The reluctance of journalists to cover the crimes of abortionist Kermit Gosnell predates his trial. His indictment in January 2011 received minor and evasive coverage, as it inconveniently coincided with the Roe v. Wade anniversary. Pro-abortion journalists didn’t want the grand jury’s horror at seven acts of infanticide and the killing of one woman to spoil their nostalgic ruminations over the glorious emergence of abortion rights.
After all, they had promised a post-Roe world of “safe, legal, and rare” abortion. No more ghastly “back-alley” procedures, they said. Gosnell’s indictment exploded their myth of progress, revealing a culture in which abortion is unsafe, illegal, and frequent, with the butchery merely changing location, from the back alley to Main Street.
Undaunted, they now revive the same pitiful logic as the conversation moves to infanticide. Preferring screams that are silent, they claim to want to protect children from the Kermit Gosnells by exposing them to late-term abortionists. What leads to infanticide, according to their logic, is not abortion but the circumscribing of abortion. “There’s certainly been a campaign on the right, to make it — to in lieu of being able to actually ban abortions, just to make it incredibly difficult to get. And this is obviously the downside of that, right? That people wind up going outside the law,” said Beltway journalist Ben Smith on MSNBC.
Whether the child is killed at Gosnell’s shop or at a Planned Parenthood clinic, the “downside” for the child is the same. Only the left would consider advocacy for easier access to late-term abortion a convincing proof of its concern for infants. What Gosnell did to them is “unthinkable,” a few liberals have gasped, even as they maintain their call for wider abortion rights.
Gosnell didn’t depart from the culture of Roe but embodied it. For years its advocates have grown less and less fussy about the timing of the “choice” and have blasted some abortionists for acting as if some abortions are better than others. “Women have no obligation to make a decision as soon as they possibly can. The only obligation women have is to take the time they need to make the decision that is right for them,” wrote Steph Herold and Susan Yanow. Marge Berer, editor of Reproductive Health Matters, wrote that “an abortion provider must never pass judgement on the validity of a woman’s need for an abortion,” but “should act as technicians with a clinical skill to offer,” adding that “anyone who thinks they have the right to refuse even one woman an abortion can’t continue to claim they are pro-choice.”
Out of this abortion absolutism came the opposition to George W. Bush’s ban on late-term abortion, Obama’s resistance as a state senator to infanticide laws, and a media that either lionizes or overlooks late-term abortionists. Had Gosnell kept a cleaner shop and killed the children a few minutes earlier, he could have retired with the Margaret Sanger award.
At his bail hearing, Gosnell asked why he had even been indicted for the seven dead babies, implying that the line between a late-term abortion and an attempted late-term abortion that turns into infanticide is meaningless. “This is a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution of a doctor who’s done nothing but give [back] to the poor and the people of West Philadelphia,” says his lawyer.
Abortion advocates knew all about Gosnell. He has been operating since the early 1970s, not obscurely but in plain sight. This, of course, hasn’t stopped them from resorting to the topic-shifting rhetoric of back-alley abortions. “This is exactly what happens when you place undue restrictions and you try to shame women to keep them from exercising their constitutional right to safe and legal abortions,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said to the Huffington Post. “You make them victims to people like Gosnell, because in their desperation they’ll turn anywhere.”
Never mind that it was the total absence of restrictions, as the grand jury noted, that made it possible for Gosnell to operate in the first place. Out of a culture of abortion absolutism came a deference to abortionists and their clinics, lest any regulation encroach upon their sacred space and impede their heroic work. Said the report: “[T]he Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.”
NARAL and Planned Parenthood call for the monitoring of crisis pregnancy centers, not abortion clinics. Gosnell’s trade didn’t happen in spite of them but because of them. His disregard for life holds up a mirror to their own, capturing a callousness that is not lessened but only revealed by this week’s advocacy for more abortions as the answer to infanticide.