All too often, news stories about proposed new regulations mention all the supposed benefits of the regulation while ignoring such potential costs as higher prices, reduced service, or even the demise of the business. Today I'm glad to see journalists noting those costs right up front in their discussions of a new regulation proposed by Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli. Public radio WAMU says:
Currently there are 21 abortion clinics in Virginia. Abortion service providers say at least 17 of those might shut down if state officials use their authority to regulate those clinics.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says abortion clinics provide many other medical services beyond abortions, so they're subject to the same regulations as larger medical facilities.
That opinion was issued in response to a request from Virginia State Senator Ralph Smith, who says his only interest is to protect the health of the patient.
"I certainly feel that for the safety of all involved that they should be as regulated as other procedures," says Smith.
For most clinics, meeting a higher regulatory standard could mean additional equipment or space renovation.
Tarina Keene director of NARAL Pro-choice Virginia says the cost involved could drive some clinics out of business.
Yes, indeed, they noted those potential costs right there in the first line. And so did the Washington Post, front page, third sentence:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has concluded that the state can impose stricter oversight over clinics that perform abortions, a move immediately decried by abortion-rights organizations and others as an attempt to circumvent the General Assembly, which has repeatedly rejected similar measures.
Cuccinelli's legal opinion empowers the Board of Health, if it chooses, to require the clinics to meet hospital-type standards. Abortion-rights advocates say that could force some clinics to close because they would be unable to afford to meet the new requirements.
Now if only we could get journalists to take such prominent note of the costs that new regulations impose on other kinds of services, from lemonade stands to local restaurants to for-profit colleges to internet service providers.