Count me with Rod, Conor Friedersdorf, and many, many others in thinking the lack of media coverage of Kermit Gosnell’s charnel house is pretty damning. Mollie Zeigler Hemingway has begun her own inquisition of sorts, calling up journalists and making them explain their lack of coverage, for which an Atlantic senior editor accused her of fomenting anti-Semitism.
But as some people are finally starting to point out today, Dave Weigel among others, many of the details from this case have been known since at least January 2011, when the indictment came down and the grand jury report was released. There is a documentary too which I’ve embedded above, which was posted to YouTube in January. It’s pretty rough to watch; you’ve been warned.
Back in 2011, Will Saletan wrote, in an essay critiquing the pro-choice absolutist view that abortions should be legal without regard to the age of the fetus:
There’s no moral difference between eight, 18, and 28 weeks. No one has the right to judge another person’s abortion decision, regardless of her stage of pregnancy. Each woman is entitled to decide not only whether to have an abortion, but how long she can wait to make that choice.
It’s one thing to preach these ideas in the lefty blogosphere. It’s quite another to see them in practice. That’s where Kermit Gosnell, the doctor at the center of the Philadelphia scandal, comes in. According to the newly released grand jury report, Gosnell accepted abortion patients without regard to gestational age. “Gosnell catered to the women who couldn’t get abortions elsewhere—because they were too pregnant,” the report explains. … 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. 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?
He was criticized over at Feministing for his “anti-choice bullshit”:
Perhaps most importantly, let’s not forget why the likely majority these women went to a potentially criminal practice like Kermit Gosnell’s: because of the anti-choice measures that limit women’s access to safe and affordable (and, in this case, legal) abortion care.
The same day Saletan’s article came out, The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg had one of her own arguing basically the same thing, and that Gosnell operated a “rogue clinic”:
Gosnell’s crimes only underline the need for all women to have access to affordable and genuinely safe providers. His patients subjected themselves to terrible abuses because that’s what women will do when they’re desperate and they don’t see other options. … Gosnell was able to do what he did because the women who came to him had fallen through the cracks of our damaged medical system.
There were others back then too. Today, there are lots of people saying more or less the same thing. Not a single one of them have even attempted to reconcile that the failure to keep tabs on Gosnell’s clinic was apparently due to a political decision in 1993 not to inspect it. From the grand jury report:
After 1993, even that pro forma effort [to inspect Gosnell's clinic and report its failings] came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.
In other words, it strongly suggests the absolutist pro-choice view that any regulation of abortion constitutes an infringement on reproductive rights led to the clinic not being overseen properly. All of these people had access to the grand jury report, even back in 2011. To ignore that and then make the case for why abortions should be more widespread and less regulated is incredibly dishonest.