So it looks like there is at least one sector of the economy where Republicans do favor onerous government regulation: women's health.
As you've probably heard, both houses of the legislature have now passed SB732, which imposes a whole array of burdensome regulations on women's health clinics that provide abortion. Ostensibly a response to the House of Horrors abortion clinic run by Philadelphia's Kermit Gosnell, the bill would force clinics to adopt medical procedures more in keeping with a hospital: driveways capable of accepting ambulance traffic, larger elevators, new HVAC systems and so on. Clinic operators have decried the measures as totally unnecessary for protecting patient health, and a backdoor effort to put clinics out of business.
Ordinarily, of course, Republicans are highly hostile to regulations that interfere with commerce. The very first bill Gov. Tom Corbett signed as governor, in fact, was the repeal of a bill requiring new homes to be equipped with sprinkler systems. The state's construction industry had argued that the requirement could add as much as $10,000 to the cost of a new home.
Republicans were sympathetic; bill sponsor Garth Everett opined that the sprinkler measure "was basically going to add a lot of cost to a home at a very small increase in the safety factor, and it was handicapping the housing industry in Pennsylvania." And in signing that bill, Corbett declared "Whether or not new homes are equipped with sprinklers should be a decision left to individual consumers and not the government."
The reports from Gosnell's clinic are horrifying no matter what you think about abortion. But it's not at all clear how larger elevators would have changed that, or how imposing such requirements will "increase the safety factor" at any location where abortions are provided.
Meanwhile, home fires can be horrifying as well, and often have tragic results for mothers and children alike — as Pittsburghers have seen, tragically, just this week. But hey, this is the GOP: When a special interest like the construction biz is involved, a cost-benefits analysis is necessary. But no price is too steep when a group like Planned Parenthood has to pay it. And reproductive decisions are the one area where "individual consumers" — i.e. women — can't be trusted. For guys like Everett — who voted for the new clinic regulations this week — it turns out there's a place for paternalistic government after all.
Of course, it's obvious what's going on here: As I've written before — and as we saw with the surprise trouncing of an extreme anti-abortion measure in Mississippi, of all places — there's little support for the extreme pro-life position. So pro-lifers are using a different tack, opportunistically using the Gosnell case to achieve their ends through more subtle means. And Republicans in the legislature have been willing to help.
But let's not just call out Republicans. Here are some local anti-choice Democrats who voted in favor of the bill, just in case you want to remember in November:
I love Mel Packer!