An oft-repeated mantra of supporters of abortion is that if abortions do not remain safe and legal, then American women will have no other alternative but to seek abortions from back-alley “doctors.” (The other part of this mantra usually includes an allusion to a coat hanger, presumably the only surgical implement to be found in such back-alleys.) The clear implication of this refrain is that the abortion industry is necessary to ensure the health of America’s women. However, with the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a 2014 abortion law from the state of Louisiana, America’s supporters of abortion are clearly on the side of back-alley levels of care and not on the side of women’s health, as this article will demonstrate.
The Louisiana law in question is similar to a Texas law that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. In 2016, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the left-leaning wing of the court. However, with Kennedy’s retirement and President Trump’s appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the current court could decide the Louisiana case very differently from how the earlier court decided the Texas case. What is at stake in the current case and how does this case place America’s liberal left on the side of “back alley” abortions? The answer to both of these questions is women’s health.
Both the Texas and the Louisiana laws required that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case there are complications following an abortion. The Louisiana law in question would lead to the closing of all but one abortion clinic in that state, thus limiting access to abortions for women in Louisiana. The pro-abortion left sees such a situation as overly restrictive—thus the challenge to the law. However, when one considers the purpose of the law, one sees that the abortion advocates are on the side of back-alley abortions and not on the side of women’s health.
What is the rationale for requiring that abortion doctors have admitting privileges in a local hospital? The answer is simple—abortion is a surgical procedure and surgical procedures will sometime lead to serious complications. A doctor who has admitting privileges at a local hospital can make a simple phone call and have a woman admitted immediately for treatment if there are complications following the abortion. Such a provision is clearly aimed at protecting the health and the life of the woman.
If an abortion doctor does not have admitting privileges in a local hospital, then the woman must generally be admitted through the emergency room and consequently must go through the emergency room triage process before she is admitted. If the emergency room personnel do not recognize the seriousness of her condition, or if she is unable to communicate to them the seriousness of her situation, then her health, and indeed her life, may be at risk. By requiring that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital, the Louisiana law seeks to implement an important safeguard to protect the lives of women in that state.
America’s abortion advocates, on the other hand, would rather leave American women vulnerable to the serious complications that may follow an abortion. By opposing this law, abortion advocates are actually seeking to keep abortions in “back alleys.” Instead of insisting that all doctors who perform abortions be of such high standing in the medical community that they can have their patients admitted promptly to a hospital in the case of complications, America’s abortion industry would rather have laws in place that protect lower qualified doctors without the ability to ensure the health of their patients if they make a mistake or unforeseeable complications arise. In short, American leftists and the abortion industry, by opposing the Louisiana law, are seeking to keep abortions in “back-alleys,” thus endangering the lives of American women.
One consequence of the Louisiana law may well be that it reduces the number of abortions performed in that state. As an opponent of abortion, I see this as a positive and not a negative. Critics of the law may claim that reducing the number of abortions is the sole purpose of the law. Even if a reduction in the number of abortions is a likely consequence, this does not reduce the importance of this law as a safeguard for the lives of Louisiana’s women.
Given the importance of this law as a protection for women, and the fact that the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could have broad ramifications if other states choose to implement similar laws, let us pray that the court will be able to see the wisdom of this law and will choose to uphold it.
The law in this earlier case was Texas House bill no. 2. I previously made a similar argument when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this Texas law (“Back Alleys and Coat Hangers,” Analysis article, Baptist Press, June 27, 2016). My argument in the present article is similar to my earlier Baptist Press argument.