Terror Should Not Pay

Ezra Klein, about the murder of George Tiller:

“As The American Prospect’s Ann Friedman writes, this has to be understood in context. It is the final, decisive act in “an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services.” That campaign stretched over decades of protests, lawsuits, violence, and, finally, murder. The different elements were not always orchestrated. But the intent remained constant: To counter the absence of a statute that would make Tiller’s work illegal with enough intimidation to render it impossible.

This was, in other words, a political act. Tiller was murdered so that those in his line of work would be intimidated. In conversations with folks yesterday, I heard well-meaning variants on the idea that it would be unseemly to push legislation in the emotional aftermath of Tiller’s execution. I disagree. Roeder was acting in direct competition with the United States Congress. And it’s quite likely that he changed the status quo. Legislative language and judicial rulings had made abortive procedures legal and thus accessible. Yesterday’s killing was meant to render abortive procedures unsafe for doctors to conduct and thus inaccessible.

If a woman cannot get an abortion because no nearby providers are willing to assume the risk of performing it, the actual outcome is precisely the same as if the procedure were illegal. Roeder has, in all likelihood, made abortion less accessible. It would be, in my view, a perfectly appropriate response for the Congress to decisively prove his action not only ineffectual, but, in a broad sense, counterproductive.”

I agree completely. I would recommend the following:

(a) Repeal the ban on dilation and extraction. The Congress should not get into the specifics of what procedures can be used when. If it must, it should broaden the set of cases in which dilation and extraction can be used to include not only cases in which the life of the mother is in danger, but cases in which her health is in danger, or in which the child has a serious and incurable medical condition that would make its life short and miserable. It ought to be possible to draft this in such a way that Down Syndrome did not count, but the cases I wrote about earlier would: “a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants”; “her babies developed with no faces, with no way to eat or breathe.”

(b) Require training in late-term abortion techniques for Ob/Gyn certification. Note that these techniques are also used when the fetus has already died. Read this article to see why this matters.

(c) Require that any hospital provide any woman whose fetus has died, whose life is in danger, or whose fetus has developed the kind of medical problem described in (a), with appropriate treatment to remove that fetus, and that that treatment be fully reimbursable by the federal government. If they have no one on staff who can provide that treatment, they should get someone. See (b) above. There should be religious exemptions, but they should not extend to the treatment of women whose fetus has already died.

One way to stop terrorism is by enforcing our laws. We should absolutely do that. But another is to make it clear that terrorism doesn’t work. We should do that too. And the best way I can think of is to change our present situation, in which only a handful of doctors perform late-term abortions. We can keep whatever strictures we want* on the cases in which we think abortions should be permissible after viability while also ensuring that no one person has to take on him- or herself the risks that militant anti-abortionists want to subject them to.