Yesterday, police charged abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia with the murder of one patient and seven infants. For decades, Mr. Gosnell operated in a clinic that, by the description from the grand-jury report, was strewn with dirt, blood, and fetal remains. According to The New York Times, Dr. Gosnell "performed late-term abortions, after 24 weeks, which are illegal, and employed staff members who were not trained medical professionals."
This case will surely generate a lot of interest and, rightly, disgust, but it will also turn up the inevitable anti-abortion, baby-killer rhetoric that already dominates discussions of abortion. If the charges are true, Dr. Gosnell is an unstable man who deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail, but legal abortion is not the cause of this clinic that slipped through the cracks. As Amanda Marcotte already noted, the anti-choice movement does not protect women from shady abortion providers. Instead, they're to blame. Geographic, financial, and social barriers that the anti-choice movement has successfully erected create an environment where a provider like Gosnell can work.
If lack of abortion coverage didn't force poor, minority, and immigrant women -- Gosnell's main clientele -- into clinics like his, they would get better abortion care, and probably much earlier in their pregnancies. Moreover, if a poor woman does pursue a late-term abortion that is illegal, reporting a shady clinic to the authorities means admitting she pursued an illegal abortion. Despite this, the Grand Jury report notes that in the 30 years Gosnell operated, the Philadelphia Department of Health received numerous complaints but that the clinic remained open, largely, in the opinion of the report, because it served poor, minority, and immigrant women.
It's ironic that across the country, state's are implementing laws to make abortions more difficult to get, like in Arizona and Virginia, under the pretense of protecting women's health, when clinics like Gosnell's go unregulated for decades, actually injuring and possibly killing one woman. If we actually treated abortion like the common, legal, and safe procedure that it is, Gosnell's clinic would have closed down for lack of business long ago.
-- Pema Levy