After the Supreme Court overturned Texas’ abortion law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt this week, Frank Pavone of Priests for Life complained that the law was just about the government’s legitimate regulatory power “to increase the safety of the woman undergoing the procedure.” The pro-choice position that prevailed, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List told NPR, “really is an anti-woman, anti-health-of-women stance that the — that the court inadvertently took.”
Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and take the pro-lifers at their word. Here’s Dannenfelser:
I find it ironic that – that I, of course, as an advocate against abortion would be advocating for safe abortion. And the people on the other side of this debate are – who used to be the first people advocating safe abortion, are now for undermining those standards. They should be – this should be common ground. We should be on the same side of this debate every single step of the way.
So what would “being on the same side” in pursuing women’s health in Texas have meant in this case?
Well for starters it would have meant joining forces to provide moral and material support to keep open all those clinics that were forced to close. Because you wouldn’t want women without the means to travel having to seek out unscrupulous back-alley abortionists like Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia. Not to mention the need to ensure the continued availability of screenings for cervical cancer and other non-abortion-related diagnostic services performed at the clinics.
Likewise, Pavone, Dannenfelser et al. would have urged Texas hospitals to grant admitting privileges to doctors performing abortions in the state. Because the key thing is to make sure that any woman who runs into medical complications getting an abortion is admitted to a hospital as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Of course, as Justice Breyer made abundantly clear in his majority opinion, no evidence was proffered in Whole Women’s Health to indicate that the provision of abortion was anything less than safe and sanitary under Texas’ previous regulatory regime. The law simply used women’s health as a pretext in order to reduce the number of abortions in the state.
Opponents of abortion have a strong moral case to make. They undermine it when they advance it under false pretenses.