The inconvenient truth about abortion and American politics

Both leftists and rightists have debated the abortion issue for long enough. Where does the truth stand? Photo: Associated Press

OCALA, Fla., December 2, 2013 — Abortion rights are, by their nature, a sensitive subject. No issue, other than slavery, has cast such a gloomy spell over American politics.

Earlier this year, the Kermit Gosnell trial presented a long-awaited opportunity for antiabortion activists. The now-imprisoned and delicensed doctor was found to be running an illegal abortion clinic and drug distribution center.

In the most wretched of ironies, his operation was called the “Women’s Health Society”.

Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker noted that “standard practices allegedly included snipping the spines of live newborns with rusty equipment, storing feces in cat-food containers and fetus feet in jars, and overdosing patients, particularly those who were poor women of color.”

Most clinics around the country that provide abortion services are nothing like the one Gosnell ran for over thirty years. He is the aberration, not the rule. 

Unfortunately, many social rightists see things differently.

They hoped Gosnell’s trial would help them sour public opinion about abortion rights. While Gosnell is far from the norm, many antiabortion activists anticipated his name would become associated with any and all pregnancy cessation procedures. 

Such a correlation would decimate popular support for abortion rights. It would also be the product of a logical fallacy; just because Gosnell’s clinic was a house of horrors does not mean that every other one is.

The trial offered the opportunity for anti-abortion activists to manipulate emotions through the news, much in the same way that left-wingers have for generations.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

It is right, though, to build a future in which the story of Kermit Gosnell is slasher fiction, not headline news.

One might ask if his clinic would have been allowed to skate for as long as it did if more abortion services were offered in its area. The law of supply and demand comes into play here.

Had more clinics established themselves, Gosnell would have had a strong incentive to offer top-quality care with no ifs, ands, or buts. What good does sub-par service or breaking laws do when competition is right around the corner?

Hopefully, we can all agree that killing viable fetuses is homicidal.  However, if a woman chooses to end her pregnancy before the point of viability, then scientifically speaking, what has been lost?  

Chances are that antiabortion folks will quickly and confidently assert that embryos and pre-viable fetuses have the potential to become living, breathing humans. By doing so, they are violating one of the oldest rules of Western logic in that ‘potential’ does not equate with ‘actual.’

It can be difficult to realize this, especially insofar as a hot-button issues are concerned. This is why said issues should be analyzed on an objective and rational premises.

They are simply too important for the subjectivity of emotionalism. 

Of course, this means that science, not supernaturalism, is what is called for whenever abortion enters the discussion. Using biblical terminology and quotes while trying to substantiate antiabortion ideas is a sure plan for failure in our increasingly secular society. 

Kermit Gosnell’s web of deceit is large, sticky, and downright scary. Thankfully, its presence did not drive untold millions into the arms of clever antiabortion zealots who pine for Roe v. Wade’s overturn. Aside from raising awareness about the need for safe abortion practices, Gosnell should also bring us to confront the reality of abortion itself.

Killing live-born fetuses is radical and unacceptable, not to mention illegal. Criminalizing the abortion of pre-viable fetuses and legislating personhood at the moment of conception is radical and just plain nonsense. 

During the years ahead, let’s hope that America is able to find some sensible middle ground between the much-heard about, yet grossly unpopular extremes. 

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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