Undue burden

Emily Bazelon has about the best piece I’ve read on TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws.  The controlling SC precedent, 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood, is pretty damn clear– laws that place an undue burden (i.e., a substantial obstacle) on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion are unconstitutional.  To this end, spousal consent, long waiting periods, etc., have been struck down as clearly an undue burden.  You know what else is an undue burden?  Laws that are designed to close a whole bunch of abortion clinics.  It is so transparent and obvious that this is the intent of these laws, thus so frustrating to see their proponents and judges pretend otherwise and that this is somehow about women’s health.  Bazelon:

Abortion is on trial this week in Alabama. Technically speaking, the witnesses are appearing before federal District Judge Myron Thompson to discuss a new state law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. That sounds reasonable, I know, but it isn’t, and it’s also not what’s at stake. This trial is about whether poor women in red (and even purple) states will continue to have access to abortion, or whether some states will succeed in shutting down every clinic within driving distance, all in the name of protecting women (from themselves)…

But these tactics mostly seek to discourage women rather than block them entirely. And so, the new abortion restrictions have a different target—clinics. What are known as TRAP laws (for “targeted regulation of abortion providers”) make it prohibitively expensive, or simply impossible, for a clinic to operate. In Alabama, three of five clinics say they will have to close if their doctors are required to get admitting privileges from a local hospital, because no hospital will agree to give this to them…

There are a few ironies here. Aside from politics, one reason Alabama hospitals refuse to grant admitting privileges is that they only do so for doctors who live within a 30-mile radius. Both of the Alabama abortion providers called to testify travel in from out of state, because if you’re worried enough about backlash to testify behind a curtain, you probably don’t want to move in down the block.

Another reason for the hospital refusals is that the abortion providers send in too few patients to qualify, due to the low rate of complications that demand hospital care. This week’s testimony included the fact that of 2,300 abortions performed in one clinic in Birmingham in 2013, only three patients went to the emergency room. Another fact: The overall rate of abortion patients with complications requiring emergency care is .1 percent. “It’s safer than getting a shot of penicillin,” testified Paul Fine, an obstetrician-gynecologist and medical director of a Planned Parenthood affiliate serving Texas and Louisiana.

To any honest observer, it is crystal clear that theses laws are designed to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s right to an abortion and are thus, quite clearly, and unconstitutional undue burden.  The question at this point is how many federal judges– and ultimately Anthony Kennedy– are honest observers.


I know you don’t come here for my take on Disney movies, but after finally seeing Frozen this past week, I had to comment on something that really bugs me.  Major spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie and you care, stop here.’

I was aware of the problem because I read this Atlantic piece back when the movie first came out, and I spent the whole movie looking for even the slightest sign that Prince Hans was actually a villain.  Sure, foreshadowing can be too heavy sometimes, but give us something.  The abscence of any sign altogether that Hans would turn out to be a villain struck me as just bad writing.  I don’t mind the twist, I mind that it seemed totally out of character to what we knew of Hans up until that point.  Here’s Gina Dalfonzo:

Before the shattering reveal takes place, the audience has already enjoyed more than an hour of Hans’s niceness. He’s kind to people and animals; he saves Anna’s sister, Elsa, from being killed; he even offers free winter cloaks and soup to the poor.

It seems strange, then, to argue in this context, “Don’t give your heart to someone you don’t know,” when we as an audience get to know Hans better than almost any other Disney prince before him. He isn’t just a handsomely vague presence who dances divinely, like Cinderella’s prince, or a prince who only shows up at the beginning and end of the movie, like Snow White’s prince.

Hans even comes across as a nice, normal person when no one’s watching him, gazing with frank and friendly interest after Anna as though he really likes her, rather than obviously seeing her as a stepping-stone to the throne. Hans has personality, and, more importantly, character—or so it appears…

But Hans’s revelation feels so abrupt that it seems more like a poor writing choice than like a clever concealment of the truth.

On the whole, I actually really liked the movie.  All the more a shame to have such a bad writing choice.  But, on the other hand:

Map of the day

From a Vox post arguing (quite correctly) that’s it is time (long past, in fact) for the US to get with the rest of the world and adopt the metric system.  I remember the abortive attempt in the 70’s when I was in elementary school.


Islands in a Metric World, 1971. Since this map was made, the US hasn’t gotten any allies on its lonely island. From “A Metric America: A Decision Whose Time Has Come” by NBS, via USMA

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