Wednesday, November 09, 2005

the last abortion clinic

Last night, we watched a split screen TV. On one side of the screen, we watched Frontline on abortion access in the deep south. On the other, we watched election returns trickle in, with a measure restricting abortion starting out ahead before eventually falling behind. When we went to bed, Prop. 73 was behind by the narrowest of margins. It was a bit uncanny to watch the architects of abortion restrictions explain their strategy while watching their latest attempt play out in real time. We woke this morning to find that the measure had been defeated, and to read the comments of the measure's backers predicting that eventual success was inevitable.

I'd heard that access to abortion was difficult in some areas, but the Frontline report drove the point home in a way that mere knowing it did not. The fact that only one clinic in the state still provides second trimester abortions--and that that clinic is in danger of being regulated out of existence--was startling. The notion that Mississippi could have legislated all of its clinics out of existence, all without passing a single law that failed the "undue burden" test, was stunning. Perhaps there's a model there for other constitutional rights that make the majority uncomfortable. Instead of attacking the rights head-on, nibble at the edges with lots of small regulations. Make sure that the individual restrictions are so small that no one could reasonably claim that their elimination would threaten the right, but keep adding one small restriction after another, until the right no longer exists.

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