Bill Aimed at Closing Clinics Passes

Democratic Senate leader Dick Saslaw said “They slipped one through” in explaining how the Republicans passed Senate Bill 924, which will regulate clinics that provide first-trimester abortions as if they were hospitals. The Republican goal – to close clinics. Saslaw acknowledged the Democratic leadership failed to stop the Republican legislative maneuver of adding a TRAP amendment to an unrelated bill. They have been accustomed to doing things the same way for so long – stopping anti-choice bills in the Senate Education and Health Committee – that they, as Saslaw said, didn’t catch this.

Democrats Chuck Colgan and Phil Puckett voted with the Republicans. Lt Gov Bill Bolling broke the 20-20 tie. Now Gov McDonnell signs the bill and Virginia becomes the first state in the nation to require this regulation. Call it “women-are-too-stupid-to-know-what’s-safe-and-what they need-so-men-have-to-do-it-for-them.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a good narrative about how this unfolded.

In the view of the writer of this post, the Democrats simply were out-smarted. And, in my view, didn’t take it seriously enough. AG Cuccinelli gave fair warning that he was deadly serious about TRAP – Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers – when he issued an opinion on this in the summer.

Ben Tribbett on notlarrysabato has some great quotes, worth repeating:
“These amendments are draconian and patriarchal…” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. Love that she says patriarchal.

“There has been no state to adopt this type of legislation that would force women to have a first trimester abortion in a hospital. This is unconstitutional under Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey because it puts an undue burden on a woman who is having a first trimester abortion. They should not have to have this simple procedure in a hospital,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke.

On a broader note, the Republicans have pounded away at this issue for 20 some years. Their strategy, in VA and nationally, is chipping away. They are not relying on the Supreme Court to overturn what is left of Roe v Wade. They are chipping away at access to services and at what little funding there is; their message machine is enormous. Their allies include the very powerful US Conference of Catholic Bishops. If this matter is litigated and goes to the Supreme Court, we could lose because we will not have a strong enough case that this type of regulation poses a burden on women. Anthony Kennedy will argue as he did in the late-term abortion decision – regulation is good for women (!), women will appreciate it (because we can’t take care of ourselves, presumably).

Other factors of concern to this writer:
this is a “women’s issue” and unfortunately does not carry the weight of being a civil rights issue that the LGBT cause now carries.
Democrats have been willing to compromise away aspects of abortion rights – note Obama’s executive order to get Catholic permission to go ahead with health care reform.

I am also angry that Cucinnelli misrepresented – or heck, lied about – Virginia NOW’s position two decades ago on this issue. He actually mentioned NOW in his statement crowing about the passage of the amendment. NOW does not favor the kind of regulations that the Republicans want, which will shut down clinics.

Finally, this shows why advocacy groups are key to any fight. We can’t let up the pressure and scrutiny, even of our Democratic friends.

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