Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Philly Butcher

I’ve gone back and forth on posting about this horrific story out of Philadelphia.  I know it’s going to provoke an abortion fight.  But damn it, I need to vent.

A West Philadelphia abortion doctor, his wife and eight other suspects are now under arrest following a grand jury investigation.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, faces eight counts of murder in the deaths of a woman following a botched abortion at his office, along with the deaths of seven other babies who, prosecutors allege, were born alive following illegal late-term abortions and then were killed by severing their spinal cords with a pair of scissors.

“I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “But as district attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law. A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.”

Hot Air has been covering this quite heavily, putting up details from the grand jury indictment.  The second link details just how horrific Gosnell’s practice was and how little the state did to reign it in.  Pennsylvania’s new Republican governor is promising an investigation.

Of course, as with any tragedy, there are those using it for their political advantage. Pro-lifers (like Morrissey above) have an obvious axe to grind, but pro-choicers are determined not to be left out.  Libertarian basher and communion-wafer stomper PZ Myers says this isn’t about abortion but can’t resist arguing the pro-choice view, saying this is what all abortions would be like in back alleys (although Gosnell’s practice was not, in any way, a back alley practice).  Probably the weirdest argument comes from XX, which purports to represent “what women really think” although I really hope it doesn’t.  They blame this on the pro-life movement.  Seriously.

That shady abortion providers get patients at all is something we can safely blame the anti-choice movement for. Most doctors in this country are pro-choice, and many would like to provide abortion, but as Slate’s Emily Bazelon demonstrated in the New York Times, the stigma of doing so makes it that much harder to do.  Good medical care costs money, but very few women seeking abortion can get coverage, in no small part because of anti-choice initiatives like the Hyde Amendment.  If you’re seeking an abortion but can’t afford it, going to a doctor who provides substandard care on the cheap is certainly going to be an attractive option.

First, I doubt that “most doctors” want to perform abortions.  Maybe a lot of OB/Gyn’s do. But I seriously doubt that most proctologists dream of opening a sideline in abortion.  Even doctors I know who perform abortions don’t “want” to do it.  They see it as necessary.

Second, Marcotte tries to dismiss the allegations earlier in the article by noting that Jill Stanek made similar, since disproved, charges during the Presidential campaign.  But those were the allegations by one activist; this is a grand jury investigation, meaning some credible evidence has been presented.

Third, Marcotte forgets that Gosnell was making millions off his shady practice, charging more than Planned Parenthood and was a legal abortion provider.  So the “this is about poor oppressed women” line is complete garbage.

And finally, the most troubling allegations are that Gosnell killed babies that survived abortions—illegal late-term abortions.

Now maybe you could argue that part of the horror wouldn’t have happened without the ban on late-term abortions, which made women seeking them go to Gosnell.  But you’re not going to find many people who agree with you.  Late-term abortion bans are in place in 36 states and have been upheld by the Supreme Court.  The ban is, in fact, perfectly consistent with Roe, which only forbad states from outlawing abortions in the first semester. A ban on partial birth abortion was passed by by veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.  And Gosnell appears to have also violated the BAIPA, which was passed by voice vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate.  There is simply no twisting of the politics that could produce a situation in which Gosnell’s actions were remotely legal, even if we had nine Democrats on the Court.

Now it’s true that when you outlaw things, you push them into the hands of criminals.  I myself have made that argument regarding the legalization of guns, drugs, gambling and even abortion.  If you outlaw late-term abortions, only outlaws will perform them.  But there are some things we want to keep illegal.  No one wants to see kiddie porn or contract killing in the hands of “legitimate” providers.  And late-term abortion—according to a big majority of even pro-choice Americans, Congress and the Supreme Court—is one of those things that we, as a country, are happy keeping in the hands of outlaws.

Personally, I think the only real political lesson here is utter failure of the state to properly regulate abortion clinics and investigate complaints. Were the authorities undermanned?  Was there political pressure not to properly regulate the clinics (from Left or Right)?  Gosnell was in business for 30 years and his clinic had not been checked in almost 17 years.  The grand jury investigation has revealed a long line of people trying to alert the authorities that something was deeply, seriously wrong with his practice.  Why was he not shut down two decades ago?

That’s the question we need to be asking.  And, thankfully, that’s the question Governor Corbett is asking.

As for Gosnell ... word fails me.  I can’t imagine ever doing even a fraction of what he is accused of.  If these allegations are born out, this isn’t some nobel guy providing outlawed services to desperate women.  This is an irresponsible anti-doctor butchering women and killing infants.  There’s no excuse for him.  There will never be any excuse for him.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 01/25/11 at 03:39 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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