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Kirsten Powers Will be the Star Teacher At Non-Sequitur University


Kirsten Powers attempts to advance the argument that the Gosnell case means that we should shut down abortion clinics that don’t act illegally. She inevitably fails miserably:

Abortion rights advocates have argued that there is nothing to see here. Move along. This is what illegal abortion looks like, they say.

But Gosnell’s clinic was not illegal. It was a licensed medical facility.

Uh, what? The fact that Gosnell worked in a “licensed medical facility” doesn’t mean that everything he did in the clinic is therefore legal, or that he was in compliance with his license. By the same logic, the dentist who exposed his patients to AIDS and hepatitis couldn’t have violated the law, because after all he had a license. If Gosnell performed medically unnecessary third-trimester abortions, or committed infanticide, or put his patients at risk by not properly maintaining his facilities, these things all violate Pennsylvania law even if he had a license.

And from this non-sequitur to another:

Gosnell was not forced to operate in the dark because of anti–abortion rights regulations. It’s the opposite: he was able to flourish—pulling in $1.8 million a year—because multiple abortion rights administrations decided that to inspect his clinic might mean limiting access to abortion

This is all nonsense. First of all, one of the administrations in question was famously opposed to abortion rights. (Who can forget when the Democratic Party did the worst thing in American history by denying Saint Robert Casey the chance to denounce a core party principle without even supporting the party’s candidate for president at the party’s convention? His son, of course, didn’t and doesn’t favor abortion rights either.) And while the Ridge administration was nominally pro-choice, its failure to inspect abortion clinics was a result of its Republicanism, not its pro-choice principles.

How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this. In France, Germany, Italy, and Norway, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks. In addition to the life-of-mother exception, they provide narrow health exceptions that require approval from multiple doctors or in some cases going before a board. In the U.S., if you suggest such stringent regulation and oversight of later-term abortions, you are tarred within seconds by the abortion rights movement as a misogynist who doesn’t “trust women.”

First of all, you can’t just look at laws on the statute books and determine how accessible abortions are. The fact that permission is required from doctors after 12 weeks tells us very little about what standards are applied in practice, and as the Supreme Court of Canada explained in great detail 25 years ago the availability of abortion under such laws varies wildly. And, again, you can’t abstract these statutory requirements from the larger context of abortion politics that determines the general accessibility of abortion. I would gladly take French abortion policy over Pennsylvania’s, because inter alia this would mean repealing the Hyde Amendment and making abortions easily accessible at public hospitals, as well as doctors making decisions without being harassed by a lobby that opposes the availability of safe abortions (for the wrong kind of women.) Virtually no American anti-choicers (including, it’s safe to say, Powers) would agree, of course.

And finally:

Additionally, there is no upside in our media culture to challenging this sacred cow.

Yes, except for the fact that advancing these views mean there will pretty much always be room for you on our nation’s op-ed pages, or its virtual equivalents like The Daily Beast. Will people stop silencing Kirsten Powers already?

…see also McEwan and Digby.

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