The Anti-Choice Movement is Creating More Kermit Gosnells

12 Apr

A guest post from Sarah Erdreich, the author of Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial in Pennsylvania, charged with eight counts of murder. For decades, Gosnell provided abortion services to primarily low-income, minority, and immigrant women in an unsafe and unhygienic clinic. Despite numerous complaints to state agencies and the forty-six lawsuits filed against him, Gosnell’s clinic was only inspected five times after it opened in 1979; the last inspection occurred in 1993. When officials finally did raid his clinic in 2010, it was on suspicion of drug violations. The eight counts of murder that Gosnell faces include one for a woman that died from a painkiller overdose before her procedure, and seven infants that he allegedly killed with scissors after they were born.

Those acts, together with a grand jury report that spares no detail in describing the squalid and unhygienic conditions of Gosnell’s clinic, paint a grim picture of a man that never should have been allowed to practice medicine. They also call into question just why state agencies did so little to investigate the many complaints that were made over two decades.

The state of Pennsylvania has responded by enacting new anti-choice laws that make abortion care more difficult for people to access and afford. Clinics that provide surgical abortions now must meet the same medical and construction standards as outpatient surgery centers; while clinics were exempt from some regulations, such as having elevators of a certain size, a number of the new regulations required clinics to undergo expensive renovations. In 2008, 82% of all Pennsylvania counties lacked an abortion provider; five clinics have closed in the last year, meaning that that number is undoubtedly even higher now.

Pennsylvania is hardly alone in requiring only abortion clinics, as opposed to all freestanding outpatient surgical clinics, to adhere to specific and extensive standards. From insisting that providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals to mandating the size of operating rooms, states around the country have enacted numerous laws in the past several years that sound benign on paper but have devastating real-life effects. The rationale for many of these laws is that they are necessary to safeguard the health and well-being of people who need abortion care. But when legal abortions are performed by trained medical professionals, the health risks are already very low; according to the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute, “[f]ewer than 1% of all U.S. abortion patients experience a major complication and the risk of death associated with abortion is 10 times as low as that associated with childbirth.”

When a woman dies during childbirth, politicians do not insist that all hospitals adhere to new structural requirements, and activists do not claim that since a woman died, no OB/GYN should be trusted. Yet the anti-choice movement has shown no such common sense and sound judgment when it comes to Kermit Gosnell. Instead, they have exploited this tragedy to enact laws that either force clinics to charge more for their services so they can pay for renovations, or close altogether. Making abortion more expensive and less accessible will not lower the abortion rate in this country. Instead, it will create an environment that drives women to desperate measures such as self-abortion or turning to untrained, but inexpensive, physicians.

6 Responses to “The Anti-Choice Movement is Creating More Kermit Gosnells”

  1. Pecan April 12, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    So, because this sorry excuse for a human bucked the regulations ALREADY in place and the state refused to enforce those regulations, it’s the fault of OB/GYN care generally and abortion care specifically and we now throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

    Got it.


  2. Michelle April 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    “When a woman dies during childbirth, politicians do not insist that all hospitals adhere to new structural requirements, and activists do not claim that since a woman died, no OB/GYN should be trusted.”

    Although they still lack the power to demand new legislation or regulation of hospitals, some home birth and freestanding birth center advocates find all doctors untrustworthy and will say so loudly whenever a perinatal death comes to light.

    If we don’t make our voices heard,I’m afraid someday even sonograms and hCG blood tests will only be available from people with no regard for laws and regulations.

  3. luckymama April 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Of course they are not requiring hospitals to change if a woman dies during childbirth (assuming that protocol was followed). Because they already meet top standards! For example, when Christin Gilbert died during her abortion, it should not have come as a shock. A person with congenital health issues, in her third trimester, is given potent drugs and left to labor without any professional supervision or equipment in a motel room. Well, duh. That is negligence – and if hospital standards had been in place, it is unlikely she would’ve died from either abortion or birth. It is entirely different from a woman experiencing an embolism or uterine atony and subsequent hemorrhage despite best efforts. Your bias is obviously affecting your judgment.

    • Oubli April 15, 2013 at 4:09 am #

      If anti-choicers didn’t force abortions doctors to operate in such ways by keeping abortions out of hospitals and in clinics Christin Gilbert wouldn’t have died.

      Top of the line care is had in hospital settings, by forcing hospitals to exclude abortion training from medical students and keeping doctors from being able to practice abortions in hospitals, they force it into clinics and hotel rooms. Abortions should be like any other medical procedure – taught to medical students and provided as out patient care at hospitals when it isn’t because of TRAP regulations, protestors and obscure network connections to Catholics hospitals, tragic yet highly preventable deaths can occur.

      In a bid to make access harder and outlaw abortions anti-choicers will create more and more maternal deaths and here’s the kicker – they then will try and blame it on the doctors or clinics!

      Truly sickening all of the deaths anti-choicers and their laws cause.

  4. luckymama April 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Sorry – I meant to write, “It is entirely different from a woman in childbirth at a hospital, or birth center, (experiencing such and such difficulties and death) despite best efforts.”

  5. Oubli April 15, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    The Questions No One Is Asking About the Kermit Gosnell Case

    How could this happen? In particular, how, in a state that has led the nation in imposing restrictions on abortion, could such atrocities go undetected? Just as puzzling is why the numerous complaints against him were ignored.

    The answer is simple: Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, when abortion policy was established, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s primary goal was to overturn Roe v. Wade and, barring that, impose as many barriers as possible to limit access to abortion. By and large, our policymakers have never viewed abortion as a medical procedure – instead placing it under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code — and therefore have not nurtured a system of abortion care that is woman-focused, readily accessible, and responsive to their medical needs. The Commonwealth’s focus has been on denying access, not protecting the health and safety of women who need this medical care. If the charges against Gosnell prove true, Gosnell was an outlaw who repeatedly violated numerous laws and should have been shut down years ago, but the state did not hold him accountable to its own laws and policies.

    So why did women go to his clinic? Why not choose a legitimate, reputable provider of abortion care? During a Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee hearing on proposed abortion regulation bills, Tyhisha Hudson, a woman who had obtained an abortion at Gosnell’s clinic, was asked why she went to him. She testified that women in her neighborhood knew that Gosnell was the man you saw for the cheapest abortion.

    Another Gosnell patient, Davida Johnson, noted in an Associated Press article that she intended to go to Planned Parenthood for an abortion procedure, but was scared away by anti-abortion protesters picketing outside the clinic. An acquaintance suggested she go to Gosnell, where protesters (ironically) were not an issue.

    Evidence suggests that a number of factors influenced a woman’s decision to seek care at Gosnell’s clinic: Medicaid’s refusal to provide insurance coverage for most abortions; the scarcity of abortion providers in Pennsylvania (and across the nation); the fear of violence perpetrated by protestors at clinics, and the right-wing culture that has so stigmatized abortion that many think it is still illegal 40 years after Roe v. Wade.

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