Liberals have a new folk heroine today. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is the idol of the left after her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature helped derail a bill that sought to restrict late-term abortions and enforce new health regulations for clinics that perform the procedure. As far as Davis was concerned, the legislation that would have banned (with some exceptions) abortions after 20 weeks was nothing less than an attack on a woman’s right to choose and had to be stopped at all costs. A crowd of supporters that had thronged to the Austin statehouse agreed with the Fort Worth Democrat and their demonstration disrupted the proceedings long enough to prevent the bill’s passage before time ran out on the legislature’s session. The president of the United States also applauded the spectacle. As the Washington Post noted, President Obama took time out from his African tour to tweet about the Austin dustup in a post that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” and added the hashtag #StandWithWendy.
As far as the mainstream liberal media is concerned, not only is Davis the winner of the exchange but the attempt to pass the bill is yet another example of the extremism driving Republicans these days. The GOP legislators who sponsored the bills are, we are told, just another bunch of Todd Akins who will, if unhindered, doom the Republicans to perpetual defeat as an enlightened America rejects their unhinged efforts to impinge on the freedom of women.
But I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?
It is likely true that many of those who supported the Texas bills were motivated by a desire to chip away at abortion rights. But, like the battle over background checks for gun purchases, you don’t have to be against the Second Amendment to understand that some gun regulations are sensible and even necessary. In this day and age when medical science has made it possible for babies born after 20 weeks to often survive outside the womb, the discussion about late term abortions can’t be conducted in absolute terms about choice in the way they once were.
Exceptions to this provision are possible due to health concerns or other problems (something the Texas bill took into account), but as the evidence in the Gosnell case showed, the line between a permissible abortion and infanticide can become very hazy at that late stage. The willingness of the pro-abortion rights community to embrace such procedures and to view any limits on them as a threat to all women is no different from the way the National Rifle Association views background checks as the thin edge of the wedge that threatens to take away all Second Amendment rights.
More to the point, the main argument of Davis and the chorus that is echoing her points in the media today is that the impact of the bill’s new health regulations would have closed down every abortion clinic in Texas and thus created a de facto ban. This is almost certainly an exaggeration, as it is likely that some clinics in Texas already meet the standards set by the state for hospital-style surgical centers and that doctors who work there should have admitting privileges to local hospitals or could do so without going out of business. Indeed, we would certainly hope that Planned Parenthood clinics–which we are assured provide the best care for women–would already do so.
But if that is not currently the case with most clinics in Texas, then the question should be: why not? Rather than flaying those seeking to require these standards and questioning their motives, those who truly care about the health of women should be asking the owners of these clinics why they are operating without being prepared to assure the safety of their patients.
If the Gosnell case—in which Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an otherwise respected and experienced Philadelphia physician and clinic owner was found to have murdered live infants who were the result of botched late-term abortions and to have operated a facility that did not meet even the most minimal health standards—should have taught us anything it is that abortion providers need to be held accountable and to be required to be prepared to assure the safety of those who make use of their services.
Amid the cheers Senator Davis is hearing today, there ought to be someone asking whether she or her highly-placed supporters really believe the American people think there is something extreme about opposing the abortion of a healthy baby that has been in the womb for 21 weeks or in demanding that those who perform such procedures be able—unlike Gosnell—to give assurances about the health of the mother.
It needs to be repeated that you don’t need to oppose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—something most Americans don’t wish to be made illegal—to understand that a defense of late-term abortion or inadequate clinics is not about women’s health or constitutional rights.
Some on the left feared that the Gosnell case might discredit the pro-choice cause and that is almost certainly what caused most of the media to initially ignore the story and then to downplay or minimize it once they did notice it. If this country can have a discussion about late-term abortions of healthy fetuses and inadequate clinics without Gosnell being mentioned—as was the case with almost every account of the Texas filibuster—then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Gosnell case and the awful lessons that must be drawn from it about the state of the abortion industry have already been forgotten.