Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Oct. 20
New Law Spells Trouble for Owner of Combination Tanning Salon and Abortion Clinic
Governor Brown's Under-18 "Tan Ban" Threatens to Sink Popular Teen Destination
"Suddenly, half of what I do is illegal."
BASKING IN THE SWEET BLUE GLOW OF A TANNING BED - Thom Shelton had a good thing going. "What do teenagers care about?" he recalls asking himself. "Looking good and having fun. Tanning and terminating unwanted pregnancies are huge parts of that formula. If you're pasty and pale, or if you can't party with your friends because your belly is huge and the booze might hurt the baby, then you're losing on both counts. You only get so many years to be a teenager; you know how they say those are the best years of your life? I opened Abor-Tan here in San Diego to help make that saying a reality."
"Plus," he adds, "I run an outpatient clinic, but the girls generally like to lie down and rest for a while after the procedure. At Abor-Tan, they could spend that time getting a smooth, even tan. And because California helps to fund abortions under Medicaid, I was able to offer a cheaper rate on the tanning beds than anyone else in town. That's important when you're a cash-strapped teenager."
But when Governor Brown signed a law banning tanning beds for children under the age of 18, Shelton saw an immediate drop-off in business. "The kids will come for the abortion and tan combo, but when all I can offer is an abortion, I lose out to the big chains like Planned Parenthood. They're federally subsidized, and they can offer all manner of other health-related services, plus free condoms. Frankly, I can't compete."
"I don't get it," concludes Shelton. "I mean, the state has ruled that these kids are old enough to get a medical procedure like an abortion without even notifying their parents. But suddenly, the risk posed by tanning beds is so great that they can't come to me when they're under 18, even with a note from Mom and Dad. You'd think I was selling cigarettes."
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