constitutionally-protected rights. Yet, when it comes to women’s bodies, there are apparently no such qualms.
Alabama’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, released a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision and vowed to do whatever it takes (i.e. spend as much money on lawyers as it takes) to see that the law is eventually deemed legal in appeals. It’s clear that Bentley has a extremely strong opinion about women being allowed to have abortions, Roe v. Wade notwithstanding.
“Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life, and I believe that it should only be done as a last possible effort to save the life of the mother,” Bentley said in a statement. “As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible. This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient. This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections. I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today’s decision.” [source]
Regardless of what Bentley believes, the law states that women are free to have abortions. It doesn’t say that “it should only be done as a last possible effort.”
By making abortion providers less accessible through unnecessary requirements, Bentley is hoping to impose his personal belief onto his entire state and avoid the Constitution while doing it. He may want to consider how he would feel if guns were targeted the same way.