POSTED ON Jun 27th 2013 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Abortion
Texas vs California. It’s always Texas vs California, two states so similar but that do nothing alike. So it is with mob rule.
CALIFORNIA practices, or practiced, a form of direct democracy. Through referenda voters could overrule part or all of most statutes passed by the state government or propose legislation of their own. With Proposition 8, voters, conservatives mostly, had voted to defend the definition of marriage. Whether one agrees with Prop 8 or not, the referenda system worked as intended, as a peaceful popular check on government power.
It’s was a form of mob rule, just not unruly mob rule. It had all the attendant problems of direct democracy, such as lack of information and consideration of consequences, proliferation of laws, as well as potential for tyranny of the majority over the minority.
Yesterday, it died. The United States Supreme Court held that supporters of a referenda do not have standing against another citizen to sue to enforce that referenda. In short, all state governments need do is ignore laws they don’t like. Although conservatives might not like this particular case, we should shed no tears over the demise of the referenda system. (The general issue of a state’s refusal to enforce its own laws, however, is another matter entirely.)
Rule by referenda was a compassionate, good-intentions-pave-the-road-to-Hell mob rule that allowed California politicians to avoid tough decisions and absolve themselves of responsibility. California was ungovernable, they said. Citizens voted for caps, benefits, and regulations without regard for budgets. Well, now the government of California holds all the power. Now we will see how they will deal with the all but declared bankruptcy of California. Related reading, Kevin D. Williamson’s The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome. It seems the end will begin in California.
TEXAS doesn’t have such formal mob rule, but occasional mob rule. Ours is unruly and by the minority, not majority. Tuesday night’s events in Austin were not a peaceful exercise of legal rights but a heckling gallery that prevented the legislature from doing its job. It was also mostly women. A recent book, The Athena Doctrine, is the latest version of an old argument that women are kinder, gentler, more reasonable leaders and the world would be a more peaceful place if women ruled. That is utter nonsense, as women in the Texas capitol illustrated.
Quick background: the Texas Legislature meets only every other year. So the Governor has the power to call Special Sessions and set the agenda. (One of the secrets to our success, we don’t pass laws all the time.) During this special session, coming in the wake of the Gosnell horror, Gov. Perry had abortion clinic regulation on the agenda. The bill included a 20 week ceiling on abortion as well as regulations bringing clinics performing second trimester abortions up to surgical clinic standards and requiring admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of complications. Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered the bill to end the session, but when her filibuster failed, the gallery erupted in screams and heckling, preventing a vote before midnight.
If this had been a health bill on any other women’s procedure—mammograms, pap smears, prenatal exams—regulations for women’s health and safety would be welcomed, demanded even. Absence of such women’s health and safety laws is often cited as an illustration of continued discrimination against women. But this is abortion. Abortion is different. The message from pro-choice women is to never regulate it.
Back when the Gosnell story finally broke (remember, the press hid the story until Mollie Hemmingway and Kristen Powers wrote articles that shocked Dave Weigel), many asked how this could have happened. Easily. The clinic wasn’t inspected for 17 years because the government worried about offending the pro-choice lobby. Sen. Wendy Davis and her gallery are trying to achieve the kind of healthcare oversight vacuum that allowed the Gosnell clinic to operate with a free hand.
Look at the offending limitations. Twenty weeks. For my friends overseas who used to ask me why our abortion debates were so heated but who assumed that it was the pro-life lobby wanting onerous limitations, we only seek a 20 week cap and clinic standards. The limitations in place all over Europe, 12-16 week caps, ultrasounds, waiting periods, government committees to approve second trimester procedures–I couldn’t even bring up such limitations for discussion here outside a group of Christian women. They are beyond the pale, unthinkable.
As for the clinic standards, the thing about pregnancies and deliveries that we forget with our “natural is best” modern mantra, yes when everything goes as planned, doctors are over qualified catchers. But when complications arise, they can arise quickly. Skim though the home birth deaths compiled by obstetrician Amy Tuteur. The common theme: time. When things went wrong, there wasn’t enough time to get to help. Granted, it was usually the baby who died, but even accounting for lack of concern for the baby that marks abortion, with the massive vascular structure that is the uterus and placenta, a woman can bleed out quickly. Any woman who has lost a second trimester baby can attest, there is a lot of blood. Sites describing Dilation and Evacuation, the most common second trimester abortion procedure, warn women to expect bleeding for 2 weeks post procedure–and that’s with the vacuuming and scraping. (That’s just a WebMD link, by the way, so it only uses bland, technical language to describe the procedure. It is safe to click.)
Requiring a nearby hospital isn’t some crazy scheme to hurt women, but a provision to protect them. Luckily for women, Gov. Perry is not a shrinking violet. He called a second special session yesterday afternoon. There will be no looking away that subjects women to a Gosnell. The conclusion of Dave Weigel’s Slate article:
If you’re pro-choice, say, and you worry that the Gosnell story is being promoted only to weaken your cause, you really should read that grand jury report. “DOH could and should have closed down Gosnell’s clinic years before,” write the investigators. Why wasn’t it? Were state regulators nervous about igniting a political fight about abortion? Is the regulatory system incompetent or under-funded? And are there other states where the same could be said? Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story. Maybe it’s not a raw political story. It’s just the story of a potential mass murderer who operated for decades as government regulators did nothing.