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The Philadelphia doctor’s clinic is a sign of what is to come if legitimate and safe abortions become inaccessible.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Dr. Kermit Gosnell delivered live babies and killed them. These were not legal abortions. They were infanticides, no question.
A Philadelphia jury convicted Gosnell this week of first-degree murder, infanticide and racketeering, among other charges. It was a just verdict. He agreed to forgo an appeal in exchange for a life sentence rather than face the possibility of getting the death penalty.
Gosnell’s clinic, truly a “house of horrors” that drew in poor women in west Philadelphia, has become an emotional rallying point for anti-abortion crusaders.
But it was as far as possible from a legitimate women’s clinic as it could be, its services a grisly mockery of women’s rights under Roe v. Wade to be able to choose a safe, legal abortion when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.
The now closed Women’s Medical Society clinic exploited desperate women, some in search of an abortion at a later stage of fetal development than state law allowed. Pennsylvania’s restrictive laws notwithstanding, the state had not bothered to inspect the clinic for 16 years, though complaints and lawsuits had been filed against it.
It was closed down only because federal and local law enforcement agencies investigating illegal prescription drug activity showed up and stumbled on appalling conditions — then learned of a woman’s death.
For cash, women received abortions under unsanitary conditions, performed by unqualified staff.
Heart-rending descriptions of live births terminated by snipping babies’ necks with surgical scissors force legitimate and difficult questions about late-term abortions. As medical science makes it possible for babies to survive at earlier and earlier stages of fetal development, viability should be examined anew.
Attempts, though, by anti-abortion forces to draw parallels between Gosnell’s operation and legitimate women’s clinics — becoming increasingly scarce in some states because of onerously restrictive regulations — contain a cruel irony.
As ethical, legitimate abortion providers are forced to shut down, the way opens for unethical, untrained people to prey on desperate women. Back-alley abortionists are no myth from the pre-Roe past.
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