Is there a lot of overlap between anti-abortion activists and Joan Rivers fans? Rick Perry certainly seems to think so, because he brought up Rivers’ recent death while defending a controversial piece of Texan legislation at the Texas Tribune Festival this past weekend. HB2, which Perry signed into law as governor last year, would require abortion clinics in Texas to operate under the same standards for building design, staffing, and equipment as hospitals do. Perry weirdly suggested that something like HB2 could have saved Rivers’ life and prevented her from dying during a medical procedure earlier this month:
It was interesting that, when Joan Rivers, and the procedure that she had done where she died, that was a clinic. It’s a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.
The 81-year-old Rivers was at the clinic that day for an endoscopy and not, shockingly enough, an abortion, so I’m really not sure where Perry is going with this connection. (I have a better idea of where he’s coming from; namely, the Land of Contrived Allusions.)
Sorry, Governor Perry, but a law putting undue burdens on clinics that don’t need them has nothing to do with a celebrity’s totally unrelated death. HB2, which was shot down by a federal court ruling in August and which is still under appeal from the state government, only makes health care harder to access for poor women: the burden of hospital-level standards is one that clinics in poor or rural areas are less likely to be able to bear. So if anything, the connection we should be talking about here is how much easier it is for the rich, like Rivers, to access health care compared to low income women like those harmed by HB2 and other similar legislation.
Perhaps the best part about Perry’s spectacularly sad attempt to appear relevant is the fact that, actually, a law may already have been broken in Rivers’ case! A doctor without privileges to practice at the clinic where she was seen was allowed to examine her anyway. And seeing as practicing outside the places you’re allowed to is illegal pretty much everywhere, this means Texan abortion clinics are already well covered on this front. Hooray! I suppose that Perry’s government will now be happy to stop appealing the federal court’s decision on HB2.
Now, neither the unauthorized doctor nor the one who was supposed to be seeing her at the clinic is being charged with any role in Rivers’ death so far, but if we’re worried about holding clinics to appropriate standards, I think maybe we should start with “you’re not entitled to whatever sort of illegal health care you want just because you’re rich” instead of “abortion clinics must operate as if they are miniature hospitals”. If Rick Perry is really concerned about endoscopies gone wrong, where is his proposed legislation requiring all clinics, and not just those that provide reproductive health options, to operate at these top-notch levels? Maybe we can find some it stashed somewhere along with the part of Perry’s conscience that should have told him not to try to capitalize on a celebrity death in order to score points for his whackadoodle political agenda.
(Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)