Virginia's novel approach to ending abortion
The 2006 film Amazing Grace depicts William Wilberforce's campaign to end the slave trade in Great Britain. A scene from the movie depicts the abolitionist Members of Parliament discussing how to proceed in the legislature after numerous failures. The issue had become so polarized that a direct vote on the slave trade was a losing proposition. The following dialogue between Wilberforce and fellow Member of Parliament James Stephen (who was about to present his eye witness account of slave operations to the rest of Parliament) ensues:
Stephen: If we go to Parliament with this evidence, there'll be sympathy, there'll be concern, but it'll be just the same as every other time.
Wilberforce: Have you come back to preach hopelessness?
Stephen: No. No, I've had an idea. In my law books I might have stumbled across something and I want to propose it as a strategy. Nosus Decipio. It's Latin. Loosely translated, it means..."we cheat".
The abolitionists created a bill that would put most of the slave traders out of business without directly voting on trade itself. The abolitionists regulated the bulk of the slave-trade out of business.
The Virginia legislature has found a similar route to help end abortion in the state. The legislature passed a law that requires abortion clinics to comply with same regulations as hospitals. From the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Under the legislation, any physician's office performing five or more first trimester abortions a month would be classified as a hospital, subject to special regulations established by the state Board of Health within the next 280 days.
The regulations will require abortion clinics to retrofit their operations. The retrofit could mean everything from widening hallways to additional employee training, according to the Associated Press. The Dispatch reports that most of the state's abortion clinics will be forced to close because of the "lengthy and costly certification process that most clinics could not afford."
The passage of the bill was something of a cliffhanger. The Virginia senate is controlled by the Democrats, 22-18. For that reason, life bills generally die in committee. But the Republican controlled house included the provision as an amendment to a bill already passed by the senate, thereby passing the committee process by putting the bill up for a vote by the entire senate. The two Democrat senators that vote with the pro-life bloc brought the tally to 20 Yeas and 20 Nays. The tie-breaker was made by pro-life Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.
The abortion lobby will certainly challenge the law in court. But the chances are far better that a court rules in favor of a health-facility regulation than a law restricting abortions in the first trimester.