In rebuttal: Lawmaker defends opposition to new abortion regs

In rebuttal: Lawmaker defends opposition to new abortion regs

Rep. Dan Frankel
Rep. Dan Frankel

In her column last week, “Regulation-happy PA ignores murder factory,” Abby W. Schachter placed me on the stand with Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is currently being tried for murder in Philadelphia.

Her claim seems to be that because I didn’t vote for increased regulations of abortion facilities, any calls I make to better regulate industries affecting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians are somehow disingenuous.

Had she called me to ask my opinion of the issue, rather than excerpting public statements, I would have told her the following:

The fact that Pennsylvania women were driven to visit a back alley abortion provider is a shame on this commonwealth. Legitimate providers I spoke with, who had been complying with the stringent Pennsylvania laws since they were enacted, were glad that the illegal practices were stopped and that low-income minority women would no longer be preyed upon. They were glad that laws would be appropriately enforced.

I wish we could take a serious policy-driven approach to understanding what pushed women to Gosnell’s clinic. I suspect barriers to access would be one issue, but the larger, more powerful motivation would have been poverty, plain and simple.

In most cases women seeking to terminate a pregnancy talk about economic issues – they’re too poor to have another child. And they went to Gosnell, an alleged murderer, because he was cheap.

So yes, our regulatory system failed because we turned a blind eye to someone who ignored the law.

And yes, some of our regulations — like 24 hour waiting periods and scripted conversations with doctors — created unnecessary barriers, perhaps driving up the price for law-following abortion clinics to provide care.

And yes, I disagreed with creating new and unnecessary regulations to legislate the sizes of doorways, the dimensions of rooms and the kind of air conditioning system used in these health centers. I did so because I believed it would force clinics to spend precious dollars to rebuild for no good reason, put some law-abiding health centers out of business and decrease access to care.

I worried that making it harder to find quality abortion care would only create more demand for the kind of back alley providers common before Roe v. Wade, the kind of providers we thought were gone for good – until we found out about the alleged practices in Gosnell’s clinics.

I want regulations that ensure we see no more back alley butchers.

I’m afraid the laws we passed last year will have the opposite effect.  

But Ms. Schachter’s simple conclusion doesn’t make sense — thoughtful individuals can oppose ill-conceived, questionably motivated, unnecessary regulations and still call for appropriate oversight to protect our drinking water and keep our air clean.

And that’s what she gets wrong: Good government is not about having more laws or fewer laws; good government is about having the best laws.

Good government means having regulations that help grow our economy while fundamentally placing the health and well-being of our citizens at the center. Good government means passing laws with the interests of Pennsylvanians in mind, not to pursue some other ideological objective — in this case limiting abortion access without worrying about the real impact on Pennsylvania women and families.

The laws passed in response to the Gosnell case fail the test on all counts.

(State Rep. Dan Frankel, a Squirrel Hill Democrat, represents the 23th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives.)