The small abortion clinic in my community is so quiet, one might assume it had gone out of business. It hasn’t, but the protesters have disappeared like fruit flies in winter. Even the grey-haired old man who used to carry a picket sign to and fro on the pavement has probably gone to his Maker. The clinic stands inconspicuous amidst the other medical buildings on the quiet, tree lined street. Given the peace, one would be tempted to think the abortion war had ended.
It hasn’t, of course. In several states the battle rages, though tactics have changed. In the early days, anti-abortionists stationed themselves as angry picketers outside clinics. Tempers flared while doctors were threatened with death and more than one was murdered. In time, those strategies proved too costly in the battle for the public’s heart and mind. A new tactic emerged. Focus shifted from the fetus to the pregnant woman.
In many states, legislators expressed their concern for women’s safety by passing medical standards that required clinics to maintain hospital-like facilities. The demands made abortions more expensive and prohibitive for the poor. Record keeping became complicated and lengthy, sometimes delaying the procedure for days if not weeks. In some cases, delays exceeded the time allotted for a legal abortion. Women found they were denied their right to chose. Several states obliged clinic doctor to be affiliated with an admitting hospital. As many hospitals are owned by religious organizations, clinics closed, forcing a woman to travel hundreds of miles to end a pregnancy. (Blog 11/8/13.)
As Molly Redden writes in “How the War on Women Was Won,” (Mother Jones, 9/10 2015,pg 31) anti-abortion activists are burying a women’s rights with safety demands that far exceed the dangers posed by a relatively simple process: a client is lightly sedated and “…the doctor places a speculum in the vagina, dilates the cervix and uses a suction device… to remove the pregnancy.” (Ibid pg. 34.) Abortions in the first trimester, which is when most are performed, are “40 times safer than a colonoscopy. (Ibid pg 34.)
Demanding a safe medical environment for women seems reasonable, so public opinion has shifted in support of right-to-life stances. The intent, however, isn’t to make women safe. The intent is to drive clinics out of business. It’s working– a strategy worthy of Macchiavelli.