In response to the Gosnell trial, some pro-choicers are claiming this is what happens when we restrict access to abortion. They say Gosnell exemplifies exactly why we must fight to protect abortion rights. For example, here's NARAL's statement on the subject:
Kermit Gosnell’s actions were reprehensible, illegal and reminiscent of back-alley abortions from the days before Roe v. Wade. The conditions in Gosnell's clinic were horrific, demonstrating what can happen to women when abortion isn't available through safe and legal providers. This is why we work every day to protect the constitutional rights of women to access legal and safe abortion care regardless of income and geography.
Gosnell was a rogue operator taking advantage of an environment created by the careless oversight of local and state regulators. He preyed on women who were financially unable to choose a better option, thanks in part to Pennsylvania's repeated efforts to limit access to abortion. When states go to extreme lengths to restrict abortion, unscrupulous providers like Gosnell are often a woman's last resort.
Gosnell's clinic was far below the standard of care. The conditions there remind us of what women were forced to go through before Roe v. Wade. We can never go back to those days of back-alley abortion. The best way – the only true way – and to ensure we don't is by protecting and strengthening access for all women to safe and legal abortion care.Like so many pro-choice defenses of abortion rights, I can't help but notice NARAL's statements focus solely on the women, completely ignoring the infants Gosnell and his staff murdered. (I can say "murder" this time because these babies were outside their mothers' wombs when they were killed; there are no inane semantic arguments here about how "murder" and "abortion" are different because murder is illegal.)
That's okay, though. Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield covers the infanticide angle [warning: graphic descriptions]:
But pro-choice people are kidding themselves if they believe details of the way the mothers were treated are the only details from the Gosnell trial that matter in this debate. Consider these bits of testimony:
The point is this: All of those children had the ability to move, breathe, scream, screech and twitch before being removed from the womb. They did not become human in the birth canal, and they were not transformed from some stone-like existence to life via the birth-inducing drugs given to their mothers so that they might be pushed out.
- “I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” one of Gosnell’s employees, Sherry West, said of the screams coming from a baby she estimated to be 18 to 24 inches (i.e., the size of a child carried to full term) when it was delivered and then killed.
- “It jumped, the arm,” another employee, Lynda Williams, said of a baby whose neck she “snipped” after it was delivered into a toilet. Williams testified that Gosnell told her not to worry about the “involuntary response” from an “already dead” child. But why would an “already dead” child have to have its neck “snipped”?
- The post-birth abortion procedure was “literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body,” said Stephen Massof, who previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two infants at Gosnell’s clinic.
- “I see this big baby boy laying there … He had that color of a baby. I didn’t feel as though he had a chance,” testified Adrienne Moton, who both worked for Gosnell and had two abortions at his clinic. Moton estimated she’d “snipped” the necks of some 10 infants.
- “They looked just like regular babies,” said Ashley Baldwin, who began working at Gosnell’s clinic at the age of 15 and testified she witnessed five or more babies move, breathe or “screech” between their births and deaths. One of them was so large, she said, that Gosnell joked, “this baby is going to walk me home.”
The notion that these killings would have been OK, if only they had taken place within the womb at a shiny, clean clinic, is barbaric.