Gosnell Update

[Content Note: Violence; murder; medical malpractice.]

On Monday, Kermit Gosnell—the Philadelphia doctor who, despite having no certification in gynecology or obstetrics, was offering abortion services to low-income women, including illegal terminations well beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks, inducing labor in his unsanitary clinic staffed with people who had no medical training and killing viable newborns by severing their spinal cords; he also left many women maimed and several dead—was convicted of first degree murder.

Yesterday, he agreed "to serve two life sentences and waive his right to an appeal in order to avoid the possibility of being condemned to death."

I'm pleased he was convicted. What he was doing was criminal. Not just metaphorically, but literally: He was breaking the law.

Beyond that, I will simply reiterate why it is that I believe the Gosnell case does not support even narrower abortion restrictions, but rather the opposite: It is because of the increasingly limited access to safe, affordable, first-term abortion, as well as safe, affordable, late-term therapeutic abortion, that a heinous anomaly like Gosnell exists. He is an unethical opportunist who made lots of money exploiting desperate women without a better alternative.

Places like Gosnell's clinic will not be prevented by limiting abortion and contraception (including emergency contraception), but by making a full spectrum of reproductive control options more widely accessible. There is a terrible irony in the argument to limit abortion in response to his vile practice, because limiting access only ensures that clinics run by unprincipled and untrained people will proliferate.

A person who doesn't want to be pregnant will do anything zie can to not be pregnant. Including going to a charlatan in a filthy clinic. That is a reality. The only serious conversation to be had is how we address that reality in a way that preserves the safety of breathing patients.

Anything else is just rubbish. And talk of limiting access to abortion as an effective response to Gosnell-style butchery is truly the stuff of fairy tales.

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