- - Monday, July 4, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Litigation over abortion threatens to go on forever, and it probably will. Feminists see abortion almost as a rite of female passage; others as an offense against nature, if not against God. Hence conviction versus convenience winds up over and over in the courts. The latest case before the U.S. Supreme Court should have been the rare occasion when both sides would agree on a worthy outcome, that abortion clinics should be required to observe basic requirements of sanitation and medical safety for women.

The high court’s rejection of common sense in its 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt overturned a law that required abortion clinics to meet the same regulatory standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and stipulated that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The Texas law, enacted in 2013, was presented as a way of protecting women’s health, but the majority said, no, enforcement would force the closure of numerous abortion clinics and thus make it inconvenient for women seeking an abortion.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that “the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting privileges requirement, provides few if any health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an’undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.” Under this decision, a fully invasive surgical procedure done at an abortion clinic should require no particular standards of cleanliness and professionalism. A simple knee arthroscopy performed at a surgical center must. The rite of passage must be preserved.

Justice Clarence Thomas, borrowing words from an earlier opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, went straight to the point, writing in dissent that the decision “exemplifies the court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’” Ironically, Justice Scalia’s death in February likely would have made no difference in the outcome. Justice Anthony Kennedy wobbled away from his 2007 opinion upholding a ban on certain types of abortion to join the court’s liberal block this time. Justice Wobbly has heard the cheers from the galleries, as in his earlier holding that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and wants to keep the cheers coming.

The high court has effectively defined “women’s health” as the freedom to engage in either responsible or irresponsible relationships and escape biological consequences. The same nihilistic reasoning has bred the idea that “gender” is an obsolete concept with no particular purpose, that sex is no-fault fun unmoored from the responsibilities of procreation. Sex need have nothing to do with love, just as the idea of marriage as the foundation of the family fades from the culture.

Abortion may not be the actual tip of the spear thrust deep into the heart of civilization, but nothing has had a more profoundly destructive impact on the sanctity of the family and the accompanying fundamental values of home and hearth. With nearly 52 million children snuffed by abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1972, life has become cheap. With this latest Supreme Court ruling, life becomes cheaper still. The rap of a gavel sends another precedent to law books, but a judge’s gavel cannot still the conscience of civilized man.

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