Regulatory politicism? Trying to understand the horror.

You may have heard about the abortion clinic in Philadephia and Dr. Gosnell who “was a little befuddled at his arraignment on January 20. Indicted for eight murders.” The descriptions of his clinic are those of a house of horror. How did it exist in a city like Philadelphia? J. Bottum reports To Live and Die in Philadelphia, The abortionist’s house of horrors. His theory is that it was regulatory politics that allowed the clinic to remain in operation for more thirty years.

The reason, of course, is what such medical practices involve. Ever since the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, ending states’ power to outlaw abortion and making it instead an individual right, abortion has distorted American law and snarled American politics. Why should it be any surprise that it has soiled American medicine as well? People like Dr. Gosnell are allowed to exist by the pro-abortion lobbying groups that insist ordinary medical supervision will lead to a curtailing of access to abortion in this country.

As it happens, they’re right. Partly that’s because laws concerning medical licensing genuinely do offer a chance for pro-life state legislatures to hurt the abortion business by burdening its practitioners with extensive paperwork and expensive equipment. The activists at NARAL and Planned Parenthood are not exactly wrong to worry about what they call TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). And yet, there’s a more serious reason that medical supervision threatens the abortion license in this country. It’s what ordinary medical regulation and supervision would reveal: the fact that the abortion business is the gutter of American medicine.

Targeted Regulation is a political weapon. See, for example, the FCC and net neutrality or the EPA and its carbon pollution. In this case, the problem was preventing such regulation to favor a ‘liberation’ movement. Efforts to avoid politically incorrect regulation bore fruit. For a time. Then reality caught up with the ideology but only after much suffering.

Note that this is about Targeted Regulation and not about the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate governmental interference. There is a valid debate about the degree to which medical practitioners and facilities should be subject to licensing and inspection. This isn’t about that but about certain types of medical efforts that were exempt due to political overtones of their work. Such selected exemptions are also being noted in regards to the health care legislation passed last year. The standard for action by the government becomes more about who you know and who you are rather than what you are actually doing and that is a questionable standard.

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