The Magazine

Gosnell Seeps into the News

The abortionist the media wanted to ignore is convicted of murder.

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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Where the pro-choice moderates called for more regulations, and said life had been cheapened by right-to-choose slogans, the extremists said the problem occurred because there was too much regulation already and that life hadn’t been cheapened enough. Slate magazine’s Matthew Yglesias urged a “free market” in late-term abortions, in which brisk competition would improve conditions, lessen costs, and drive down Gosnell’s market share. Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy said Gosnell’s crimes resulted from “Medicaid’s refusal to cover abortions; the scarcity of providers in Pennsylvania; fear of violent protesters; and a right-wing culture that has stigmatized abortion,” making what “should be a completely safe and common medical procedure” much too expensive and rare. 

Clearly, the ideal to the pro-choice left is a whole lot of clean, cozy clinics scattered over the countryside, with no restrictions whatever, terminations on order until the very last moment, all of them paid for by government and funded by taxpayers. But this sunny ideal tends to be a nonstarter, because most Americans detest late-term abortions, don’t want to pay for the ones they will tolerate, and see Gosnell as a Frankenstein’s monster enabled by the abortion-rights movement itself.

“There’s no mystery about where Gosnell could have gotten the idea that his youngest victims weren’t human,” Henneberger said, citing Planned Parenthood, and even Obama, who opposed protection of infants born alive during abortions as a state senator in Illinois. Gosnell was allowed to go on all those years because Pennsylvania’s pro-choice governors, Republican Tom Ridge and Democrat Ed Rendell, thought inspections might “restrict access” to clinics, the worst of all feminist sins. Other clinics and doctors knew Gosnell’s reputation, and referred patients to him. In 2009, a representative of the National Abortion Federation came to his office and was appalled by it, but filed no formal complaint. Another barrier to this dream of sweet, sunny, subsidized late-term abortion mills is the procedure they deal in, which by definition is ugly and violent. Sensitive doctors are not drawn to it. No killer of infants is likely to care much for women. Gosnell’s indifference to his clients’ well-being is one with the coolness with which he snipped babies’ spines.

We won’t know for awhile how much the Gosnell trial has changed things, but for now, the press has been outed as hopelessly biased; the left has been outed as borderline crazy. Fractures have emerged within the pro-choice coalition, shown by the speed with which Gosnell caused those in the center (supportive of the right to first-trimester abortions, but hedged with restrictions and guilt) to break free from the fringes (all trimesters, no restrictions, and no guilt at all). Planned Parenthood’s statement regarding the verdict—that Gosnell would no longer to able to prey upon women—had nothing to say of the scores of dead infants, which apparently mattered no more to them than they did to their killer. This makes Planned Parenthood an outlier on the great moral spectrum, with values most people abhor.

Finally, pro-choice extremists will need a new mantra; their “women’s health” gambit was exposed as a fraud. “Women’s health” has been sacrificed, over and over to the more important matter of uncontrolled access to late-term abortions and always to fetal demise. “We have to question why an evaluator from the National Abortion Federation, whose stated mission is to ensure safe, legal, and acceptable abortion care, and to promote health and justice for women, did not report [him] to authorities,” said the grand jury. “If what she observed .  .  . was so far outside the norm,” Melinda Henneberger wondered, “why didn’t it inspire a single phone call to the state?” Said Kirsten Powers, “I find the claim now that feminists were deeply upset about poor minority women being abused and killed along with their babies a little tough to believe.” So do a great many. Did Gosnell change the way we look at abortion? We’ll see.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and a columnist for the Washington Examiner.

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