The Supreme Court and an unregulated abortion industry

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout pregnancy. The text of that Roe vs. Wade decision states: “Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care.(Roe at 153).

In 2007, when the same Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, the following words appeared in the Court’s Gonzales vs. Carhart decision: “It seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained….Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow…”

These two assertions by the Supreme Court give a snapshot of what we have learned as a nation from our policy of legalized abortion. It hurts. What was marketed and sold as something "liberating" actually can enslave. What was presented to women as a tool to solve their problems actually creates problems of its own.

And the voices of those who have learned this by painful experience continue to grow, through the Silent No More Awareness Campaign ( For over four decades, groups advocating for legal abortion have urged us to listen to the voices of women. And now, those voices say with increasing clarity, "I regret my abortion." Nor does this simply reflect a psychological regret or guilt. It reflects numerous physical damages, as well as malpractice and abusive treatment from abortion providers.

The Silent No More Campaign, a project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life, has submitted one of the Friend of the Court briefs being considered by the US Supreme Court as it argues, on March 2, the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. This case is not about making abortion illegal. In reality, it is about implementing more fully a provision, ironically, of Roe vs. Wade itself, a provision that says,

"The State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient. This interest obviously extends at least to the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that might arise" [410 U.S. 113, 150].

Yet the abortion industry is challenging the right of Texas to pursue that legitimate interest, as it has been trying to do for the last several years by passing legislation that is meant to increase the professional competence of both the doctors who perform abortions and the facilities where they are performed. The Texas law, HB2, that is under review, requires, among other things, that abortion practitioners have hospital admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion facility, and that the facility itself meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

The fact that the abortion industry complains that this will shut down the majority of clinics in Texas is not a negative reflection on the law. It is a negative reflection on the abortion industry. It is not about imposing an 'undue burden' on women seeking abortion; it is, in reality, a complaint about an 'undue burden' on abortion practitioners. This complaint is an yet more evidence of what I have been involved in documenting for two decades: that abortion clinics and those who run them are both unwilling and unable to measure up to the most reasonable standards of medicine and health care facilities.

This is not an abstract debate. The abortion industry has a track record, and has proven to be the most unregulated surgical industry in the nation. While Roe indicated, as quoted above, that there should be "maximum safety for the patient," the fact that this is a court decision -- and not a law -- means there is no enforcement mechanism for that provision. In many states, veterinary clinics are better regulated than abortion facilities. And even where regulations are in place, the abortion industry gets away regularly with evading them, as we say in Pennsylvania in the gruesome, but not unusual, case of Kermit Gosnell. In fact, twenty years ago I helped put together the book Lime 5 which documents scores of Gosnells, allowing high school students to administer anesthesia, putting wounded girls in private cars to take them to hospitals far away where the abortionist could cover his tracks, using expired medications, altering medical records, and much more. And the testimonies of our "Silent No More" women corroborate atrocities like this.

Meanwhile, one of the amicus briefs supporting the abortion clinics in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case also shared personal testimonies: over a hundred women in the legal profession who claim they could not have advanced in their professional lives without their abortions. I'm glad they are successful. But what exactly that has to do with clinics living up to fire codes or proper staffing policies, or provisions to be able to handle medical emergencies, I'm not sure.

The bottom line is simple. If advocates of the abortion industry want it to be considered a standard element of heath care in America, then start acting like it, rather than using the courts to fend off every effort to apply to the industry reasonable medical regulations.