Monday, February 4, 2013

If you can't ban it, regulate it to death: abortion laws in Michigan

This from Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 21-27 edition:
On Dec. 28 last year, Michigan Republican governor Rick Snyder signed an omnibus bill combining multiple abortion-related measures... One stipulation requires abortion clinics to install special gooseneck scrub sinks. Another says recovery rooms must provide 80 square feet of floor space per bed, three feet between each, and one lavatory for every six patients. Corridors must have a minimum width of six feet...
These sorts of regulations should seem immediately silly to libertarians - regardless of the service being performed, shouldn't a business be free to decide on its own how wide the corridors are? - but they also expose some fundamental incoherence on both sides of the pro-life / pro-choice debate.

1. Liberals who are both pro-choice and pro-regulation face a contradiction. If the state is empowered to regulate as the populace sees fit, how to ensure it doesn't regulate away (arguably) core personal freedoms, like the decision not to carry a child to term? The result of increasingly onerous regulation on abortion clinics may be eventually the same as banning it altogether, effectively circumventing Roe v. Wade. But how do you fight such a strategy without admitting that regulations themselves are fundamental violations of human freedom?

2. Conservative politicians are presumably acting in response to strong constituent demands to stop abortion. But, if these regulations are couched in terms of safety and patient services, what are they supposed to tell the voters? "We've made abortion SO SAFE and with SUCH GOOD amenities that no one will be able to have one anymore." **wink wink, nudge nudge** Obviously, anti-abortion groups can read between the lines. but what happens if the Onion's "Abortionplex" moves from satire into reality? The end result might be that abortion clinics become so high tech and sophisticated that their use does not decline by much; higher quality service compensating for higher cost. What then?

I guess no one has accused political parties of philosophical coherence, but the convoluted and short-sighted politics of abortion regulation are now verging on self-satire.

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