Back-alley abortions in the 21st century

Click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

In my home town in the western Maryland panhandle in the 1960s, a women who wished to terminate a pregnancy had no place where she could legally go.  But it was said (I don’t know if this was true) that if she were to pay a certain lawyer an agreed-on sum of money, he would tell her to be on a certain street corner at a certain time of night.  There she would be met and driven blindfolded to a farmhouse in Pennsylvania, where an abortion would be performed.

Those of us who believed abortion rights hoped, after the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, that places like that would be closed down, and that, in the words of President Bill Clinton, abortion would become safe, legal and rare.   But what has come to light in the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor now on trial in Philadelphia for first-degree murder, is like the worst nightmare of back-alley abortions.

Dr. Gosnell has not been convicted nor made his defense, so I won’t call him a murderer, but the Grand Jury indictment says that he delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy and killed them by severing their spinal columns with scissors.  He is accused of overdosing his patients with dangerous drugs, spreading venereal disease with infected instruments and causing the deaths of at least two women with incompetent surgery.

He was charged as a result of an FBI raid based on a tip that Dr. Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” was illegally selling prescription drugs.  According to the Grand Jury, here’s what the FBI found: “There was blood on the floor.  A stench of urine filled the air.  A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs.  Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.  All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Abortion after the 24th month of pregnancy is (rightly) illegal under Pennsylvania law, which is consistent with Roe vs Wade.  Killing an infant capable of living outside the womb is murder by any definition.   The existence of Dr. Gosnell’s clinic represents a failure of enforcement of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the reasons for that failure are a legitimate issue.   But I would like to raise a different question.  Why in the era of Roe vs. Wade would poor women pay cash to somebody such as Gosnell?

Part of the answer is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the anti-abortion movement have been doing their best to make it as difficult as possible for women to get abortions from legitimate clinics in an early state of pregnancy.   Medicaid funding for abortions is denied under federal and Pennsylvania law except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.  The out-of-pocket cost of an abortion is equal to a month’s income for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Some women are afraid to run the gantlet of anti-abortion protestors at Planned Parenthood or other legitimate providers of abortion.  Abortion doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion terrorists, and others face death threats.   There are only 13 clinics in all of Pennsylvania that provide abortion services, down from 22 two years ago.

If you want to prevent more horror stories such as Dr. Gosnell’s, you should be willing to allow abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy by qualified obstetricians, in which abortion is safe procedure and does not take the extinguish the life of a human mind in a recognizable human body.  And if you want to reduce the number of abortions, you should encourage the dissemination of birth control information, encourage adoption and work for an economy in which any man or woman willing to work can get a job with a wage sufficient to support a child.

§§§

For more, click on the following links

Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic Monthly.

The Questions No One Is Asking About the Kermit Gosnell Case by Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy for Huffington Post.

Why We Need to Talk About the Horrifying Gosnell Abortion Trial by Katie J.M. Backer for AlterNet.

Five Lessons from the Gosnell Abortion-Clinic Controversy by Scott Limieux for the American Prospect.

For background information on the infographics, click on the following links.

Troubling Trend: More States Hostile to Abortion Rights as Middle Ground Shrinks by the Guttmacher Institute.

Roe at 40: New Infographics Illustrate Key Facts by the Guttmacher Institute.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Back-alley abortions in the 21st century”

  1. Holden Says:

    Man, how could a person just outright kill babies like that? It sounds like the plot of a bad horror film.

    Apart from that, this is a toughie. I don’t agree with abortion, but then again I understand the ramifications of its outright prohibition.

    I also have a hard time feeling remorse for the women involved, only the poor unborn who had their lives so brutally taken from them. I am not a woman and of course can never understand the kind of lives some of these women lead, but to seek out an abortion of this type so late in the game. Even if you did feel too scared, or found it impossible to have the abortion earlier, how can you terminate the life of a child while its kicking in your belly?

    I simply can’t fathom it! Especially as a father.At that point, have the child and give it up for adoption, leave it on a church door step even!

    Anyway, too many thoughts and emotions for a comment. May have to mull over this one in a blog post.

    Like

  2. tiffany267 Says:

    Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    “Why in the era of Roe vs. Wade would poor women pay cash to somebody such as Gosnell?

    Part of the answer is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the anti-abortion movement have been doing their best to make it as difficult as possible for women to get abortions from legitimate clinics in an early state of pregnancy. Medicaid funding for abortions is denied under federal and Pennsylvania law except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother. The out-of-pocket cost of an abortion is equal to a month’s income for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

    Click to enlarge

    Some women are afraid to run the gantlet of anti-abortion protestors at Planned Parenthood or other legitimate providers of abortion. Abortion doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion terrorists, and others face death threats. There are only 13 clinics in all of Pennsylvania that provide abortion services, down from 22 two years ago.

    If you want to prevent more horror stories such as Dr. Gosnell’s, you should be willing to allow abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy by qualified obstetricians, in which abortion is safe procedure and does not take the extinguish the life of a human mind in a recognizable human body. And if you want to reduce the number of abortions, you should encourage the dissemination of birth control information, encourage adoption and work for an economy in which any man or woman willing to work can get a job with a wage sufficient to support a child.”

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: