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Virginia’s Attempt to Close Abortion Clinics

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 25, 2011

Yesterday the Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill that would hold abortion clinics to the same medical standards as hospitals, and so result in the closing of the majority of clinics operating in the State. Some estimate that 17 of 21 clinics would have to close. The bill was passed as an amendment to a bill already approved by the Virginia State Senate, where the abortion clinic provision would have been killed in committee if it had gone through normal channels.

A Constitutional challenge is certain, so it remains to be seen whether the new law will ever have its desired effect. It is interesting, however, to see both pro-lifers and pro-aborts try to seize the moral high ground by expressing their attitudes toward the bill more or less exclusively in terms of women’s health.

Everybody knows that those who worked to pass the bill did so primarily to restrict abortion, and that those who oppose the bill oppose it primarily to keep abortion both cheap and common. It is a judgment on our society that neither side can actually come out and say what it wants, at least not in the context of the particular tactic being used in this instance, which is to emphasize that abortion is a medical procedure that should be held to the same high standards as other comparable medical procedures.

There are no medical procedures comparable to abortion, of course, but it goes without saying that the argument is couched in language that recognizes the dangers of the procedure to the mother only. It wouldn’t do for pro-lifers to give the courts grounds to suspect that their real intention here is to eliminate abortion, rather than to impose high health standards for the sake of women. Nor would it do for pro-aborts to let on that they don’t give a fig for the health of women as long as abortion can be kept widely available. Thus the rhetoric:

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. – Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester
Absolutely all that will be accomplished by this vote is to restrict access to a safe and legal procedure to poor women. This does nothing to end abortions. It is purely discriminatory. It makes me heartsick. – Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington
For over 25 years, Virginia abortion clinics have not been held to minimal health and safety standards. As a result, women who walk into these clinics are often not treated with the care and respect that any human being deserves. – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
This is not about safety for women. This is about ideology, and this is about politics. The women of the commonwealth are going to be the ones left to suffer. – Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

It is a shame that this battle cannot be fought clearly on the grounds that it is gravely evil to murder an unborn baby, who has a right to life equal to that of his or her mother. But that’s not to say that nobody is genuinely concerned about the health and safety of women who make use of abortion clinics. After all, abortion would never be so unregulated if it weren’t a sacred political cow in the first place.

So this is politics, and politics is always the art of the possible. When what you want to accomplish isn’t possible in one context, you introduce it again in another context. And you keep doing that until you get a toehold. You keep doing that until you win. Those who have adopted this strategy must stay the course. And if it doesn’t work this time, they must unashamedly go back to the political well and try again.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Mar. 02, 2011 10:11 PM ET USA

    Why in the world would abortion mills object to certain standards of hygiene? One would think this would be a given. I fail to understand why most mills would have to close. Who would want to go for an abortion to a place that was filthy, dirty, lacking in any hygiene, or caring for the patient to the best of their ability? Is that too much to expect from them? Clean up your act and you won't have to fear closure for that. What will close you down is that good will prevail over evil.

  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 01, 2011 12:15 PM ET USA

    Those of us who have supported reasonable Virginia health care regulations (and fought the useless, expensive ones)can not agree that "(e)verybody knows that those who worked to pass the bill did so primarily to restrict abortion". If a major provider of outpatient surgery services can escape regulation by massive campaign contributions, the integrity of the Virginia health care system is called into question. Our issues were legislative integrity and patient protection.

  • Posted by: Gaby - Mar. 01, 2011 9:43 AM ET USA

    Funny that nobody ever argues that tonselectomies and apendectomies shouldn't be regulated because this would prevent poor people from getting the care they need... Under which other circumstances do we allow anyone to provide sub-standard, unregulated medical services because it's better than no service at all?!?

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Feb. 27, 2011 11:38 AM ET USA

    Yes! Is this not the elephant in the room no one wants to address: Is the unborn child a person? Well, of course the answer is emphatically yes. But...if considered a person, the baby must be given and protected by the same rights as the rest of us. And of course, if considered a person - the state has sanctioned murder for years. And all of this - all of this is about...wait for it...the right to have sex without any consequences. Let's keep our eyes closed so we don't see the elephant!

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