Government Failure Compounds Denial in Abortion Policy

Further to last week’s post on denial as a basis for abortion policy, such denial in large part is no doubt a function of most Americans’ perception of how government works.

According to high school civics classes, government functions to protect us from bad meat, bad medicine, bad buildings, and bad guys in general.

In the real world, we find that this is mostly not true. Yes, there are lots of regulations and agencies whose purported function is to protect us from such dangers, but in practice we find that the various agencies get captured by the big players in the industries they are supposed to be regulating, and thus function primarily as protection rackets, keeping new entrants from competing with established special interests.

As has been eminently clear in the aftermath of the grisly Gosnell case, and the now-unfolding exposé of Planned Parenthood’s mining fetal body parts, the regulation and oversight of abortion clinics has functioned even more perversely—that is to say, there is virtually none.

In Pennsylvania, where Gosnell performed his barbaric spinal-chord snipping operations under indescribably filthy conditions, there had been no inspections of abortion clinics for 17 years. And this has been seen to be the rule, not the exception: in state upon state, abortion clinics are subject to less inspection than a common barber shop, nail salon, or pizzeria.

That this is the case ought not be surprising. Politicians have learned that the subject of abortion is so dangerous to their careers that it is safer, politically, to simply stay out of clinics altogether. In the aftermath of Gosnell, several states passed or attempted to pass regulations to ensure that abortion clinics meet a minimum level of cleanliness and safety, which attempts were mostly blasted by self-proclaimed “women’s rights advocates” as attempts to “end abortion.”

The upshot has been that dirty, dangerous, and unethical clinics continue to operate with little to no oversight, with women seeking abortion subject to a crapshoot of conditions.

In a normally competitive market for services, government failure isn’t a problem: bad providers are filtered out through various information channels—private rating agencies such as Yelp or Angie’s List, or certification by an independent ratings agency such as Consumer Reports for hospitals. In less competitive markets such as college campuses, there are even ratings for professors.

One candidate for providing such a service for abortion clinics, the National Abortion Federation, denied membership to Gosnell’s clinics for failing to meet acceptable standards. But when criticized for not blowing the whistle on the conditions later uncovered that included flea-infested cats wandering the halls, urine-and blood-splattered walls, and corroded suction tubing, the head of the Federation said, “What we saw didn’t meet our standards, but they’d cleaned the place up and hired an RN for our visit. We only saw first-trimester procedures”—thus not following standard procedures for rating agencies that usually include unannounced and multiple visits.

The upshot is that in the name of protecting a woman’s right to choose, abortion advocates have in practice delivered a network of abortion providers that in too many cases do not protect a woman or her unborn child—with politicians and bureaucrats providing cover for abusive practices.

Government failure in abortion is now fully evident, with the White House demonstrably captured by the biggest abortion special interest of them all: Planned Parenthood. At last Thursday’s White House press conference, press secretary John Earnest, when asked about the videos, parroted Planned Parenthood’s stance:

there’s ample reason to think that this is merely the tried-and-true tactic that we’ve seen from extremists on the right to edit this video and selectively release an edited version of the video that grossly distorts the position of the person who’s actually speaking on the video.

And Planned Parenthood has indicated that’s exactly what’s occurred here.

When asked if there was any consideration of investigating Planned Parenthood, Mr. Earnest further defended the organization, claiming the videos misrepresented the “organization’s policies and … the high ethical standard that they live up to.”

Those wishing to undertake a thoughtful consideration of how to best care for women unintentionally pregnant and unwanted children should therefore not rely on government to inform or decide.

Further, we can discuss and debate policy and practice on the termination of more than a million pregnancies each year, but we ought no longer pretend the issue is simply a matter of denying high quality and ethical care of women, and removing unwanted, amorphous “fetal tissue.”

Though not for the faint of heart, the videos, regardless of editing, document extended discussions of positioning the body to be aborted in order to ensure that specific, desired body parts can be recovered intact.

The second part of the fourth video—definitely not for the faint of heart—clearly shows tiny bodies in the lab with their easily identifiable parts (leg, eye, brain, heart) being separated out and discussed.

Removing all question of precisely what is being examined, at 9:03 of this video, the Planned Parenthood doctor, looking at the aborted remains in the lab, says:

“It’s a baby.”

Do we care so little about women in our culture that we want them subjected to dirty and dangerous conditions; that we want them lied to about what abortion entails; that we want them to sign uninformed permissions when already under distress for their babies’ bodies to be used as lab specimens?

And do we value children so little that we accord them no rights or status—subject solely to choices made on any basis?

How “Progressive”.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
Full Biography
Beacon Posts by Mary Theroux
  • Catalyst