It is possible to believe in abortion rights while at the same time believing that there is such a thing as reasonable regulation of abortions. Nobody in their right mind thinks a high school dropout with a butcher knife should be able to open an abortion clinic.
What is not possible, or so it seems, is to have a conversation about what exactly is a reasonable regulation, because neither abortion rights supporters nor the NRA think that anyone who advocates for reasonable regulation can be trusted. Proponents of both see any regulation as being a way station toward a full ban. People who hate the idea of legal abortion, or privately owned guns, are smart enough to understand that they're not going to get a flat ban on either enacted into law any time soon, so instead they nibble away at their availability, with an eye toward taking away as much of the right as they can, little by little, nibble nibble nibble. And someday, like the frog in the pot of water brought to a boil very slowly, we will all wake up to find that we live in a country in which no one has any guns and all pregnancies are carried to term. Or so is the thinking among the eternally vigilant on behalf of abortion rights and private gun ownership.
This thinking is not entirely paranoid. I blogged a couple of days ago about how liberals and conservatives both try to get around laws they don't like by making their enforcement difficult. That post was about the theory; this post is about the practice. Or, if you like, the social consequences of that kind of politics.
Kermit Gosnell is an evil, evil man. He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia that by any reasonable definition of the term was a butcher shop. His clinics were filthy, understaffed, and staffed by unqualified personnel. More than one woman who came to him for an abortion died of a botched procedure (or, in one case, bled to death unattended). In at least seven instances that are known he committed actual infanticide by killing healthy babies after they had already been born. He is now serving a well-deserved life sentence and, if there is any justice in the world, will die in prison.
So, where were the authorities while this was going on? Well, this happened in Blue (or at least dark purple) Pennsylvania, where any real attempt to regulate abortion providers is greeted by howls of outrage that this is just a first step toward banning abortion altogether. And why might anyone think that? Because in Mississippi, their idea of reasonable regulation of abortion was to successfully close down what was the only abortion provider in the state by enacting regulatory requirements that were impossible to meet. Arguably, the Mississippi right to lifers made Kermit Gosnell possible by creating a climate in which it's entirely plausible to think that one regulation will lead to another, and then another, and then to a practical ban. And in Pennsylvania, unlike Mississippi, abortion rights activists have enough political muscle to keep that from happening.
Same song, second verse with gun ownership. I grew up with guns; I own guns; I have no issue with guns; and I firmly support private gun ownership. At the same time, I personally have no quarrel with requiring a gun safety course as a condition of owning one. We do, after all, require people to prove they know how to safely handle an automobile before we issue them a driver's license. Of course, nobody is seriously trying to ban cars.
So why don't we have a basic, common sense regulation requiring a working knowledge of gun safety? Two answers: Chicago, and the District of Columbia, both of which actually did pass complete bans on gun ownership. Even people who think the NRA is batshit crazy (which I also do, by the way) can understand why, in light of those bans, those who value the right to keep and bear arms might be uncomfortable with allowing that particular camel to get a nose in the tent.
We need reasonable abortion regulation to keep the Kermit Gosnells of the world out of business. And we need reasonable gun regulation for public and private safety. We're not getting either unless and until there can be confidence that they really aren't a hidden agenda for something more nefarious.