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Conservertarianism: Still Dead


Great catch by Susan of Texas, as Megan McArdle shares some thoughts about abortion regulation in a comments thread. [via Mr. Bogg.] Let’s start with this:

I think that abortion should be legal, but I also think that it should be a last resort, and I’m all for the government using any non-coercive methods it can to encourage women to carry their pregnancy to term, including things that will make them feel bad about aborting. I think, for example, that sonograms should be mandatory before termination, I’m in favor of waiting periods and parental notification laws, and I’m agnostic on spousal notification.

Well, first of all, it’s unclear how mandatory waiting periods, mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds, parental involvement laws, regulations that make it nearly impossible for abortion clinics to operate, etc. don’t represent “state coercion.” Generally, if the state requires you to do things and attaches penalties for failing to comply, we describe this as “coercion,” something McArdle seems rather less likely to forget if we were talking about, say, a business that didn’t want to pay the minimum wage or wanted to be able emit all the carbon it wanted. Anyway, since by this logic the mandate in the ACA also doesn’t represent “state coercion” — hell, you can’t even face any jail time; you just have to pay a higher tax — I guess her argument that in principle it should violate the Constitution is out the window. Although, in fairness, she’s merely “agnostic” about whether coverture should be restored to American law.

At any rate, what’s refreshing about this is that there isn’t even any Saletan-like pretense that these arbitrary regulations accomplish anything independently useful. Creating an obstacle course for women to get through isn’t the means; it’s the end. Women who want abortions should go through burdens (that are quite substantial for women less socioeconomically well-situated than McArdle) and humiliations before getting an abortion because Megan McArdle thinks abortions are icky. She’s openly advocating what conservertarians accuse liberals of when they’re making strawman arguments — favoring regulations solely for the purpose of burdening a class of people she intuitively doesn’t like. These regulations, in other words, are pretty much the definition of an “undue burden,” however much the courts look the other way.

But might perhaps laws like Virginia’s mandatory sexual assault regulation go too far? We have an answer:

Ever had an abortion? Considerably more invasive than a trans-vaginal ultrasound.

Yes, and Abu Ghraib was nothing compared to fraternity hi-jinx! If there’s anything holding the contemporary Republican coalition together, besides a shared fondness for anything perceived as pissing off liberals, it would seem to be an utter inability to grasp the concept of “consent.” Hint: nobody says that doctors shouldn’t be allowed to perform transvaginal ultrasounds in cases where they’re medically necessary, or if patients request them. The question is whether women should be forced to have their bodies invaded for no medical reason because they make reproductive choices some reactionary moralizers don’t like. The answer, according to McArdle, is yes. But as long as we’re not providing women with access to medical care — that would be nanny statism!

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