The Washington Post

How the right to bear arms can protect the right to abortion

Second Amendment activist Joseph Gabriele of Littleton, Colorado gathers with other activists in support of gun ownership on January 9, 2013 at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Imagine this scenario: While acknowledging the right to bear arms, a state makes it nearly impossible to buy them.

The state sets up rules for gun dealerships that are almost impossible to meet, so that only one or two can do business, forcing someone wanting a gun to drive hours just to make a purchase — making it clear all the while it doesn’t approve of gun ownership.

A federal judge in Alabama used just such a hypothetical in a ruling earlier this week. He wasn’t considering a gun case, however, but an abortion case. He decided Alabama can’t enforce a new law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said, after a trial, that the law would close the only abortion clinics in three of Alabama’s five largest cities. “For a number of reasons, including pressure from the local medical community and the threat of violence, no new clinics would emerge to replace” them in the foreseeable future.

He said it was such a burden on the right to abortion that it was very close to “imposing an outright prohibition.”

Then he noted the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms, and drew a parallel with the Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade establishing a right to abortion. “As to each right, there are many who believe as a matter of law, that the Supreme Court’s reasoning in articulating the right was incorrect and who also believe, as a matter of strong moral or ethical convictions, that the activity deserves no constitutional protection,” he said.

“At its core,” Thompson wrote, “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. 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.”

Just suppose, he wrote, that:

… The federal or state government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition and on the procedure they must employ in selling such goods and that, further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction: one in Huntsville and one in Tuscaloosa.

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.

Alabama is likely to appeal the ruling — and no doubt his reasoning.

Thompson’s decision in Planned Parenthood, Southeast v. Luther Strange (Alabama’s Attorney General) is here.

Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Justin Wm. Moyer · August 6, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.