In the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Barton Hinkle notes that the Virginia General Assembly has just passed "tough new regulations on abortion clinics." And
Suddenly, outraged liberals are sounding remarkably like libertarian advocates of laissez-faire capitalism and the industries they defend.
For instance, abortion-rights supporters already are warning that the heavy hand of government will impose requirements so absurd and so economically burdensome that they will force clinics to close their doors. "What they'll do is put a burden of extra cost that is not backed up by sound science," said one abortion provider who spoke on condition of . . . whoops! Actually, those were the words of Alva Carter Jr., chairman of a New Mexico dairy industry group, who was protesting new groundwater pollution regulations last April.
"The scale of the . . . current assault is unprecedented," complained Planned Parenthood spokes — no, that was The Wall Street Journal, raging last November against the EPA. The paper said the agency "has turned a regulatory firehose on U.S. business and the power industry in particular."
"The massive red tape . . . threatens to strangle . . . the industry," complained — well, that was Investor's Business Daily, writing about the Dodd-Frank financial bill last year. The paper cited a report by the American Bankers Association warning that "the coming 'tsunami of regulations' could wipe out hundreds of smaller banks." Substitute "abortion clinics" for "smaller banks," and you have the Virginia debate in a nutshell. (And yes, let's stipulate right here that many so-called conservatives believe in limited government everywhere except the uterus.)
"They could require things that are completely unnecessary." That actually was a quote from an abortion-rights supporter: Shelley Abrams, the director of A Capital Women's Clinic in Richmond.
And she is entirely right. Sometimes government does require things that are not strictly necessary. And those requirements impose a heavy financial burden. This is hardly a revelation. Small-government advocates have been saying it for many years. Yelling it, actually, at the top of their lungs. To little avail.
Example: Supporters of abortion rights now worry that even existing clinics might have to obtain a Certificate of Public Need from the state. To which one might reply: Why should they be different? For years, certain voices in Virginia have been suggesting that the COPN process — essentially, a government permission slip for health-care providers — creates an unnecessary market entry barrier. They have argued that government has no business deciding whether a particular community needs a particular health-care facility.
He goes on to note that
when free-marketeers and industry groups gripe about the burden of governmental regulation, they often get truth-squadded by deeply skeptical liberals. On Monday, the AP's "Spin Meter" gave the gimlet eye to predictions that the Obama administration's new smog regulations could destroy more than 7 million jobs. The news service pointed out that the researcher who came up with the number was "industry-sponsored." (Boo.) It lamented the "imprecise economic models" used. (Hiss.) And it pointed out that "those opposed to government regulations rarely mention the potential benefits to society." Amen, brother.
Hinkle hopes that people concerned about the burden that regulation imposes on abortion clinics will eventually come to recognize that regulation also imposes costs and burdens on every other business.
Jerry Taylor and I have both noted in the past the differing media treatment of abortion and other science and health issues. Looking at two NPR stories on the same day, I praised one on the dangers of abortion pills:
It was a good example of careful, cautious reporting. But why are journalists seemingly much more cautious in reporting medical risks involving abortion than in reporting other kinds of risks? There are plenty of critics of the "junk science" involved in the Vioxx stories; why aren't they interviewed in Vioxx stories? The numbers were small in the Vioxx study, as in the case of the abortion drugs, but that fact was dismissed in one report and emphasized in the other.
Cato's Jerry Taylor noticed something similar in a Wall Street Journal column 11 years ago (January 3, 1995; not online). He noted that the Journal of the National Cancer Institute
caused quite a stir by publishing an epidemiological study suggesting that women who have abortions are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not...."Not so fast," countered epidemiologists; a 1.5 risk ratio (as epidemiologists put it) "is not strong enough to call induced abortion a risk factor for breast cancer."
Taylor agreed that a 1.5 risk ratio is below the appropriate level of concern. But he wondered why "the same risk ratio that was so widely pooh-poohed by scientists as insignificant and inconclusive when it comes to abortion was deemed by the very same scientists an intolerable health menace when it comes to secondhand smoke. Actually, that's not quite true. The 1.3 risk factor for a single abortion was significantly greater than the really hard to detect 1.19 risk ratio for intensive, 40-year, day-in-day-out pack-a-day exposure to secondhand smoke (as figured by the EPA)."