The Supreme Court has held that in the US people have the right to keep guns for self-defense. A lot of us are not happy about the abundance of guns in the US. Why don’t we try to enact laws that make it very difficult to manufacture guns and bullets, that curtail the presence of gun stores and outlaw their sale at conventions?
The problem with this anti-gun strategy: if people have the right to bear arms, then legislative bodies cannot place undue burdens on exercising that right. Huh! But the Supreme Court has also recognized a women’s right to an abortion, and many states are trying hard to make it impossible – or at least very burdensome – for a woman to get one.
The analogy here has been recognized by a judge very recently and it looks as though we may have a new argument to stop states that are trying to drastically limit a women’s right to abortion.
In this week’s opinion [using an analogy with gun ownership], … a federal district judge in Alabama, Myron H. Thompson, … declared unconstitutional the state’s Women’s Health and Safety Act, which required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law would have shut down three of Alabama’s five remaining abortion clinics.
Guns and abortion? That’s a pairing no previous judicial opinion has made. “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual,” the judge explained. “However, neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else. The right to abortion cannot be exercised without a medical professional, and the right to keep and bear arms means little if there is no one from whom to acquire the handgun or ammunition.”
Do I have to point out how delicious this analogy is? Of course, it’s unthinkable that Alabama would regulate firearms dealers to the point of extinction. But recall the June day 22 years ago when the Supreme Court, to the surprise of nearly everyone, reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It was unthinkable then that nearly a generation later, states would flagrantly be regulating the practice of abortion (in the name of women’s health and safety, no less) out of business — a goal that Texas, enabled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is close to achieving…
By pairing gun rights and abortion rights, Judge Thompson was not just indulging in shock value. He was making a profound point: that a right — any right — without the infrastructure and the social conditions that enable its exercise is no right at all.