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Women’s Health Clinic in Wichita Closes. What now?

Abortion services are no longer available in Wichita, Kansas. The nearest available legal services are now in Overland Park, three hours or so up the KTA. There is no point in going south: in that direction lie Oklahoma and Baja Oklahoma (Tejas.) Both have long since closed most of their facilities.

The Tiller family’s decision is understandable: staying in business cost Dr. Tiller his life, and his family their husband and father. Keeping the clinic open would leave the family exposed to Rabid Right. And yet, in closing the clinic we have rewarded the Rabid Right.

Rewarding bad behavior is a bad idea. We’ve learned this time and again: submit to a bad actor’s demands and all that happens is that the stakes are raised. Before Memorial Day there were three facilities nationally that performed late term abortions. Now there are two. Which murderous nuts are going to believe that they can shut those down with two additional murders?

On the other hand, pundits like Megan McArdle say:

Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence. In fact, it seems to be a very good way of getting more violence. Possibly because those fringes have often turned to violence precisely because they feel that the political process has been closed off to them.

McArdle is arguing that trying to preserve and/or expand abortion access is simply going to make Roeder, Operation Rescue and their allies crazier, and prone to kill, bomb and assault further.

McArdle’s proposal strikes me as appeasement. Simply convicting Tiller’s assassin and locking him away for 25 years sends the wrong message. It says, "We’re going to stand behind John Law, we are doubtful enough about things that we aren’t going to stand up for what we believe."

What we need is for the Federal Government to enforce the existing laws protecting clinics and their providers. No, not enforcement, active enforcement of those laws is what is needed. We need people inside antiabortion outfits like Operation Rescue. On Rachel Maddow’s show last night, Frank Schaeffer (author of Crazy for God an evangelical who was formerly tight with the rabid right) said that these people know at least some of the crazies and their plans. We need intelligence on these domestic terrorists, and we need it now.

Of course, now is unrealistic. But infiltrating these outfits (and all the other domestic nutjobs — EarthFirst, the militia nutjobs, and the others) is something that the Feds need to do.

And we do need some modification of abortion law to allow better access. I’m not for-sure what they should be. Perhaps an EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) like law that guarantees access? Any hospital receiving Federal funds (that means essentially all general hospitals) must provide for abortion access. Maybe not on-site access, but local access. A three-hour drive is not local. A plane flight is not local.

I’m not sure how this plays out in rural areas: if it’s usual to drive 60 to 90 minutes to get to a hospital, maybe a three hour drive is local. But I don’t think Megan McArdle’s do-nothing approach is viable.

So, I’m asking: now what?

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I'm a professor of statistics at New Mexico State University with some expertise in government statistics and work experience in state and federal government. My professional expertise is in experimental design and analysis, with a sideline in survey design and analysis.

My hobby is music making with large lengths of brass tubing.