The right to bear arms, as stated in the 2nd Amendment and defined by the SCOTUS in the Heller and McDonald cases, got a boost this week from the most unlikely source; i.e., an abortion-rights case in Alabama where Federal District Court Judge Myron Thompson struck down a 2013 law that would have made it extremely difficult for women to receive abortion services unless they were able to travel long distances from home, thereby creating an undue burden and nullifying the right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe Vs. Wade.
The new law, similar to a measure that was voided in Mississippi, required physicians who performed abortions to be granted credentials in neighboring hospitals, but such credentials are only granted to physicians who live and practice within a limited distance of the particular hospital. Three of the five abortion clinics in Alabama are currently staffed by physicians who reside in other states and travel to Alabama for the purpose of administering scheduled abortions. Hence, they could not receive hospital credentials and therefore could not operate their abortion clinics.
Judge Thompson heard testimony from numerous witnesses representing both the State of Alabama and the abortion providers, and nearly all of the 172-page decision is a very careful summary of what was said by parties on both sides. Ultimately the weight of the testimony convinced the jurist that by reducing the number of abortion clinics from five to just two, the State was effectively blocking access to an abortion and therefore could not be reconciled with the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies as stipulated in Roe vs. Wade.
You have to wade through almost the entire decision, however, before you come to the point where women in Alabama seeking an abortion find themselves making common cause with Alabama residents who want to own a gun. To quote Judge Thompson: “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual: the right to decide to have an abortion and the right to have and use firearms for self-defense. With this parallelism in mind, the court poses the hypothetical that suppose the government the government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition, and further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction. The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining — and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe.”
Last year Alabama also passed a new gun law that made it easier for residents to receive a concealed-carry license and also allowed for concealed-carry of handguns into certain public events. Alabama has always been a gun-rich state, with per capita gun ownership well above the national norm. Now I can’t imagine there would ever be as many women in Alabama seeking an abortion as there might be folks looking to buy guns. But even though Judge Thompson was educated at Yale, he’s Crimson Tide through and through. Abortion might not be a popular issue in an Evangelical state, but when explained as a parallel to the 2nd Amendment, all those God-fearing, Bible-thumpin’ gun owners may just agree that what’s right is a right.
But Thompson’s decision is also a case in point for the folks who want more controls over guns. Because ultimately in order to make their case for more gun control, people who don’t own guns are going to have to figure out how to talk to people who do. The last few pages of Judge Taylor’s decision should be required reading for Brady, Everytown and all the rest. Supporters of the 2nd Amendment and supporters of abortion rights may have more in common than we think.