It's Not Just About Gosnell

Posted: Apr 15, 2013 6:43 PM
The trial of Kermit Gosnell, the monstrous abortion doctor who committed unspeakable horrors in his unsafe Philadelphia-area abortion clinic, would ideally focus a national magnifying glass on the horrendous practices of abortion clinics nationwide. (We're not holding our breath.) Gosnell's crimes are particularly shocking and horrific, but atrocities occur at abortion clinics with stunning regularity.

Steven Ertelt at LifeNews reported earlier in April that over 1,200 perinatal babies were born and then died following botched abortions in 2010 in the United States. In Canada, official statistics showed that nearly 500 babies died after live births from 2000-2009. Mona Charen reported on Townhall that live births following botched abortions were "routine." The legal regulations surrounding abortions in the United States can be very fuzzy - as doctors will sometimes continue performing abortions even when they have lost their medical license.

(Side note: everyone should be reading Steven Ertelt's excellent It's how advocacy journalism should be done, and done well.)

The Gosnell murders, and other medical abortion horror stories, are inconvenient when it comes to pro-choice advocacy. Journalists at mainstream news outlets have been reporting that tighter medical standards for abortion clinics would restrict access and raise the price of abortion. The Washington Post, in opposing Virginia's stricter medical standards for abortion clinics, writes that the new rules were "stringent and unnecessary" and is a "phony concern." Slate (a sister publication of the Washington Post) had Amanda Marcotte write that medical standards for abortions actually cause cases like Gosnell to occur. "That shady abortion providers get patients at all," she writes, "is something we can safely blame the anti-choice [pro-life] movement for." The National Organization for Women universally opposes fetal homicide laws because they "are all too often used... to punish women."

It's likely true that higher medical standards and more protections for live-birth botched-abortion babies would lead to less access to abortion and higher prices for the procedure. More medical standards for abortion would seem to satisfy every condition of the progressive slogan of abortion being "safe, legal, and rare." But pro-choice advocates have largely abandoned that talking point. It's increasingly about making abortion as broadly available as possible.

There could be an honest debate about abortion standards and practices if pro-choice advocates acknowledged the prioritization of access over safety and quality. Kermit Gosnell's clinic of horrors was more shocking to the conscience than the average botched abortion, but there is no shortage of horrible stories that come out of abortion clinics. This isn't just about Kermit Gosnell - it's about broad national norms and practices of abortion clinics nationwide.

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