Pro-Abortion Columnist Says Philadelphia's Dr. Death Thrived Because Abortions Aren't Available Enough

Finding a pro-choice spin to the horrific charges against abortionist Kermit Gosnell -- "eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors" -- seems like an awfully tall order, but left-wing author Michelle Goldberg is going to give it a try anyway.

Her latest Daily Beast column opens by declaring that if Gosnell "is guilty of even a fraction of the carnage he's been charged with, he should spend the rest of his life in prison," but goes on to argue that not only is his office not representative of the average abortion clinic, but that his crimes actually demonstrate why abortion needs to be more widely available, more respected, and even subsidized:

"[T]he difference between this gruesome killing machine and a ‘safe' clinic is aesthetics, really," wrote Lori Ziganto in "There is no denying the horror of what was found in this ‘doctor's' office. But it happens in every abortion clinic across the land."

She's completely wrong. Gosnell's clinic was in no way representative of most abortion facilities, which is why the country's largest organization of abortion providers, the National Abortion Federation, refused him membership and testified against him to the grand jury.

That's nice. But it misses the point, which would have been clear if Goldberg had quoted Ziganto's next few sentences:

Sticking a scalpel in a baby's neck in utero has the same result as sticking it in the neck with scissors outside the womb: Death.

In this case, people can visualize the actual babies, as they were horrifically kept in jars and bottles. In "safe" clinics, they are hidden away in haz-mat disposals or chopped up into tiny pieces before being sucked out of their mother's womb and disposed of like trash. Hidden away, allowing people to blind themselves to what is actually happening. It is easier to remain blissfully ignorant and ignore the fact that a baby is a baby, in utero or out.

The "blood on the floor," the "stench of urine fill[ing] the air," the "cat feces on the stairs," and the "[s]emi-conscious women" waiting "on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets" may be unique horrors, but the other things that make Gosnell's death den seem worse than a "nice, clean" abortion clinic are morally insignificant. If you're stabbing a baby's spinal cord, it doesn't matter where the baby's body is located. It doesn't matter how you store or dispose of the remains. You still killed a child.

(Indeed, back in Illinois, President Barack Obama didn't see the difference-he thought full-term babies should be equally killable before and after delivery...and if it was after, then their death-starvation-was guaranteed to be even slower.)

And while I don't doubt Gosnell's standards of sanitation and patient care are far worse than those of the average Planned Parenthood, let's not give the rest of the industry a clean bill of health just yet. Pro-life youth activists led by Lila Rose have caught officials at numerous Planned Parenthoods lying to patients about everything from fetal development to abortion's medical risks, and earlier this week, Pro-Life Wisconsin announced:

An open records request conducted by Pro-Life Wisconsin has revealed the state's abortion facilities are not inspected by the Department of Health Services and no records exist of any such past inspections. Furthermore, there is no state statute mandating health inspections of the state's abortuaries. 

Goldberg also floats this novel theory:

[T]he stigma and secrecy around abortion has long attracted the occasional criminal to the field.

Or it could be that abortion attracts monsters because it's inherently a sick, depraved profession. Those of us who don't want to see abortion for what it is have conjured up friendly terminology and convoluted theories to define it as something respectable, but if you're the one doing the deed, you know better. You know exactly what you're destroying. It's kind of hard to not know you're a killer when you have to dispose of the corpse afterward. Indeed, some abortionists admit as much:

"I have the utmost respect for life; I appreciate that life starts early in the womb, but also believe that I'm ending it for good reasons....So yes, I end life, but even when it's hard, it's for a good reason." - Cheryl Alkon, "Confessions of an Abortion Doctor," Boston Magazine, December 2004

"If I see a case...after twenty weeks, where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it because the potential is so imminently there...On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is "who owns this child?" It's got to be the mother." - Dr. James MacMahon, who performed D&X (also known as Partial Birth) abortions

"When you do a D & C most of the tissue is removed by the Olden forceps or ring clamp and you actually get gross parts of the fetus out. So you can see a miniature person so to speak, and even now I occasionally feel a little peculiar about it because as a physician I'm trained to conserve life and here I am destroying life." - Dr. Benjamin Kalish, Abortionist

"No one, neither the patient receiving the abortion, nor the person doing the abortion, is ever, at any time, unaware that they are ending a life..." - William F Harrison, M.D., Abortion Provider

"It's a really interesting thing that is happening. It's fascinating, when you can think about it clinically and not get involved in the babies, or the people..." - Dora Greenwald, Clinic Worker
"Interesting" isn't quite the word I would use.

In fact, 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 [...]

When abortion is shrouded in shame, excluded from public health-insurance programs, and made harder to get because of a web of legal restrictions, horror ensues. It happened before Roe v. Wade-searing memories of those days still motivate the women who lead the pro-choice movement and the aging doctors who continue to practice despite constant threats and harassment. It's happening now around the world, in poor countries like Kenya, where abortion is illegal and a staggering one-third of maternal deaths are caused by botched procedures. And it happened with this modern-day back alley butcher in Philadelphia. It would be grotesque if Gosnell's crimes were used as a pretext to make it even harder for vulnerable women to get the care they need.

If mothers' suffering is going to be our standard, then it's worth noting that even "safe, legal" abortions performed in the cleanest of clinics carry their share of medical and emotional dangers. And while it's persistent, the specter of women dying by the truckload from pre-Roe illegal abortions is a myth:

-       The claims by abortion advocates that 1,000,000 or more illegal abortions occurred annually and 5,000-10,000 women died are based on inaccurately calculated extrapolations from flawed and erroneous data of the 1920s and the 1930s - the pre-penicillin era.

-       The number of deaths of childbearing-age women for non-abortion related causes remained relatively constant in the years before Roe v. Wade, showing that deaths from illegal abortion could not have been "hidden" under other causes of death.

-       Advances in medical technology, not the legalization of abortion, caused a significant drop in the number of maternal deaths from abortion:

o   maternal deaths from illegal abortions were above 1,000 per year only in the pre-penicillin era (1940). The maternal abortion deaths dropped sharply with the advent of antibiotics (penicillin and sulfa) and other medical advances to treat infections.

o   the maternal death rate had declined to 30 maternal deaths from illegal abortions by 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade was decided.

Despite Goldberg's dire rhetoric, almost nobody ever "needs" an abortion (PDF link) and as we know, left-wingers have no problem prohibiting other things because people don't "need" them. And a world without abortion would hardly be a world without options or helping hands for women facing unplanned pregnancy. 

A free society should understand that no action is without risk, and that we don't make laws based on whether or not people will endanger themselves by violating the law. The deaths that do occur when people choose illegal abortion are tragic, but they pale in comparison to the 50 million who have been dying for decades with the sanction of the law, and are virtually guaranteed to die in every abortion-legal or otherwise.

Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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