Thanks for small favors

August 09, 1991

We suppose we should be thankful that President Bush paused long enough between golf shots on Wednesday to let it be known that he sure hoped the anti-abortion extremists who had shut down two medical clinics in Wichita would "try to live within the law of the land."

It appears that the unruly throng is "living within the law" at the moment, thanks to the injunction of federal Judge Patrick Kelly, who made it clear that any lawbreakers who wound up in his court could expect to be dealt with firmly, not given the kid-glove treatment they had been getting from sympathetic Kansas authorities. Indeed, after the judge acted the three principal leaders of "Operation Rescue" saw fit to beat a fast retreat from Wichita, leaving their local allies to face Kelly's stern discipline.

And yet even though Judge Kelly's injunction restored order to an anarchic situation in which citizens' indisputable constitutional rights were being trampled upon, President Bush's Justice Department is still seeking to have Kelly overruled on the ground that the clinic operators should have first gone to local authorities.

The local authorities are, of course, the very ones who let the situation get out of hand to begin with. What else could we expect when the governor of the state had encouraged the "Operation Rescue" anarchy, and the mayor of the city had made it clear that his sympathies lay with the obstructionists as well?

But suppose Judge Kelly were to be overruled, and law enforcement were returned once more to the hands of the local authorities. What would happen if "Operation Rescue" managed to shut down the Wichita clinics again?

Well, at some point, presumably, Bush and his Justice Department would have to go to Judge Kelly, hat in hand, and seek an injunction to restore law and order.

That would indeed be poetic justice.

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