Posted by: mutantpoodle | September 10, 2007

Nibbling away at choice

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Today’s LA Times shines a light on one of the pernicious practices of the forced-birth movement: “safety” regulations for clinics that are disproportionate to the type of medical care taking place within.

The state of Missouri has enacted a law that would dictate “the physical layout, staffing and record-keeping policies of any facility that performs five or more abortions a month, including private doctors’ offices that regularly prescribe the abortion pill.”:

The law, which a federal judge is to review today, would force the immediate closure of at least two of Missouri’s three abortion clinics, plus a private medical practice near St. Louis run by a doctor who offers first-trimester terminations in his office. Those facilities would need extensive renovations to comply with the law; the requirements could include widening hallways, raising ceilings, installing locker rooms, rerouting plumbing, and creating surgical suites stocked with emergency resuscitation equipment, even when no surgery is performed on-site.

Several states impose similarly rigorous standards on providers of second- and third-trimester abortions. Missouri is the first to try to extend them to clinics and private offices that only provide the abortion pill, which has been used by nearly 800,000 women nationwide to end early pregnancies.

The law would put providers of five or more abortions a month in the same regulatory category as outpatient surgical centers that perform a wide range of procedures, some under general anesthesia, including tonsillectomies, cardiac catheterization, hernia repair, cataract removal and colonoscopy.

When he signed the bill in July in the sanctuary of a Baptist church, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt called it “one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in Missouri history.”

Which is, of course, completely revealing. Because the fig leaf of patient safety isn’t large enough to protect a hamster’s modesty. It’s all about ending choice.

Oh, and because the Governor and the state’s Health Director, Jane Drummond, don’t trust the Missouri’s Democratic Attorney General, they’ve engaged a Christian law firm – the Alliance Defense Fund – to handle the case. Nothing like lining up a firm founded by James Dobson to do the state’s dirty work – even if it’s (maybe) for free.

The letter Drummond sent to Nixon firing him is, well, see for yourself:

As you have been an outspoken supporter of abortion on demand and a political ally of Planned Parenthood who has accepted campaign contributions from this abortion provider, I did not believe I could trust you to defend me and my department vigorously….

…House Bill 1055 removed Planned Parenthood and any other abortion provider from Missouri classrooms by banning groups that perform abortions from teaching in Missouri classrooms. Unlike you, most Missourians do not believe that abortion is an acceptable form of birth control.

Third, House Bill 1055 puts the successful Alternatives To Abortion program into statute. This program, which provides counseling to pregnant women, is popular and effective.

In sum, House Bill 1055 is a law that is very pro-life while you are radically pro-abortion. Respectfully, this law is one you could not defend especially as you are a named defendant in the lawsuit. You will have to defend yourself as to your role as an enforcer of the law. This contrasts with the Department’s role in promulgating regulations. These two roles are different and require different legal defenses.

At this time, my counsel is pro bono so I will not need access to the Legal Defense Fund. This may change in the future and I will contact you if it does.

Finally, please have your counsel only contact my department related to this case through my new attorneys.

I’m sure those senior staff get-togethers are full of bonhomie.

So: you have a law that purports to be about patient safety when everyone behind it admits it’s really about making abortion inaccessible to most women (otherwise, why would Nixon’s pro-choice views matter at all?); the defense is being handled by a wingnut law firm (for free now – but the state may be paying them down the road) because the state’s Attorney General is, um, sane; and the law in question calls for the same facility standards even if the abortions are done at home using medication.

The applicable Supreme Court precedent is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prohibits an “undue burden” on the basic right of choice. And there’s this:

As with any medical procedure, the State may enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking an abortion, but may not impose unnecessary health regulations that present a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.

Hmmm…I wonder what paternalistic, patronizing reasoning Anthony Kennedy will come up with to toss that precedent out the window?

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