Weirdest TRAP law yet highlights how unnecessary all anti-abortion restrictions are
In today’s episode of “creative and soul-crushing ways the anti-choice movement is trying to undercut access to abortion,” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in May signed into law a ban on abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of K-8 schools and another law banning second-trimester abortions. The K-8 law essentially says there exists a real danger of third graders, just trying to learn mixed fractions, trying to access abortion; that the existence of abortion clinics near children will magically, retroactively result in their being aborted; or that a woman making a choice about her body is such an inherently wicked, pernicious thing that you’d better hide your wives and hide your kids.
So, yeah, if you were wondering how absolutely unnecessary and low TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are, this should answer your question.
The law was scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1, but U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in July issued a restraining order that blocked enforcement of the law until after he heard testimonies in an October hearing for the law, potentially putting it into effect later this month. So, on a positive note, these laws are currently being looked at by a federal judge, and it’s entirely likely (considering how unreasonable they are) that they could be thrown out.
But for the time being, these laws are concerning for a lot of reasons. For starters, the ban on clinics near public K-8 schools would affect two known clinics offering the procedure: Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, located down the street from a K-8 magnet school, and a Tuscaloosa women’s clinic, also near a school.
Data from the Alabama Department of Public Health indicates these the two clinics performed 5,833 abortions in 2014 alone, which is 72 percent of all abortions performed in the state that year. You read that right: Closing these two clinics could potentially require roughly 72 percent of women seeking abortions to have to travel miles across the state to access the procedure.
Alabama lawmakers who have supported the bill have called surgical abortion “barbaric” and even compared it to medieval punishment. It is literally a vehicle through which women are able to control their bodies and destinies, and through this Alabama law, abortion is being equated with the murder of children to the point that state lawmakers see the need to hide children from the slightest chance of being exposed to it.
But frankly, at the end of the day, even abortion foes recognize the only danger to abortion is the stigma surrounding it. Alabama lawmakers have previously argued the primary goal of not allowing clinics offering abortions to exist near schools is to protect children from graphic, threatening anti-abortion protests which these clinics are often subjected to. I wouldn’t wish exposure to these disturbing, propaganda-fueled demonstrations on anyone, let alone innocent children, but why should abortion clinics — and by extension, women — be the ones punished for this?
If lawmakers actually wanted to address this issue and protect children, and didn’t just want to, oh, I don’t know, shut down as many clinics offering abortion as possible, laws to rein in these often out-of-hand, at times violent protests would make a lot more sense than laws to outright close clinics near schools. But at the end of the day, this law literally epitomizes the whole modern TRAP law movement: playing on wildly unnecessary concepts of safety to block access.
Maybe abortion, for all the unnecessary, annoying controversy that surrounds it, isn’t exactly an issue fourth graders need to be exposed to. But I don’t see how the peaceful existence of a women’s health clinic down the street from a school is going to hurt American youth any more than misrepresenting and unnecessarily demonizing is.
The other abortion-related law in Alabama that U.S. District Judge Thompson is considering prohibits second trimester dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedures. Dr. William Parker, a physician who provides second-trimester abortions in Alabama, submitted a statement to the court earlier this month claiming the law would prevent him from performing abortions at just 15 weeks of pregnancy. It’s worth noting Roe v. Wade doesn’t just offer women the right to have an abortion, but guarantees this right until the point of fetal viability (typically 22-25 weeks), which is up to qualified doctors, not politicians, to determine. According to Dr. Parker, the only alternative to D&E is to induce labor in a hospital, aka literally forcing women to give birth.
Ultimately, the mentality that abortion is murder and an enormous societal ill we need to protect not only the “unborn” but also living children from is the very mentality that leads to abortion providers and the women seeking them being subjected to violence and threats ranging from arson to shootings. If safety were really the concern here, the safety of women and abortion providers would matter to Alabama lawmakers, too.