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When abortion is outlawed only outlaws will perform abortions: Your sex and gender morning roundup

January 20, 2011 - 09:30 AM
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The Philadelphia clinic of Kermit Gosnell (Photo: Associated Press)

JUST IN TIME for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let us consider Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortion provider charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a pregnant woman and seven infants:

RELEVANT TO THIS SITUATION is that Pennsylvania bans abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy, a possible complicating factor in the completely exploitative and totally illegal situation we have here: "Gosnell's clinic . . . catered to poor, immigrant and minority women in the city's impoverished West Philadelphia section. . . . Women came from across the city, state and region for illegal late-term abortions, authorities said. They paid $325 for first-trimester abortions and $1,600 to $3,000 for abortions up to 30 weeks. The clinic took in $10,000 to $15,000 a day . . . White women from the suburbs were ushered into a separate, slightly cleaner area because Gosnell believed they were more likely to file complaints."

OVER AT SLATE, William Saletan argues that the conditions at Gosnell's clinic show why we need to set gestational age limits on abortion and stick to them. "[T]he grand jury has recommended that Gosnell be prosecuted for murder in the deaths of seven babies, for infanticide in the deaths of two others, and for 33 felony counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks in violation of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. . . . You can argue that what Gosnell did wasn't conventional abortion—he routinely delivered the babies before slitting their necks—but the 33 proposed charges involving the Abortion Control Act have nothing to do with that," Saletan writes. "Those charges pertain strictly to a time limit: performing abortions beyond 24 weeks. Should Gosnell be prosecuted for violating that limit? Is it OK to outlaw abortions at 28, 30, or 32 weeks? Or is drawing such a line an unacceptable breach of women's autonomy?"

ALSO AT SLATE, Amanda Marcotte argues that the conditions at Gosnell's clinic show why we need to expand abortion access for women: "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.

AND THE AMERICAN PROSPECT'S Pema Levy outlines more problems with restricting late term abortions: "Geographic, financial, and social barriers that the anti-choice movement has successfully erected create an environment where a provider like Gosnell can work," Levy writes. "If lack of abortion coverage didn't force poor, minority, and immigrant women—Gosnell's main clientele—into clinics like his, they would get better abortion care, and probably much earlier in their pregnancies. Moreover, if a poor woman does pursue a late-term abortion that is illegal, reporting a shady clinic to the authorities means admitting she pursued an illegal abortion."

BRIEFLY: Here's a sentence particularly designed to convince me distrust it: "The study, done at Brigham Young University, found that married couples who had delayed sex while they were dating were more likely to communicate, enjoy sex, and have more stable marriages than those who had sex early on"—via Dr. Laura. Metro Weekly checks up on a same-sex couple separated by immigration laws. And gay rights activist Frank Kameny gets a visit from Leo.


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  1. Lizrd Lizrd

    Liz B

    Jan 24, 2011 - 09:41:59 PM

    There's two ****ing entities that need to remain out of my sex life: BYU and Dr. Laura. ::shudder::

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