It is, among everyone on the ideological spectrum from about Chris Christie to Bernie Sanders, the accepted conventional wisdom that a woman’s right to choose is a constitutionally protected right, and that the Supreme Court will not be overturning that any time soon.
States will regulate, states will standardize, states will create bizarre and strange rules around it, but they do not get to take the right away – on paper.
But what happens when those regulations effectively regulate that right out of existence? In Mississippi, this is about to happen. While everyone and their brother was paying attention to things that are not Mississippi, that state’s far, far, far right conservative government decided it had been too long since they had passed any good pro-life legislation and gosh darn it that last abortion clinic it just had to go.
This was not a covert ploy like trap laws typically are. There was no conceit that this was to protect women or ensure good regulation. This was naked. This was there is one clinic left, and we feel this is one too many, so we will get rid of it. Mississippi passed, and the courts upheld, a law requiring that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Simple enough to remedy, just get admitting privileges, right?
Wrong. From the moment this law passed, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization panicked. They have shot up flares for anyone who will look to see, have spoken to anyone who will listen, and to no avail. They argued in court that since this law’s intent was to circumvent Roe v. Wade and would effectively do so that the law must be struck down as unconstitutional, and that argument did not prevail. As we speak, Jackson Women’s Health Organization is desperately seeking a board-certified doctor with admitting privileges that they can hire in order to remain open. They have already been inspected and failed that inspection because of this new law. They may be closed as early as Friday. If they are closed, that will be the end of legal abortion in Mississippi.
Mississippi is not alone. North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas are all one clinic away from being in the same parallel universe where an American’s rights on paper and rights in the real world are two totally different things. The director of the South Dakota clinic said in an interview with the Rachel Maddow Show that her biggest enemies aren’t even local South Dakotans. They are financed interest from outside the state that see it and her as an easy mark, because with only one clinic to close, the fruit hangs too low not to reach for it.
This situation should scare you a bit senseless. If a state can regulate a right out of existence, and the courts do not stop them even when the stated intent is to regulate that right out of existence, then the notion of man having inabrogable rights whatsoever is dead. Never mind the deep southern states that we readily expect the federal government to save from their own battiness. South Dakota is being hammered by outside influence to effectively demolish the rights of their citizens, and it might be a thing South Dakota could actually do. We already see the echoes of this insanity in other issues.
The money spent by NOM in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington – even after Maine attempted to legally blast NOM out of its jurisdiction. The influence peddled by the Mormon church in California’s Prop 8 fight, even though absolutely everyone knew that said influence was coming from the Mormon church in Salt Lake. The Koch brothers, ALEC, Grover Norquist – and on and on the list goes. Mississippi may be the canary in the coal mine of what happens when no one pays attention – unlike the person hood amendment there that got lots of attention and failed. But ultimately, this is not a problem for abortion. This is not even a problem for women’s rights. This is a problem for liberal democracy writ large. This is the merger of corporate and state power, and the trammeling of the rights of the private citizen. Or, as Mussolini put it, this is fascism.
Guest post by Jo Hafford. See other posts by Jo on hissite.