On Thursday, Linda Greenhouse, who has been writing for the New York Times regarding Supreme Court cases since the 1970’s, delved into the latest drama unfolding at the nation’s highest court: abortion. Texas, as have many other states in the South, enacted a new law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Even as federal courts have upheld the law, Greenhouse wrote an op-ed highly critical of the law and the pro-life movement. Any American with a sense of morality, even if you consider yourself pro-choice, should immediately cringe at some of the words she wrote. This editorial is a direct response to her op-ed.
Wendy Davis Greenhose writes:
The official reason for the new requirements is to protect women’s health — “to raise standards of care and ensure the health and safety of all abortion patients,” as the state told the Supreme Court in the brief it filed last week urging the Supreme Court not to hear the clinics’ appeal. Is Texas suffering from an abortion-related health problem? Not exactly. There were 360,059 abortions performed in Texas from 2009 through 2013 — that is, before H.B. 2 took effect — resulting in no deaths and a minuscule rate of complications requiring a hospital visit.
Am I the only one who caught that? If from 2009 to 2013 there were 360,059 abortions performed in Texas, how in the world did that result in no deaths? What about the deaths of 360,059 innocent children at the profit of Planned Parenthood? Do they not count?
I’m going to ignore that logic (or lack thereof) and move on to her point – the health of the mother. While most procedures are generally safe, there have been countless reports, investigations, and studies related to severe injury or death, not to mention psychological damage, as a result of legal abortion attempts. Is it that draconian to ask a doctor who performs a potentially life-threatening procedure to have the privilege to admit patients at a nearby hospital? If anything, it should be the “Women’s Health” movement that supports such laws as they only benefit women. After all, at a legitimate medical facility, many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented.
One Dallas clinic was forced to close in June after 36 years because its medical director, while initially offered admitting privileges, couldn’t meet the requirement to send 48 patients a year to the hospital. Even the more common 10-patient requirement is impossible for abortion providers to meet.
Here is the main problem with her argument. This case is not and should not be about what restrictions the hospitals may or may not have on handing out admitting privileges to doctors from other clinics. Abortion restrictions are legal; the Supreme Court made that clear in Gonzales v Carhart and Planned Parenthood v Casey. The question here is whether asking doctors who perform life-threatening procedures to have hospital admitting privileges is an undue burden. Each hospital sets their own rules on who and when to give them out; and if the pro-choice movement has a problem with their rules, they should take that up in a separate case. It is completely irrelevant to this case. Improving the safety of abortion clinics in no way presents an undue burden. Texas isn’t saying you can only have 10 clinics; you can have 1,000 in the state if you want, and abortion rates can be at their highest in history, as long as the doctors performing them meet the safety guidelines and requirements.
The state claims in its Supreme Court brief that the absence of an abortion clinic in the entire western half of the state is of no concern because women in El Paso, where the two abortion clinics will have to close, can simply travel one mile across the state line to a clinic in nearby Santa Teresa, N. M. New Mexico, however, has not imposed any TRAP laws. It requires neither admitting privileges nor a hospital-like setting. So Texas’ interest in protecting the health of its abortion patients evidently stops at the state line even as it sends women seeking abortions in West Texas across that line.
Once again, Linda, you are swimming in irrelevant waters. If it was up to Texas, they would enact such a law in New Mexico as well, but it is not up to Texas. They can only enact regulations within their own borders. So yes, Texas’ interest in protecting the health of Texan women stops when you leave Texas. Texas has no say or interest in what happens in New Mexico. The brief was a response to a common argument made by Whole Woman’s Health in which they say that women from El Paso, virtually the only major city in Western Texas, don’t have access to abortion providers. Texas responded by saying it was false; they have an abortion provider closer to them than 80% of the state’s population, even in Eastern and Southern Texas. It may happen to be in another state, which means that Texas can’t regulate it; but crossing a state line in no way presents an undue burden on a woman’s access to an abortion.
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If a women has to drive 3 hours in Mississippi to get an abortion, as has been the case for years (the only clinic in the state is located in the central, capital city of Jackson, roughly 3 hours from the northern and southern tip of the state), and no court has ruled that an undue burden, how could driving one or two miles be one?
She continues to argue that in fact this law does impose an undue burden on women, but she fails to mention the fact that the state is not the one imposing the hospitals restrictions; therefore, the state is not placing an undue burden on anybody. As I previously mentioned, in the eyes of Texas, there can be a clinic every square mile. As long as they have access to a nearby hospital and follow safety regulations, Texas is OK with it. If banning partial-birth abortions was not seen as an undue burden, how can this be? There is no way having TEN CLINICS (with the possibility for many more) in one state can present a “substantial obstacle” to women who want an abortion.
In the end, Linda Greenwood spends a lot of time discussing Kennedy’s majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v Casey and in Obergefell v Hodges (what same-sex marriage has to do with this topic is beyond me). Yet she virtually ignores Gonzales v Carhart; Kennedy’s opinion allowed for abortion restrictions that undoubtedly reduced the number of overall abortions, and has become a rallying point for pro choice activists all over the country. I trust that Justice Kennedy will continue to balance access to legal abortion services to women’s health, as he did in his Carhart opinion. This law is in no way an attempt to reduce the number of legal abortions, though there is no doubt many of us hope that is a result. At the end of the day, its only purpose, and the only merit the Court should debate, is whether making abortions safer is a legal restriction to abortion. They voted once that it is, and I pray they do it again.
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