Kermit Gosnell, the sadistic monster who exploited lack of access to safe abortion care among poor and immigrant women to both torture women and kill actual babies, is finally on trial and anti-choicers are having a feeding frenzy. Unable to muster actual compassion for Gosnell’s victims, anti-choicers got right to work seeking ways to exploit his crimes to further reduce access to safe, legal abortion—and to create more Gosnells in the future. In order to achieve the goal of driving more women to monsters like Gosnell and away from safe, legal clinics, anti-choicers are telling more lies than usual. (Which hardly seemed possible, but once you wind them up, they can really get going.) I don’t usually feel comfortable speaking for pro-choicers as a whole, but in this case, I believe we’re all on the same page, so I thought I’d use this space to get the facts straight.
So here is a list of the facts about how pro-choicers are reacting to the Gosnell case. Anyone who denies these facts is lying, and you have to ask yourself why they feel the need to lie to make their case.
Pro-choicers condemn Kermit Gosnell and hope that he sees justice. When the story broke, there was a rush of feminist journalists who covered the case and the tone was universal condemnation and advice on how to prevent such crimes in the future. A quick search of Rewire demonstrates that, and you can read other feminist takes around the internet. For people who aren’t trying to prop up lies to confuse the situation, this universal pro-choice condemnation of Gosnell was entirely predictable. Not only do we believe he is a murderer and likely a sadist, but we believe he exploited the desperation of low-income women who need abortions but struggle to afford quality care. We agree with the prosecutors who wrote that Gosnell “ran a criminal enterprise, motivated by greed.” As advocates of quality health care for women, we have tried, sadly in vain much of the time, to remind people who simple fixes, such as offering Medicaid coverage of abortion, could take the issue of cost off the table and make it easier for women not to resort to illegal operators who use unsanitary and sadistic methods, like Gosnell.
Pro-choicers are the ones trying to prevent future Gosnells. Gosnell made money exploiting desperate women, so the way to prevent future monsters like him is to make sure women aren’t desperate. Pro-choicers raise money for abortion funds, so more women can afford quality care. They set up volunteer-staffed help lines to get women through the process of seeing a reputable provider. They demand an end to the Hyde Amendment, so low-income women can use Medicaid to pay for quality providers. As pro-choice blogger PZ Myers wrote, Gosnell “could get by with criminally substandard treatment because our government has been actively destroying the ethical and competent competition.” We try to keep the ethical competition afloat to keep men like Gosnell from getting business. Which should not be conflated, as lying anti-choicers are doing, with trying to stop regulation.
Pro-choicers support holding abortion clinics—and all medical facilities of any type—to a high safety standard. Pro-choicers want women to receive safe, clean, ethical abortion care. We fully and completely support government regulations of all medical facilities aimed at making sure patients get this kind of care. We are so supportive of safe, clean abortion care that we have our own organization called the National Abortion Federation to certify quality clinics. (NAF unsurprisingly refused to certify Gosnell, even though he cleaned his clinic up and pretended to have medically trained staff in an effort to trick them.) The key here is that we believe that abortion clinics should be subject to the regulations like other medical facilities, and that those regulations should be aimed at making sure women get quality care.
Regulations demanded by anti-choicers have nothing to do with securing quality care for women. Quite the opposite: The hope of the endless stream of unnecessary anti-choice regulations in states throughout the country is to shut down quality clinics so women have to go to monsters like Gosnell or resort to putting coat hangers in their uteruses at home. Waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, pointless requirements about door size or numbers of closets: All these are there to make it too expensive for lower-income women to get an abortion, so that they resort to desperate measures.
Pro-choicers are furious that Gosnell’s clinic wasn’t inspected for 17 years and complaints about him went ignored. To make it all the more upsetting, one reason inspections were stopped was that there was fear that inspectors couldn’t be trusted to put a priority on women’s health and safety, but instead would use inspections as a pretense to shut down quality clinics. Obviously, Governor Tom Ridge responded incorrectly to anti-choice harassment and abuse of regulatory systems, and pro-choicers condemn his thoughtless response to a delicate situation. But it’s worth pointing out that if regulation of abortion clinics hadn’t been politicized in the first place—if abortion clinics were treated like any other medical facility from the get-go—then none of this would have ever happened. I’m not saying that anti-choicers could have foreseen this particular consequence of their relentless abuse of regulatory systems, but it was one of the many ugly results of their careless disregard for the importance of de-politicizing medical regulations.
These are the facts of the situation. That anti-choicers are denying these facts and making wild claims otherwise can only say one of two things: They either love lying for the fun of it, or they are lying because they can’t make the case based on the facts. I’m guessing the latter. Make no mistake. Anti-choicers are exploiting the tortures and deaths of women and babies in order to justify policies that will lead to more suffering, more torture, and more death. Some of them may legitimately be too stupid to see that’s what they’re doing, but by and large, I reject the notion that most of them could possibly be that dumb. All the lies being thrown around are attempts to confuse the issue, but for the sake of women and their families, we should not let the issue be confused.