Rock and a hard place. Devil and the deep blue sea. Hobson’s choice. Use whatever cliché expression you will—that’s where the pro-abortion forces find themselves in Virginia.
In chess, the knight is a particularly useful piece because of a placement called the “fork”. In a knight fork, the knight is placed so he can attack two or more of the opponent’s pieces—say, a rook and a queen, or the king and a bishop—simultaneously, forcing the opponent to save one and lose the other. This is particularly effective when one of the pieces being forked is the king, due to the priority of check: because the knight is so difficult to block, the king has to move.
On Thursday, the Virginia legislature approved a measure that would require abortion clinics to meet the same minimum health and safety standards required of a hospital. According to AP reporter Dena Potter, this would force seventeen of the state’s twenty-one clinics to close. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose Catholicism Potter found some obscure reason to mention, will sign the bill into law.
Here’s the fork: Do abortion advocates promote safety at the risk of losing access, or promote access at the cost of appearing to not much care about unsanitary clinics and women damaged by the procedure?
For a couple of decades now, we’ve been seeing a shift in pro-abortion terminology to transform the issue from “freedom of choice” to “women’s health”. “Freedom of choice” has always been a relatively tough sell; it can’t avoid looking as though its proponents were placing a higher value on selfishness than on life.
Even at our most jaded and libertine cultural moments, the majority of people—especially women—regard with some horror the woman who chooses to have her unborn child destroyed because he might put a crimp in her career or in her social life, or because he may turn out to be genetically defective. Far easier, by contrast, to put over the comfortable fiction that abortion gets social justice “on the cheap” for poor women, minorities, and victims of forced sex, especially if they’re lumped under the old rubric of “therapeutic abortions”, and the whole bundle fobbed off on the public as a “women’s health” issue.
Of course, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, surgical abortions have never been “safe” even when performed by licensed, competent surgeons in aseptic environments. Besides being painful despite the use of local anesthetics, common complications include bleeding, hemorrhage, laceration of the cervix, menstrual disturbance, inflammation of the reproductive organs, bladder or bowel perforation and serious infection. In some cases, a dilation and curettage procedure can damage the lining of the uterine wall, leading to permanent infertility. Women who undergo abortions also face increased risks of ectopic pregnancies, future infertility and miscarriages, and a stunningly higher risk of breast cancer.
Besides the physical dangers, clinical researchers have unearthed a pattern of behavioral disorders called “post-abortion syndrome”: drug and alcohol abuse, personal relationship disorders, sexual dysfunction, repeated abortions, communications difficulties, damaged self-esteem, and even attempted suicide. Various outreach groups have sprung up to help women who suffer from PAS to find assistance and healing; the victims themselves are forming a powerful influence and voice within the pro-life movement.
Because women rarely see the procedure or its results, the symptoms of PAS emerge over a period of five to ten years after a surgical abortion; with chemical abortions, such as RU-486, the trauma is almost immediate. From what I understand, women who are given RU-486 are warned not to look before they flush the discharge down the toilet, which must only reinforce the compulsion to “push the red button”.
However, the pro-abortion advocates and the ugly industry they’ve spawned have a vested interest in maintaining the fantasy that legal abortion is by definition safe. For example, when the grand jury in Philadelphia released its report on Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s butcher shop and local health officials’ deliberate refusal to enforce state and city codes for political reasons, the MSM did its level best to shut the story down. However, more reports of unsafe clinics are starting to swim to the surface; within a few months, I predict, such reports will be as omnipresent as were stories of predator priests in 2002.
By any reasonable standard, then, forcing abortion clinics to meet hospital standards is eminently necessary to protect the women involved. As State Sen. Jill Vogel said, “It is not about banning abortions. … It is simply caring for women who are about to have an invasive surgical procedure and creating an environment for them where they have the opportunity to do that in a place that is safe.”
Because the bill does treat the matter as one affecting women’s health, its detractors have been forced to treat the issue as one of access. Virginia’s law already requires abortions performed after twelve weeks to take place in a hospital; over 96% of abortions in the Dominion State take place within the first trimester.
Thus, Laurence H. Tribe, the Harvard Law professor whose theoretical work underlies many “culture of death” victories, said the bill would likely be deemed unconstitutional “because its transparent purpose and effect would be to make such early abortions far more difficult if not impossible for many women to obtain.”
However, this tactic steps directly into the trap by ignoring legitimate health issues as irrelevant. Other advocates, like Democratic State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, see the trap and try to pretend that the safety issue doesn’t exist: “Absolutely all that will be accomplished by this vote is to restrict access to a safe and legal procedure to poor women.” Or Tarina Keene, the executive director of Virginia’s NARAL chapter: “This is not about safety for women. This is about ideology, and this is about politics.”
However, the right to choose is in check. Therefore, women’s health will have to be sacrificed.