On Monday, pro-lifers received some disappointing news when a federal district judge blocked a law that would have likely put Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic out of business. This spring Mississippi enacted a law that would require that abortion providers be licensed OB/GYNs with admitting privileges at a local hospital. This law was set to take effect July 1. None of the abortion providers who work at Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, currently has admitting privileges at local hospitals. As such, pro-lifers hoped that this law would result in the closure of this abortion clinic.
However, the judge’s injunction will temporarily allow the clinic to remain open until a permanent decision is reached on the constitutionality of this legislation. It is impossible to predict how the court will rule. Similar laws have been passed and survived legal scrutiny in other states, including Arizona and Indiana. That having been said, since this law would likely make it impossible for women to obtain abortions in Mississippi, it is plausible a judge might strike down the law arguing that it poses an “undue burden” and is unconstitutional per the Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey decision.
One interesting development is that there has been a subtle shift in pro-life legal strategies in recent years. In the years since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers have mostly focused on what could be called “demand side” legislation. In short, legislation that was designed to make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions by either imposing legal barriers or increasing the economic costs of abortion. However, in recent years, pro-lifers have pursued what could be termed “supply side” strategies. #more#These are strategies that are designed to make it more difficult for abortion providers to either stay open or perform abortions.
There are several examples of this. It is well know that in the fall of 2011 Virginia’s State Board of Health adopted a new set of abortion regulations which would regulate abortion clinics in a manner similar to hospitals. At the time, Planned Parenthood strenuously opposed these new regulations and predicted that they would result in the closure of 17 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics. This was likely an exaggeration. However, it does demonstrate the concern that abortion providers have about the potency of clinic regulations
In recent years Texas has passed laws which require that all abortions which take place at or after 16 weeks of gestation be performed in either a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center. A recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the number of abortions performed in Texas at or after 16 weeks of gestation fell by 88 percent. While there was an increase in the number of Texas residents seeking late-term abortions in other states, the out-of-state increase did not offset the in-state decline.
Overall this has been a wise strategy for pro-lifers. The deplorable conditions found in Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic and the LiveAction videos documenting Planned Parenthood employees engaging is misconduct have created a compelling case for stronger regulation of abortion clinics. Better yet, good research shows that fewer clinics results in fewer abortions.
— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New