An earlier version of this article appeared in the author’s blog Leaven for the Loaf.
An August 26 Huffington Post feature bemoaned the “heavy wave of legislative attacks” on abortion providers since 2010. “Incredibly dramatic,” said the Guttmacher Institute. “This has turned into a nightmare,” said a spokeswoman for NARAL’s Arizona affiliate.
No dispute here that legislation at the state level has been a factor in the closure of over fifty abortion facilities since 2010. But is abortion regulation the same thing as an “attack”?
Some attacks (real ones) on abortion providers:
- John Salvi shot and murdered two abortion facility workers, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, in 1994. In a bizarre turn of events, his conviction for those crimes was overturned after he committed suicide in 1996; a judge ruled that his conviction could not stand since he died before his appeals were exhausted.
- George Tiller, a physician famed for performing late-term abortions, was shot and wounded in 1993 by Shelley Shannon. Tiller was murdered in 2009 by Scott Roeder. Shannon and Roeder were both convicted.
- David Gunn, physician and abortion provider, was murdered by Michael Griffin in 1993. Griffin was convicted.
These are only a few grim examples of what real attacks look like. Other abortion industry workers have been victims of the violence that is just as outrageous and sickening outside the procedure room door as it is inside.
…as opposed to “attacks” (phony ones) on abortion providers:
- Laws requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If a provider has to change her or his business model to accommodate patients’ welfare, fine with me.
- Laws permitting parents to be notified when an underage daughter seeks an abortion. In my own state of New Hampshire, the law is for notification, not consent; it has a judicial bypass; and any provider who certifies an emergency can do the abortion without prior notification to the pregnant adolescent’s parents. Abortion providers complained during legislative hearings that this was unnecessary intrusion on “choice” as well as an attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade.
- Fetal homicide laws, allowing prosecution of a person causing the death of a woman’s preborn, wanted child. Drunk drivers and abusive boyfriends are unwitting beneficiaries of abortion advocates’ efforts to block such laws.
- Laws requiring abortion facilities to be treated as ambulatory care facilities for purposes of inspection and licensing. Honest inspection and licensing would give some credibility to claims that Gosnell was an outlier.
- 24-hour waiting periods. In my own state the last time such a provision was proposed, abortion providers warned that a waiting period would be a hardship for rural women. What they didn’t say, but what came through loud and clear nonetheless, was that drive-through abortions are fine: same-day pregnancy test, counseling, and abortion, followed by the long drive home. “By the time women come in, they already know what they want,” said one provider at a New Hampshire hearing. That makes abortion sound like buying shoes.
- Statistics collection. Demanding that every abortion provider give an accurate report of activity is a matter of public health, not a matter of picking on the provider. Every objection to this sounds to me like “but we like it here in the dark.”
Whose right is it, anyway?
All the laws I cited have something in common: they don’t ban abortion. In fact, they assume that abortion is legal and ongoing. True, a few states are enacting post-20-week bans. Even so, abortion advocates draw no distinction between a ban and a regulation. That makes for shaky ground: Roe v. Wade invented a women’s constitutional right to abort, but it did not invent a right for abortionists to operate without oversight.
“TRAP laws,” say the abortion promoters: Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers. “Gynoticians,” says Planned Parenthood, mocking elected representatives who put the interests of women and children ahead of the abortion industry. Reporting on post-abortion complications is a TRAP? Passing a law to promote parental involvement in minors’ health decisions makes one a “gynotician”?
Forcing a change in a business model is not an “attack.” Accounting for complications is not an “attack.” Save the word for when it matters. Real attacks come when abortion providers are murdered, women undergo abortion without fully informed consent, and children are scraped to bits.
The Huffington Post article includes an infographic (seen here). Check out the fine print: “Source: Huffington Post survey of state health departments, abortion providers, and local abortion-focused advocacy groups.” Does that include the state health departments that depend on voluntary reporting from abortion providers to derive abortion statistics for the state? There’s no way to tell. The numbers are therefore fuzzy. But trying to clarify them would probably be construed as an attack.