ANALYSIS: Back alleys & coat hangers

by Kevin D. Kennedy, posted Monday, June 27, 2016 (one year ago)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Advocates of abortion have succeeded -- perhaps unknowingly -- in a return, in essence, to "back alley abortions" and "rusty coat hangers."

Today's Supreme Court decision striking down state regulations for abortion doctors and abortion clinics reflects a striking relationship to the long rhetorical history of the abortion debate.

According to abortion advocates, if abortions are no longer "safe and legal" (to borrow one of their favorite phrases), then women will have no recourse but to seek abortions in "back alleys" where the only available surgical device is a "rusty coat hanger." However, those who were objecting to the regulations at issue in Texas House Bill No. 2 and other similar statutes actually were advocating for a return to such days.

How so?

Requiring that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital ensures that a doctor who has an emergency (in this case, a woman experiencing complications as the result of an abortion) can admit a patient immediately to a hospital, without any delay. This provision of HB 2 actually took abortions out of the back alley because it required that all doctors who perform abortions be of such standing in the medical community that they can call a hospital and have a woman admitted immediately in case of an emergency.

Those who objected to HB 2 actually were advocating for less safety for women -- they are, in effect, asking that abortions remain in "back alleys."

Ambulatory surgical center regulations, meanwhile, govern such things as the width of hallways so that emergency personnel can easily reach patients when transporting them to a hospital. By requiring that abortion clinics meet all requirements normally imposed on ambulatory surgical centers, HB 2 was ensuring that women were no longer subjected to "rusty coat hanger" abortions. Those who objected to the law's ambulatory surgical center requirements were advocating that less care be given to women during the actual surgery involved in the procedure.

Abortion advocates objected to these two provisions of the law because, as they claimed, an undue burden was imposed on women seeking to end their pregnancies. However, those who are truly interested in the welfare of women should have no objections to such provisions since they are clearly aimed at ensuring the health of women.

Finally, abortion advocates frequently accuse those of us who want to protect the lives of unborn children of having little or no concern for the welfare of the woman who is pregnant. However, opposition to HB 2 -- the Texas bill now rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court -- demonstrated the opposite case. When one considers the reasonableness of the Texas law, it is easy to see that the abortion advocate is the one who is not concerned with the life and health of the woman because the law was clearly aimed at protection of the woman.

Therefore, despite all of the rhetoric, the facts demonstrate that the supporters of HB 2 actually had greater concern for the health of women than did opponents of the law.

Kevin D. Kennedy is a research scholar in Louisville, Ky., formerly associate professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story