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Saletan’s Inevitable Regulatory Non-Sequitur


In response to the indictment of Kermit Gosnell, William Saletan advocates for…regulations he’s always advocated. What’s unclear is how these regulations are relevant to the Gosnell case specifically. It’s not clear, first of all, what this has to do with restricting second trimester abortions. But even when it comes to post-viability abortions, Saletan dodges the important questions. Most importantly, he doesn’t mention the fact that late-term abortions in most circumstances are already illegal in most circumstances in Pennsylvania. The only way of making the regime for late-term abortions more restrictive would be to have no exceptions — including for severe threats to a woman’s health and life. Does Saletan favor this? I have no idea; he just ignores the question, presumably because such changes in the law would be a terrible idea. Similarly, what has drawn the most attention about Gosnell is that he allegedly killed babies that had already been delivered — but again, if true, that’s already illegal, so I don’t know what this has to do with second-trimester abortion bans.

The larger problem, as always, is that responding to the Gosnell case with new regulations that aren’t actually relevant to this case is actively counterproductive. As Pema Levy, Amanda Hess, and Amanda Marcotte all note, the more abortion access is restricted, the more likely it is that poor women will seek the services of unethical providers. It’s surely relevant here that Pennsylvania has one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the country. How Gosnell operating in that state is supposed to make the case for yet more arbitrary abortion regulations I can’t tell you. Providing poor women with the resources to obtain abortions from trained medical professionals in reputable clinics and regulated hospitals seems like a much better idea. This is true even with respect to late-term abortion — stigma and regulatory obstacles lead to more, not fewer.

[X-Posted to TAPPED.]

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