Lessons from Gosnell: learned, missed, and in progress

Where is New Hampshire, now that the odious Dr. Gosnell awaits sentencing in Pennsylvania? In the dark, mostly. Legislators can change this, although some mighty citizen action might be needed to get the ball rolling. We don’t know how many women choose abortion in New Hampshire. (The Guttmacher/CDC stats are atrocious substitutes for data, relying as they do on voluntary reporting by a limited number of abortion providers.) We don’t know why they choose abortion. We don’t know how many abortions are “early” or “late-term.” We don’t know what the medical protocols are for born-alive babies after attempted abortion. We have no clue whatsoever what is the rate of post-abortion complications for women. We don’t know who’s doing abortions. There is no restriction on who may perform abortion. (None.) We are assured at public hearings that abortion facilities are “licensed,” whatever that means, without being held to the same standards as any other outpatient-surgery facility.

Kermit Gosnell (mug shot following arrest)
Kermit Gosnell (mug shot following arrest)

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s negligence on the part of policymakers and public health officials. Time for transparency and serious oversight of the abortion industry. Even a defender of Roe should be able to see that.

Gosnell was operating legally. Don’t overlook that while you’re plowing through the public statements by PP and NARAL since yesterday’s conviction. We can all be appalled about what Gosnell did, and we can all be outraged by the way he and his staff treated women, and we can be outraged by the snipping of born-alive-babies’ necks (although that particular outrage was not expressed universally yesterday). Through it all, remember: he was operating legally, according to the state of Pennsylvania. His butchery was discovered by accident. Despite state policies and abortion regulations, no Pennsylvania official kept Gosnell in line because no Pennsylvania official wanted to look.

What do you want to bet that if Gosnell HAD been inspected, fellow abortion providers would have cried “intimidation!” at the first peep from the inspectors?

And if only Gosnell hadn’t been such a ghoul about keeping babies’ corpses and body parts, he would very likely have escaped prosecution on the premeditated-murder charges.  If the only evidence of the murder of children had been testimony by Gosnell’s staff, his attorneys would have had a field day impeaching those witnesses. The attorneys tried that anyway, even with the sickening physical evidence.

Which brings me to the sobering thought: how many children survive attempted abortion and are born alive? We don’t know. What’s the medical protocol for dealing with “the dreaded complication” of a live birth? It may vary from one facility to another. A law on mandatory statistics, even a law with teeth, may be unable to get at that. The medical profession might have too great a stake in Roe to want those children out in the open. In Gosnell’s case, only when outsiders got a look at the corpses did the story come out. That was an off-chance.

I have already seen in some of the Gosnell coverage that some news outlets refer to the dead babies as “fetuses,” despite the fact that they had emerged from the mothers’ bodies. Three convictions for premeditated murder might not settle the issue. This question comes up again and again as I cover the right to life: does getting an abortion entitle a woman to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? No, this is not a matter between “a woman, her family, and her doctor,” as the saying goes – at least I don’t think it is. Will an abortion provider even have to note that a baby was born alive, if the mother is undergoing an abortion? Not unless the “protocols” say so.  After all, if the fetus isn’t “born,” it’s not a person, and homicide laws would not apply. Was that Gosnell’s rationalization for snipping the infants’ spinal cords?

This wouldn’t be the first time Roe made a hash of science. Still think pregnancy begins at conception? Union of sperm and egg? How very seventies of you. Implantation: that’s the ticket. Presto: “emergency contraception” has been declared non-abortive, along with anything else that inhibits implantation. Justice Blackmun would be proud. He was  afraid when he wrote Roe that medical science might declare when life begins, thus undermining the whole “trimester” framework. Not to worry. Medical science has its finger to the political winds.

The “providers” are not likely to come forward about their own acts, if they are “terminating” abortion survivors. It will be left to the witnesses, allied health professionals, to testify to what they see.

Medical protocols will not come to light readily. Ask New Hampshire Right to Life what it takes to get Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to turn over its medical operations manual. (More about that another time.)

Don’t think that serious regulation will come easily. NARAL, PP, and their apologists blame pro-lifers for Gosnell. Seriously. Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations are to blame, they say.

Really?

Did a 24-hour waiting period, required under Pennsylvania law, kill Karnamaya Mongar? No. Kermit Gosnell did. The drug overdose that killed her was not forced on her by any 24-hour wait. “Involuntary manslaughter,” said the jury. Her family is taking civil action against Gosnell. Good luck to them.

Did a ban on abortions post-24-weeks “force” women to Gosnell? No. By the way, Gosnell operated with the knowledge of other abortion providers in the area, including PP of Southeastern Pennsylvania. If anyone from that PP office had concerns about Gosnell doing late-term work, she didn’t advise anyone at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Hmmm.

Did Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations cause all the carnage? No. There is plenty of blame to go around, but not to the people who fought for the regulations, even if they only exist on paper as abortion providers would prefer. Republican former Governor Tom Ridge discontinued regular inspections of abortion facilities. Workers at Gosnell‘s facility kept quiet for years. Medical providers who found themselves taking care of women harmed at the Gosnell facility did not make enough of a fuss for health authorities to take notice.

Gosnell’s crimes did not consist principally in the filth of his office. If he had kept a clean place, the snipped babies would still be dead. We’d just be less likely to know about them. A tidy facility wouldn’t have helped Karnamaya Mongar survive a drug overdose. Declaring Gosnell an outlier, as abortion advocates have done, means nothing if it is only an admonition to maintain good housekeeping.

So much room for improvement, for the women, for their children. Until New Hampshire moves past housekeeping concerns and deals with abortion itself, Gosnell has taught us nothing.