The Supreme Court will take up a case focused on the Texas law ordering abortion doctors and clinics to have admitting privileges in local hospitals before abortions can be legally performed. Clinics are also required to qualify as outpatient surgical centers; abortion is an outpatient surgical procedure. The law was challenged by abortion rights groups and Planned Parenthood on grounds that a woman’s right to abort is thwarted wherever doctors lack privileges. Under the law, most Texas abortion facilities would be closed; a similar Mississippi law closes the state’s only clinic. Texas argues – successfully so far – that it is nothing but good standard medical practice to expect practicing physicians to prove their competence through having admitting privileges – this is what privileges connote. Texas was upheld in the district court and on appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The abortionists have appealed to the Supreme Court, and the court has agreed to hear the case.
The issue is not clinics closing. Nothing in the law prevents doctors from obtaining the privilege to admit patients to a hospital in their area. The incompetence of the docs may prevent it; medical incompetence would be the most common reason for a patient needing admission following an abortion. Any competent doctor can get privileges anywhere – the hospital makes money on each admission. But the principal argument for abortion on demand – in 1973 and today – is the prevention of death and disease from so-called back alley abortions. Yet the incidence of infection, sterility, and death to post-abortive women is unchanged since the procedure was legalized by the Warren Court. The Texas and Mississippi laws address that anomaly by requiring only competent doctors to perform the procedure. This is in sharp contrast to California – home of the most abortions and the highest per capita rate of abortion in the nation – where abortions performed by non-doctors are now authorized. Will anyone guess where the most complications occur?
The crux of the legal case will be the Casey Standard, a proved-to-be unworkable compromise emerging from a 1992 case striking down a Pennsylvania law. The court held that states could restrict abortions, but only if the restrictions were not imposing “undue burden” on women. The lawsuits claim the laws in question establish an undue burden. The standard has never been defined, and – until now – the Supreme Court has refused to address it except to allow state bans on partial birth abortion. President Obama vetoed a federal law banning the practice and has vowed to do it again.
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The crux of the Godly case is quite different. These laws are designed to ensure a woman’s safety. Yes, they are adopted by legislatures determined to lessen the carnage of abortion across the board, but reality is the incidence of infection or other life-threatening complications remain unchanged because most good doctors prefer to practice life-saving medicine; this is fruit of the pro-life movement. It is the reason states like California find themselves so short of doctors willing to abort babies that they permit non-doctors to do what cannot legally be done to animals by anyone but a veterinary doctor. The doctors who cannot make a decent living are left with their patients – mother and child – at their mercy.
Our God came in human form that we might have abundant life – every life has a value and destiny all its own. These laws save the lives of the mothers, even if they deny life for their children. Back in the secular arena, nothing could be more reasonable than requiring a standard of care that is axiomatic for any other medical procedure.
I am not innocent. At age twenty, I helped two friends obtain abortions years before Roe v Wade. The babies were not mine, but my highest value was having your friends’ back. I found a doctor, borrowed money, and did everything but have the abortions myself. When I met Jesus in 1970, He did not rebuke me for 1968. He did guide me into a church that practiced the ancient rite of confession. When I knelt, I heard Him audibly. All He said was, “Don’t forget about the abortions.” In that instant of absolution, I knew two things – abortion is the taking of innocent human life without excuse, and I dared not judge another as I have not been judged.
The good news is we have a chance to whittle away at the abortion colossus in these cases before the Supreme Court. The better news is that we Christians are God’s Body, not His Brain. While we fight the scourge of abortion, we had better recall His Word to judge not lest we ourselves be judged.
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