Monday, January 24, 2011

Abortion activists oppose regulations that, if enforced, could save women's lives

Melinda Henneberger, on the Kermit Gosnell cases:

This is where those of you who are pro-choice may well want to cross your arms over your chest, but the kind of regulation that if enforced might have prevented this atrocity is in all cases seen as an infringement by abortion rights advocates, and thus is strenuously opposed. In Evansville, Indiana, for instance, the pro-choice community was outraged in 2008 after county commissioners passed an ordinance requiring abortion clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. As an Evansville Courier editorial decrying the ordinance put it, "Abortion rights groups see it as an attempt to harass abortion providers and to limit women's access to legal abortions.'' But wouldn't such a requirement also provide a degree of protection to women – particularly the poor, immigrant population Gosnell preyed upon? Not surprisingly, Gosnell had no such hospital admitting privileges, though he was well known to local hospital doctors who, the report says, regularly had to clean up after him, and treat patients like the 19-year-old who had to have a hysterectomy after Gosnell punctured her uterus.

Abortion-rights activists call such regulations "TRAP laws" – short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers; these laws attempt to regulate abortion clinics at the same level of other outpatient surgical centers, for instance by requiring that hallways be wide enough to get a gurney through if something goes wrong. What difference could that possibly make? Well, it took Emergency Medical Service workers 20 minutes to get Karnamaya Mongar out of Gosnell's clinic and into an ambulance because the hallways were blocked and the emergency exit padlocked. (Here, Tarina Keene, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, registers the standard complaint that such regulation is too costly and is "really just designed to shut these places down. It has nothing to do with medical care.")

Only, on the day of the annual marches marking the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I want to ask my pro-choice friends whether opposing all regulation is in fact in the best interest of the women I know you care about. Wherever you stand on this issue – and I am a liberal Catholic who is not pro-choice – we agree that what Gosnell is accused of doing exceeds all bounds of decency. But without regulation and enforcement, how can we be sure there aren't other Gosnells out there?

Even if there were no abortion laws, no abortion regulations, how do you know there isn't a Kermit Gosnell out there preying on women?

Even in a world of perfect access, there would always be a criminal out there ready to pounce on women and exploit their vulnerability.

It makes me wonder whether there isn't a Kermit Gosnell in Canada. Even if he worked in socialized medicine, who's to say no one would tell on him, or enforce the regulations?