Kermit Gosnell and the inconvenient truth about abortion

The facts don't conform to the wishes of personhood-at-conception zealots or partial-birth abortion advocates. Photo: AP

FLORIDA, May 10, 2013 — What a tangled web Kermit Gosnell has woven.

As I wrote the other day, his Philadelphia clinic, ghoulishly dubbed the Women’s Health Society, was able to get away with its wrongdoings for a long time. Since Gosnell’s trial received little media attention, likely due to left-leaning bias, most probably don’t know what these wrongdoings are.

Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker notes 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. Surely, 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 doesn’t mean that every other one is. From my perspective, the antiabortion crowd wanted 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 should 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.

Obviously, a great deal of people near the former clinic wanted abortion services. If Gosnell was not in operation there, then it is likely that someone else would have been.

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? If the market had forced Gosnell to follow the rules, it is hard to understand why he wouldn’t have. 

This observation proved to be quite controversial. Scores of, I believe, well-meaning people earnestly think abortion is murder in all circumstances. 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?  

A pre-viable fetus or an embryo at any stage is no more alive than a skin cell or tumor. While all of these can and do grow, this is because of incubation by an objectively living, self-sustainable entity; namely a human being. So, if pre-viable fetuses or embryos are given the status of personhood, then why shouldn’t the same be done for aneurisms or sperm?

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.

What is this rule, exactly? Simply that a potential does not equate with an actual.

I will admit that 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. 

Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


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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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