Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards held a small rally outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday joined by Minnesota senator Al Franken, Connecticut congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and a crowd of 200 Planned Parenthood activists. Richards warned that new state and federal bills--including measures establishing late-term abortion limits--pose threats to women's rights.
The new legislation is being debated and voted on in the wake of the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder in May for snipping the necks of babies after they were born. Following the rally, THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked Richards to explain the difference between the Gosnell killings and late-term abortions.
"I mean he was a criminal. And he's now going to jail," Richards replied. "It is very rare for a woman to need to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. And quite often it's stories like ones we heard today where" the fetus is diagnosed with a dire medical condition.
But asked about late-term abortion when there isn't a medical problem (Texas's proposed abortion limit has exceptions for the physical health of the mother and severe "fetal abnormalities"), Richards refused to answer. Nor did she reply when asked if she supports any legal limits on abortion.
Here's the transcript of the exchange:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD: [Supporters of late-term abortion bans] say there's not much of a difference between what Kermit Gosnell did outside the womb to a baby at 23 weeks and a legal late-term abortion [performed] at 23 weeks on that same baby. What is the difference between those two?
CECILE RICHARDS: I mean he was a criminal. And he's now going to jail. As I think you heard Senator Franken say and many women who have written about their own personal stories, it is very rare for a woman to need to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. And quite often it's stories like one we heard today where there is the decision of the doctor that this is the best way, the best for a woman. And the problem is when you have politicians begin to play doctor and make decisions about women's medical care. They aren't in that woman's situation.
TWS: But there has been research out of, I think, University of California-San Francisco about non-medical late-term abortions. These things do happen, even if they're a small number. I'm talking about that specific area. I mean if there were broader exceptions, would you--
AIDE TO CECILE RICHARDS: I know you're in a rush, so I can follow up to get you some more information.
TWS: Are there any legal limits you do support on abortion, Ms. Richards?
Though there was plenty of time for Richards to answer the questions as she walked toward a U.S. Senate office building, she remained silent after her aide tried to cut off questioning.
The president of Planned Parenthood isn't the only prominent pro-choice advocate unable to explain why it should be legal to abort a healthy baby 23 weeks into pregnancy but illegal to kill that same baby after birth. In June, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was unable to answer the question when asked multiple times. "As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this," she said.
In the wake of the Gosnell trial, writers from across the political spectrum have argued that there isn't a significant difference between late-term abortion and the Gosnell murders. "The real reason [Pelosi] avoided the question is because there is no good answer," wrote Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker.
"[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," according to Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson.
"What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."
Nearly two months since the conviction of Gosnell, the most prominent pro-choice advocates remain unable to explain the difference between infanticide and late-term abortion.