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The Lesson of Kermit Gosnell

Why the House is voting on a bill restricting post-viability abortions.

11:04 AM, Jun 18, 2013 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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What was the lesson of the Kermit Gosnell trial? Since the Philadelphia doctor was convicted last month of murdering three born-alive infants, two competing viewpoints have emerged.

Gosnell

Kermit Gosnell

AP

For some, like Senate majority leader Harry Reid and national abortion-rights organizations, the Gosnell case highlighted the need for "clean and sterile" late-term abortion clinics.

For others, the real atrocity of the Gosnell clinic wasn't simply its squalor, but the horror of killing babies old enough to "jump" and "scream" when stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors, regardless of their location.

"[T]here's almost no difference between killing a baby accidentally born alive in a late-term abortion, as Gosnell stands accused of, and killing the same baby in the womb, as more skilled doctors can do," wrote liberal, pro-choice Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson

"What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote liberal, pro-life Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."

Though Gosnell was convicted, thousands if not tens of thousand of elective late-term abortions, or legal infanticides, occur every year in America.  

Just take the example of what's happening in Maryland. Dr. LeRoy Carhart says he will perform "purely elective" abortions 28 weeks into pregnancy. Another late-term abortionist named James Pendergraft has suggested he'll perform even later abortions under Maryland's health exception if a mother was experiencing "anxiety and stress."

In August 2010, police searched a Maryland abortion clinic owned by a man named Steven Brigham after a woman was severely wounded during an abortion procedure. Police officers were shocked when they found a "chest freezer in the facility, which contained approximately 35 late term fetuses," according to a report by the Maryland State Board of Physicians. "The latest fetal age is measured as being 36 weeks."

36 weeks. That's nine months.  

"The forms list other later term abortions involving fetal ages of 28, 20, 33 and 35 weeks," the report continued.

Brigham was charged with murder under Maryland's fetal homicide law. But the prosecutor dropped the charges because he said he couldn't prove whether the babies had died in New Jersey, where Brigham began the procedure, or Maryland, where it was completed. "We know what the doctors did. We just don't know where they did it," State's Attorney Edward "Ellis" D.E. Rollins III said, according to the Baltimore Sun. Rollins said a medical expert changed his determination that the deaths had occurred in Maryland after facing pressure "from [the expert's] colleagues in the late-term abortion community."

It's also possible the charges were simply dropped because Maryland's fetal homicide law has an exemption for abortion doctors, and it wasn't clear whether Brigham, who was unlicensed in Maryland, or an assistant who was licensed, performed the abortions. So, today, Brigham is a free man.

How many late-term abortions are legally carried out by men like Brigham, Pendergraft, and Carhart every year in the United States, and why do they occur?

We don't know the precise figure, but it certainly numbers in the thousands and likely in the tens of thousands. "Some of the jurisdictions with the most liberal abortion policies have no reporting requirements--for example, California, Maryland, and D.C.--or do not collect data on stage of pregnancy (Florida, for example)," says Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee. 

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