Opinion
              Dr. Howard Novick discusses Texas abortion restrictions at his Houston office Tuesday, July 9, 2013.  The new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature could force Novick to close the Houston abortion clinic he opened in 1980 because, he says, he does not have $1 million to $1.5 million to convert his run-of-the-mill medical office into a fully loaded surgical center with wide corridors and sophisticated air-flow systems. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Judges Rewrite Roe v. Wade To Protect Unsafe Abortion Clinics

Photo of Kristan Hawkins
Kristan Hawkins
President, Students for Life of America

For the second time in as many weeks, back-to-back rulings in the South have declared laws that require abortionists to obtain admitting privileges to nearby hospitals unconstitutional and halted enforcement. Both the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and a U.S. District Court Judge handed down similar rulings that have people scratching their heads.

The Fifth Circuit ruled that the Mississippi law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals was unconstitutional because, in essence, it would force the last remaining abortion facility in all of the state to close. Since the abortionists were unable to obtain admitting privileges and the abortion facility would close, the court said that under Roe v. Wade, which gave women a constitutional right to abort their child for any reason at any time, would impose an “undue burden” on that right.

In Alabama, Judge Myron Thompson also said that the law would impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions because the requirement could very well close some of the remaining few abortion facilities in the state.

An “undue burden” can and has been interpreted differently by different courts, as Michael J. New at National Review points out. But he also says that nobody bothered look at what an “undue burden” would mean if the last abortion facility closed in Mississippi:

What is surprising, however, is that neither the district court nor the circuit court actually conducted an undue-burden analysis by assessing the costs of obtaining an abortion in a nearby state. Additionally, the Fifth Circuit did not view increasing the travel distance to obtain an abortion as an undue burden in their decision on Texas’s HB 2. What appears to be creating the “undue burden” is the fact that women would have to cross a state line to obtain an abortion.

Nothing in Judge Thompson’s opinion would indicate that he did an analysis of what travel costs would look like for women in Alabama who wanted an abortion.

But these rulings and the logic behind them are the tip of the iceberg. If the courts are adhering to the principle that because of Roe v. Wade and other abortion cases essentially gave women the right to an abortion at any time and for any reason, then is providing abortion now a matter of the state? What if the abortion clinic closes down because of health and safety violations (as one in Alabama did that was owned by the same woman who owns the last abortion clinic in Mississippi) – would the facility have to stay open because if it closed, it would impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions? In other words, would women be forced to go to an unsafe abortion facility because abortion is a constitutional right?

Women’s rights groups should be outraged that women have to go to abortion facilities where doctors don’t have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals. They claim, as Bill Clinton first espoused, that they want abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” If they want it to be safe, why would they oppose a common sense regulation that seeks to protect women from doctors like Kermit Gosnell? Just look at the havoc he wrecked on the lives of the women he treated. Several were seriously injured and others died at his hands. Same for other abortionists like LeRoy Carhart and Douglas Karpen.

These aren’t fringe cases and they are partly why laws like the ones in Mississippi and Texas exist. Austin Ruse at Breitbart.com writes that:

Admitting privileges are important for doctors, particularly those that perform surgical procedures, because most insurance companies require such privileges in order to give coverage. According to careermedicine.com admitting privileges are fairly easy to obtain. There are two types: Courtesy privileges allow a physician to occasionally admit patients, which would satisfy the law, while full privileges require the physicians to attend hospital staff meetings.

Because of these rulings, the government is now propping up incompetent, dangerous abortionists at the expense of the health and safety of the women in Mississippi and Alabama.

Kristan Hawkins is the president of Students for Life of America.