To Abortion Advocates, the Safety of Women is Secondary to the Safety of Legal Abortion


One of the most infuriating things about the abortion debate in this country is that the pro-abortion side is championed by such stupid and intellectually dishonest arguments. Granted, that’s not as infuriating as all the dead unborn children, but it’s still plenty infuriating. One of the prime examples of this is the completely absurd argument that health related abortion regulations are somehow detrimental to the health of women. Mother Jones (of course) takes up this argument in an article with the screaming headline, “The War on Women is Over – And Women Lost.”


Like all such articles, this one is lengthy, meandering, long on schmaltz and horror stories, and short on facts and reason. The article begins with the story of one Renee Chelian, who recounts the horror of getting an abortion back before Roe v. Wade:

Chelian knew well why these women were willing to make the journey to Buffalo. Just five years earlier, at 15, she’d gotten pregnant by her high school boyfriend. She was resigned to dropping out of school. On the night she was packing her suitcase, “to go get married,” her parents came into her room and asked if she wanted an abortion instead. “What’s that?” Chelian asked.

A few days later, Chelian and her father let a stranger blindfold them and drive them to a warehouse on what she thought were the outskirts of Detroit. Chelian waited her turn on a folding chair, staring at an oil slick on the cement floor. The place seemed to be packed with other women, but it was hard to tell. “All I can picture are women’s feet,” she recalls. “I was afraid to look at anybody, because what if I just somehow upset the balance and they wouldn’t do my abortion?” After what felt like hours, someone—she doesn’t know if he was a doctor—performed the illegal procedure. They packed her with gauze and sent her home.

Jeez, sounds pretty horrible – unclean conditions, obvious dirt and filth everywhere, medical procedures performed by people of uncertain credentials and probably with inadequate equipment. Seems like a pretty obvious segue into an argument… against regulations requiring abortion clinics to be clean, staffed with competent personnel, and safe for outpatient surgical procedures? What??


Chelian is now 64 and has two grown daughters. She’s the founder and CEO ofNorthland Family Planning Center, a group of three clinics that perform abortions in the Detroit suburbs. A petite woman with a blunt haircut and a round face, Chelian is matter-of-fact and seemingly unflappable. But when we talk about her clinics, her tone intensifies. Her business is under constant threat of closure from the conservative Michigan Legislature, which has spent the past four years churning out a string of arbitrary new abortion restrictions designed to shut clinics like Northland down. One proposal requiredNorthland to have one bathroom for every six patients.

* * *

This is what 2015 looks like: Abortion providers struggle against overwhelming odds to stay open, while women “turn themselves into pretzels” to get to them, as one researcher put it. Activists have been calling it the “war on women.” But the onslaught of new abortion restrictions has been so successful, so strategically designed, and so well coordinated that the war in many places has essentially been lost.

Let’s unpack this a little bit. The legislation in question required any business in Michigan that performed at least 120 surgical abortions a year to be licensed as a freestanding surgical clinic. One would think that someone who allegedly got into the abortion business so that women could receive abortions at clean and safe facilities would laud such a measure. These measures require the installation of special scrub sinks, hallways that are wide enough to accommodate stretchers, and a facility that can safely accommodate outpatient surgeries in terms of staffing and ensuring proper patient recovery before discharge.


None of the abortion advocates who constantly and perpetually moan about these regulations have ever offered any convincing reason why abortion as a surgical procedure should be treated differently on the merits from any other outpatient surgery such that these regulations are fair as applied to ortho clinics performing knee arthroscopies or cardiac catheterization labs but not as applied to abortions.

What they seem to be suggesting, then, without having the balls to actually say it, is that all outpatient surgical clinics labor under a crushing regulatory burden that is excessively protective of patient safety and hinders the ability of medical providers to stay in business:

Chelian’s clinics perform 19 abortions per day on average. If patients are required to remain in recovery for at least three hours, with a physician present the entire time, that number would be cut in half, which could force Chelian to raise her rates. Many clients—often minorities, poor, and uneducated—already have difficulty scraping together the $325 that most abortions (up to 12 weeks’ gestation) cost.

Again, no explanation is offered here for why her clinic should be exempt from the regulations that apply to every other clinic that performs outpatient surgeries. Minorities, the poor, and uneducated also need cardiac catheterizations, or to have their gall bladder removed, or any other number of outpatient procedures that are actually medically necessary to their physical survival (as opposed to their personal convenience, like abortion).


The regulations Chelian references also drive up the cost of these surgical procedures and make them harder for “minorities, the poor, and uneducated” to afford. Why should a state be indifferent to this concern with respect to a cardiac catheterization but not with respect to an abortion? Is it really true that abortion – alone among all surgical procedures –  is so vitally necessary to poor people that regulations that are deemed necessary to protect the health of surgical patients must be ignored to make sure they can have them? Is having an abortion really more important than avoiding a heart attack?

If so, why don’t we just get rid of all regulations with respect to abortion? After all, requiring that they be done by a physician at all increases the cost, so let’s get rid of that. Let’s also get rid of any and all regulations requiring that instruments be cleaned as well, because it isn’t free to autoclave stuff. Let’s also get rid of regulations requiring clinics to meet cleanliness standards as well – cleaning for surgery isn’t cheap! And where are we?

Well, we’re back to the situation Chelian described as undesirable at the very opening of the ridiculous Mother Jones piece in question – abortions being performed for dirt cheap by quacks operating in unsanitary conditions. Or, you know, the conditions that existed in Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors that caused several women to die becase of lack of State inspections or controls on the abortion industry. So, I mean, which is it? Is that bad or good?


Look, everyone who operates a business gets their ox gored by the regulatory state from time to time. When literally anything other than abortion is at issue, liberals always view these regulations as good and necessary things – especially when they even potentially deal with health and safety. In those cases, liberals assure us, no cost is too great for private industry to bear – the people must be protected! Cost-benefit analysis be damned!

But when it’s abortion clinics’ turn to comply with the same health and safety regulations that apply to everyone else, suddenly it’s a political witch hunt and the worst thing that has ever happened to women. And, paradoxically, it’s also an attempt to send women back to the days when getting an abortion was unsafe. These two things are often said in the same article with no sense of irony or shame.

The reason is simple: they have no interest in the safety of women. Their only interest is in the legality of abortion.



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