Wednesday, July 08, 2015

"Regulating" abortion

One objection which abolitionists raise against incrementalism is that prolifers lobby for laws that merely "regulate" abortion rather than eliminate abortion.

i) For starters, it's worth pointing out that prolifers aren't monolithic. They represent a range of theological traditions. You even have secular prolifers like Nat Henthoff. 

ii) That said, it's deceptive rhetoric to claim, without further qualification, that prolifers wish to regulate abortion. To begin with, "regulation" can have different aims.

a) For instance, at least in theory, the purpose of regulatory agencies like the FDA, FAA, and CPSC is to make products reasonably safe. (Whether the agencies always good at their job is a different question.)

b) By contrast, some communities or municipalities that are hostile to Christianity use or misuse zoning regulations to block the construction of new churches. In that case, the objective is to regulate something out of existence. 

When prolifers lobby for "regulatory" legislation, that's just a means to an end. The aim of safety regulations for abortion clinics isn't to make abortion less risky or risk-free, but to prevent it. It's not like the FDA, FAA, or CPSC. It's not regulatory in that sense. Rather, the aim is, as much as possible, to regulate it out of existence. 

These are morally serious distinctions which abolitionists disregard. But to disregard that distinction is both unscrupulous and morally frivolous.

iii) Prolife legislation that "regulates" abortion is a gimmick, but an effective gimmick. It's effective in two respects:

a) It generates a dilemma for abortion supporters by turning their own rhetoric against them. One of the primary reasons they give for the legalization of abortion is to make it safe. They contrast that with the fabled "back alley abortions," epitomized by the coat hanger.

So that puts them in a bind. How can they defend opposing health and safety regulations for abortion clinics? Are they going to say abortion shouldn't be safe after all?

Forcing radicals to be consistent is a useful tactic. Like going into a Muslim bakery and ordering a wedding cake with a homosexual message, or going into a gay bakery and ordering a wedding cake with a straight message. 

One way to repeal a law is to make authorities consistently enforce the law. An ironic and ingenious form of civil resistance is to scrupulously obey a law. Take the classic case of students who hog all lanes of a freeway, side-by-side, driving at the posted limit. It creates a traffic jam, yet it's legal to a fault. And that's the point: to force the issue. 

b) In addition, it is effective because it saddles abortion clinics with so much onerous red tape that they will be forced to shut down. That will reduce access to abortion, which will, in turn, reduce abortion.

iv) Abolitionists claim this is a pyrrhic victory inasmuch as closing abortion clinics simply means customers go to a hospital instead. 

However, it seems to me that hospitals are the most expensive places you can have a medical "procedure" performed, because hospitals must be prepared to do just about everything. Have equipment for everything. Technicians for everything. Doctors on call with various specializations. So you're not just paying for the "procedure" itself, but for the overhead to support the entire medical delivery system. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Clever strategy (i.e. "regulate" abortion clinics out of existence).

    The physicians most likely to perform abortions are obstetricians. I'm no healthcare economist, but perhaps another tactic is to somehow make their malpractice coverage for abortions so high that it's not worth it for them to do abortions. Make abortions too expensive to perform or too costly to cover. Something along those lines.

    Likewise, make abortion equipment, drugs, and so forth so expensive or onerous or time-consuming to acquire such that abortions are effectively too prohibitive to perform.

    There are various tiers of hospitals. One could make it not worth the while of small and medium-sized hospitals to perform abortions. However, this leaves the big expensive hospitals and institutions (e.g. level 1 tertiary hospitals). These need a multi-pronged attack at a minimum. Perhaps one of these prongs could be to encourage more women to enter obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), which is already happening in any case, because many women tend to shy away from the obstetrics side in favor of the gynecology side of OB/GYN. This in turn is due to the fact that obstetrics primarily involves deliveries and surgeries (e.g. C-sections) at all hours of the day and night, and is thus far less conducive to having time away from work and raising a family than is gynecology which is a lot more lifestyle friendly. Ideally this would mean less obstetricians available to perform abortions.