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Lessons From the Gosnell Case

[ 84 ] April 11, 2013 |

Kristen Powers is right — we should be inferring some important lessons from the Kermit Gosnell case:

  • We should do everything to protect Roe v. Wade and prevent the proliferation of unethical black market providers that proponents of abortion criminalization want.
  • Anti-abortion terrorism, which among other things makes abortion clinics less common and less transparent and discourages providers from providing this important procedure, is both revoltingly immoral in multiple respects and a serious problem.   I hope Powers will agree with me that women should have unfettered access to more safe abortion clinics to ensure that there isn’t a shadowy quasi-legal market that makes the risk of a Gosnell much higher.

Comments (84)

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  1. TribalistMeathead says:

    This seems oddly partisan for a newspaper that normally prides itself on printing articles containing no words with more than three syllables. Has this always been the case with the opinion section? I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve ever read it.

    • JoyfulA says:

      It’s printed Atrios as a columnist on the topic of raising Social Security.

    • Ian says:

      They also printed Instapundit’s, “Hey liberals, why don’t you vote for Jill Stein instead of Barack Obama? I only ask because I want you filthy trait….I mean, patriotic Americans to be aware of the full range of options facing you this November” column as well. I can only assume he barely kept a straight face when he submitted that.

  2. c u n d gulag says:

    Safe and legal abortions make Conservatives hopping mad!

    They want to rail against hack abortionists like Gosnell.

    And once they overturn Roe, women who aren’t rich enough to go to some other country where abortions are legal, or to some Doctor to the wealthy and powerful their Daddy or Hubby know, will have to resort to back-alley hacks like this evil greedy bastard.

    And then they can then feel righteous when they’re railing against something truly horrible like what this guy was doing – and not something safe and legal.

    Conservatives want to add “guilty and fearful” to go along with ‘keeping them barefoot and pregnant!”

    • DrDick says:

      In fairness (as much as it grates), I think that many of them really believe that Gosnell is typical in some way.

    • Katya says:

      I actually heard a pro-”life” person say that a woman dying as the result of a botched abortion was “poetic justice.” They don’t just want to feel righteous when railing against abortionists, they want women who get abortions to suffer. And who better to make them suffer than someone like Gosnell?

  3. TribalistMeathead says:

    Odd that Powers, a Fox News analyst according to her byline, can’t seem to produce a single link to a Fox News article on the case, either. Is Fox finally considered to be part of the national media?

  4. Funkhauser says:

    I’m struggling to figure out what her conclusion is, besides “more gore on Page One!” I’m also not sure that she has any evidence for that claim, besides “so much gore!”

    • TribalistMeathead says:

      Sully used to beat this drum pretty hard, too. Couldn’t for the life of him come up with a possible reason why major newspapers didn’t want to run pictures of beheadings in Iraq other than “because they sympathize with the terrorists.”

  5. JoyfulA says:

    Nice part of Gosnell’s for the patients is no mob of antichoicers blocking vehicle and foot traffic, screaming and cursing, and otherwise imitating pro wrestling.

  6. Shakezula says:

    We should do everything to protect Roe v. Wade and prevent the proliferation of unethical black market providers that proponents of abortion criminalization want.

    I understand where you’re going with this but this isn’t an abortion issue, this is a health care issue.

    As part of my job I regularly get to read about what happens when health care providers go bad or mad. And I’m sure we’re all aware of what happens when people decide to get rich by posing as health care providers. In either case why does it happen? Because someone decides to prey on the uninformed.

    Sorry, I keep seeing various trolltards raising this guy as proof abortion should be illegal. To which I say, Ok, you want to make cardiology illegal? How about nursing homes? Lots of bad shit goes down in those places.

  7. mds says:

    Sorry, I keep seeing various trolltards raising this guy as proof abortion should be illegal.

    Oh, come on. We’re talking about Pennsylvania, where abortion rights are basically unlimited. Abortion shouldn’t necessarily be illegal, just have some rational restrictions put on it, especially after the first trimester. Most conservative “trolltards” would almost certainly be satisfied with such an approach. It’s the ability of Gosnell to operate with impunity under a legal framework that doesn’t criminalize these actions which is the problem; it’s a shame pro-abortion absolutists can’t see that.

    • Murc says:

      … Gosnell’s actions were in fact criminalized. They were illegal.

      • mds says:

        Gah. Murc, Murc, Murc … it’s mds. The “d” stands for “Poe.”

        Okay, fine, a couple of amendments: my original post should (1) be a reply to Shakezula above, and (2) be bracketed by <sarcasm> and </sarcasm>.

        But you do underscore the relevant point, which is that the same people who screech “Once guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” ad nauseam also assert that abortion should be illegal because Gosnell performed illegal abortions.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Oh, come on. We’re talking about Pennsylvania, where abortion rights are basically unlimited.

      Yea, I don’t know where Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey got its name from either.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I got the joke, anyway.

      Most conservative “trolltards” would almost certainly be satisfied with such an approach. brought a smile to my face.

    • T. Paine says:

      I don’t think there’s any value in giving busybodies power over pregnant people’s bodies, but it seems you disagree.
      So, if by “pro-abortion absolutist” you mean someone who doesn’t give a fuck about the misogyny of a bunch of other people getting to tell women about how and when they can get abortions, then I’m an absolutist.

      Also, please to be identifying the “rational restrictions” that don’t (a) make abortion less safe (and remember, making it take longer to get one makes it less safe) or (b) less accessible for non-urban and/or poorer women.

  8. efgoldman says:

    …just have some rational restrictions put on it, especially after the first trimester.

    One person’s “rational restrictions” (i.e. vaginal ultrasounds, regulations requiring clinicians to have hospital privileges…) are another person’s – mine, for instance – threats to women’s health.

    Most conservative “trolltards” would almost certainly be satisfied with such an approach.

    Oh, really? Name one.

  9. JL says:

    Yeah, anyone who volunteers with an abortion fund is aware that these sleazeball clinics exist. They aren’t a big problem in this state, but if one of us volunteers comes across someone with an appointment at a clinic that we don’t know about? We check up on that clinic.

    They prey on people who can’t afford the extra couple hundred dollars to get an abortion at a reputable clinic. Just imagine if federal Medicaid dollars could pay for an abortion! Oh wait, the fact that they don’t is the anti-abortion movement’s fault. Just imagine if everyone’s employer-provided health insurance actually covered abortion! Gosh, why might that not be the case? The anti-abortion movement creates the conditions in which sleazeball clinics thrive.

  10. NBarnes says:

    The one thing that I always think about when I read this is how the US really does have a domestic terrorism problem. We’ve had one for decades. But we daren’t call it terrorism, because we have a party that routinely gets 45% of the vote that would have a seizure of outrage if we called a significant portion of their base terrorists.

    • NBarnes says:

      Sorry, terrorists and terrorist sympathizers.

    • mpowell says:

      It’s not the party that you have to worry about. There are plenty of Dem voters who are sufficiently sympathetic that calling it terrorism probably would cost you votes. And since it’s mostly in red states, you would need a ton of political momentum to do anything about it. But I agree with you that it is terrorism. Without a doubt.

    • ema says:

      Speaking of, you know, totally not domestic terrorism:

      [Breaking into an Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic and causing extensive damage with an ax] was the third such incident at an abortion clinic in the last year and a half. In April 2012, a small explosive device was detonated outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in central Wisconsin.

      Four months earlier, the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida was destroyed by a Molotov cocktail.

  11. mark f says:

    So if you name your kid Kermit he’s almost certainly going to get in the news some day, right?

  12. Anonymous says:

    My wife and I moved to Philly a year ago – we got pregnant soon after, but recently learned that at 22 weeks pregnant, the baby had contracted CMV virus, which had already begun destroying its nervous system and brain. In all likelihood, the child was g

  13. Anonymous says:

    …going to be deaf, blind, and severely retarded…if it managed to survive to term. We chose to terminate, then had to watch our generally wonderful OB and every

  14. Anonymous says:

    …other one we knew basically say, “well, ummmm…” And give us the cold shoulder, even our primary (my wife is a doctor and knows LOTS of OBs). The embryologist who diagnosed the illness called every OB he knew, no luck. We ended up having to drive 2 states away for the procedure, asking, “what is happening with OBs in Pennsylvania?”

  15. Anonymous says:

    …I should add, we had to pay out of pocket $5500 (hard for us – my wife’s specialty pays very little) and knowing we’d be basically SOL if we were poor. So, yes, I kinda get how Dr Gosnell happened.

  16. Chesternuts says:

    No sane “proponent of abortion criminalization want[s] unethical black market providers.”

    No more than the advocates of murder criminalization wants “unethical black market providers” of murders.

    Abortion is murder. Period.

    • Snarki, child of Loki says:

      And procuring a murder is as bad s pulling the trigger.

      So, death penalty for women that get abortions? Or are you wimping out on that?

      • Chesternuts says:

        Every case is a singularity, whilst the Law is general.

        The one who murders another human being becomes sacer; that’s the Law.

        Now of course the operation of grace (of charity) can suspend the effectivity of that commandment, in so far as the murderer confess and repent.

        It is crucial to prohibit murders in the most radical way.

      • Chesternuts says:

        There is a difference in kind between “to murder” and “to kill”. To kill a “homo sacer” is not a murder.

        A murderer is homo sacer.

        To kill a murderer is not a murder.

        Now — that does not exclude the intervention of grace, which would forgive the someone’s murder, and reinstitute that person within the profane community of the living.

        • (the other) Davis says:

          To kill a murderer is not a murder.

          Really? No matter how you kill a murderer? Can you torture one to death? Can you flay one? How about performing deadly medical experiments on one, is that okay? I mean, that’s still not murder, right?

          You have a sick and twisted worldview.

          • Chesternuts says:

            Well, it’s been like since the Antiquity.

            A murderer is de facto AND de jure homo sacer, right?

            And everybody knows that it’s not illegal to kill a homo sacer.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Well, it’s been like since the Antiquity.

              Please tell me you’re drunk, and don’t normally think that this is a sentence in English.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Jesus clearly favors capital punishment. This should be obvious to anyone.

          • mds says:

            “Jesus, it’s been three days. Any further thoughts about the whole capital punishment thing?”

            “Oh, I’m definitely a fan now. Everyone should try it at least once.”

        • Scott Roeder says:

          To kill a “homo sacer” is not a murder.

          May I interest you in joining my legal team? You seem an upstanding and… sober fellow, not at all like the degenerates one normally finds in these threads.

  17. Anonymous says:

    mpowell: not sure if you were addressing me, but yes. These were all PA- based providers. There was one in South Jersey who might have done it, but they had a separate issue. The PA providers said they were comfortable doing the procedure “up to” a certain number of weeks (17-23), but all backed out when push came to shove – one cited the discomfort their practice’s nurses would feel. We were stunned.

  18. Sebastian H says:

    Further lessons from the Gosnell case: it turns out that at least dozens and if the grand jury report is correct, hundreds of women sought medically unnecessary abortions of fully viable babies. According to all sorts of rhetoric around here, that reality was just pro-life scare mongering.

    Also, future Gosnells should be careful to kill fully viable fetuses in the womb because NARAL has made sure that doesn’t count as infanticide, so you won’t be facing the death penalty like you will if you kill it ten seconds later.

    And contra the former governer who capitulated to the pro-choice lobby and decided that monitoring clinics was going to burden freedom of choice, it turns out you should monitor clinics.

    • mds says:

      Behold, guys, the inspiration for my Poe maneuver. Here is the incontrovertible reasoning behind most late-term abortions in this country: “I’ve carried this parasite around for eight months, but I just can’t wait any longer to wear these shiny gold toreador pants, so fuck it, I’m going to have an invasive illegal medical procedure for shits and giggles, because that’s just the sort of dirty, murderous sluts we women are.” Ergo, we must ban currently-legal abortions. [POUNDS TABLE]

      • Sebastian H says:

        So you apparently think Gosnell got the fully viable babies to kill at his abortion clinic from the stork?

        Or perhaps you think he tricked the women into thinking he was running a natal delivery clinic with an odd name, that he delivered and then killed the babies, and the women though: oh well, no biggie.

        That’s umm an interesting interpretation.

        • mds says:

          Stop the presses! Misogynist serial liar Sebastian H being mendacious strawman-constructing shitweasel in blog comment. Also, dog bites man.

          Irin Carmon:

          This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over #Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13.

          Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.

          But yes, in Sebastian H’s worldview, if anyone asserts that women don’t tend to obtain illegal late-term abortions as frivolous larks, they must necessarily be implying that women are too stupid to know when they’re obtaining abortions. No other possibilities even exist for a privileged little shit like him.

          • Sebastian H says:

            There might be some space between ‘lark’ and ‘medically necessary’.

            • Sebastian H says:

              And in that space we might decide that fully viable fetuses shouldn’t get murdered, whether they are in the womb or not.

              • sharculese says:

                No. Fuck you.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Abortions of viable fetuses are already illegal under Pennsylvania law. I don’t think there’s any chance you’ll respond to this point, but the key lesson remains that the arbitrary regulations that make it more difficult for legitimate clinics to operate and make abortion more expensive and difficult to obtain make late-term abortions more likely. This case doesn’t create problems for my preferred legal positions, but it certainly does for you.

                • Sebastian H says:

                  So your takeaway is that we need less oversight to enforce the laws Gosnell violated? Do you mean arbitrary to apply to the third trimester ban on abortions? if so,you are trying to have the argument both ways–that late term abortions are illegal, but that the bans ought not be enforced? Or are you talking about something else, because so far as I can tell I was talking about the rather unarbitrary need to protect viable fetuses AND women.

                  The general rejoinder to that concern is that I’m a woman hater to even entertain the idea that any woman would seek to abort a viable baby unless their health were in serious danger. Yet the Gosnell case strongly suggests that in the Pennsylvania area alone there were hundreds of such women.

                  NARAL has been very successful at resisting nearly every attempt to oversee abortion clinics–especially on the issues of viability and medical necessity. And it turns out, that makes murdering hundreds of viable babies a lot easier to get away with for a lot longer.

                  If this case ends up allowing real oversight, that’s great.

                • sharculese says:

                  It’s obvious he meant that they should be legal, because it solves nothing and harms real people to ban them. Don’t be disingenuous.

                  NARAL has been very successful at resisting nearly every attempt to oversee abortion clinics–especially on the issues of viability and medical necessity. /blockquote>

                  Yeah, I’ve worked with NARAL. You’re a liar.

                • sharculese says:

                  Also, the actual charge is that you hate women because you keep using the language of anti-choice misogynists.

            • sharculese says:

              Nothing in your tirade really allows for that possibility.

  19. Joe says:

    Yes, I learned from Mirror of Justice blog that this is an underreported story but then did a search and got lots of hits down to my own local tabloid. But, it isn’t on the cover, so …

    I agree with your lessons and the person in the comments who said this is ultimately about good health care generally.

  20. [...] that the proper response to this is to make safe abortions more stigmatized and inaccessible is a massive non-sequitur. More on that last point next [...]

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