Gosnell Conviction Revives False Abortion Analogies

Since Kermit Gosnell's conviction of the murder of three infants, right-wing media have dismissed existing laws and the context of Gosnell's case as part of their ongoing campaign to connect his horrific crimes to legal abortion procedures.

Gosnell Was Convicted Of Three Counts Of First-Degree Murder

CNN: Gosnell Was Found Guilty Of Three Counts Of First-Degree Murder. CNN reported:

A Philadelphia abortion provider who killed babies by cutting their spinal cords with scissors was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday.

The conviction on three counts of first-degree murder means Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, could be sentenced to death. [CNN.com, 5/14/13]

Right-Wing Media Equate Gosnell's Crimes To Legal Abortion

Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle: You Can't Listen To This “And Not Rethink Abortion.” On May 13, The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said that the Gosnell case would force people to “rethink abortion”:

BOB BECKEL (co-host): Do you think this reignites the issue of right to life versus abortion as a public policy issue?

GUILFOYLE: Bob, great question. I think it does. It puts a spotlight on it. It brings it into the forefront of discussion and especially the media outlets that were brave enough to cover it like Fox News has been. Because you can't have sat in that courtroom, heard the evidence, listened to this and what happened to these babies and not rethink abortion and choice and all of it. [Fox News, The Five, 5/13/13]

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: “Gosnell Verdict Will Force A Rethinking About Abortion.” The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin suggested in her Right Turn blog that the “implications” for legal abortion in the wake of Gosnell's case “are now unavoidable.” She added:

In pulling back the curtain on a practice many Americans consider barbaric, the Gosnell trial will, I believe, have long-term implications for the abortion debate. It's about time. [The Washington Post, Right Turn, 5/13/13

National Review Online: “Gosnell's Murders Are Not An Aberrant Abuse Of The Abortion License But An Inevitable Result Of It.” From a National Review Online May 13 editorial:

Gosnell's human abattoir is the logical endpoint of our morally fraudulent national approach to abortion, the proponents of which maintain that they wish the procedure to remain “safe, legal, and rare,” in Bill Clinton's cynically triangulating formulation, while at the same time resisting any and all restrictions upon the procedure. Gosnell's murders are not an aberrant abuse of the abortion license but an inevitable result of it.


We may be disgusted and horrified by Kermit Gosnell, but we should not be shocked by his crimes. Thanks to the misguided social entrepreneurship of the Supreme Court, abortion is protected as a constitutional absolute, and late-term abortions, grisly as they are, enjoy substantial protection as well. What that looks like in practice is Gosnell's slaughterhouse. We should not pretend that this evil does not extend past the Philadelphia city limits. If you would have an unlimited abortion franchise, then you will have all that goes with it, including the pitiless knife of Kermit Gosnell. [National Review Online, 5/13/13]

Gosnell's Crimes Bear No Resemblance To Safe And Legal Abortions

Philadelphia Grand Jury: Breaking The Law Was Gosnell's “Competitive Edge.” The grand jury in Gosnell's case found that “Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge.” The grand jury report elaborated:

Pennsylvania, like other states, permits legal abortion within a regulatory framework. Physicians must, for example, provide counseling about the nature of the procedure. Minors must have parental or judicial consent. All women must wait 24 hours after first visiting the facility, in order to fully consider their decision. Gosnell's compliance with such requirements was casual at best. At the Women's Medical Society, the only question that really mattered was whether you had the cash. Too young? No problem. Didn't want to wait? Gosnell provided same-day service. [Gosnell Grand Jury Report, 1/14/11]

Dr. Tracy Weitz: Gosnell's Actions Have Nothing To Do With “The Way In Which Later Abortion Procedures Are Performed In The United States.” University of California reproductive health professor Dr. Tracy Weitz pointed out that the procedures Gosnell was accused of performing have “nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States,” and that his actions are “nowhere in the medical literature.” [The Washington Examiner via Media Matters, 4/17/13]

The “Overwhelming Majority” Of Abortions In The U.S. Are Safe, Early In Pregnancy 

Guttmacher Institute: “The Overwhelming Majority Of Abortions In The United States ... Are In The First Trimester.” A Guttmacher Institute report stated that "[t]he overwhelming majority of abortions in the United States, 88% in 2006, are in the first trimester, occurring at or before the 12th week of pregnancy." [Guttmacher Institute, 12/16/11]

Guttmacher Institute: Most States Prohibit Abortion After Viability. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the vast majority of states prohibit abortions after a fetus reaches “viability,” except primarily in cases when the procedure is “necessary to protect the woman's life or health.” [Guttmacher Institute, 5/1/13]

RH Reality Check's Amanda Marcotte: Third Trimester Abortions Are About 1 Percent Of All Abortions Performed. RH Reality Check reported that drawing attention to late-term abortion is a longstanding tactic of the anti-choice movement:

Third trimester abortions are about 1% of all abortions performed, and frankly, the anti-choice movement only focuses on them because they are especially disgusting, and therefore make a good cudgel to attack all abortion rights. And since they are so emotionally fraught, they have a great deal of appeal to the ghouls that populate the anti-choice movement, the ones who spend obscene percentages of their lives dwellling on graphic pictures of dead fetuses. [RH Reality Check, 6/8/09]

Gratuitous Restrictions To Abortion Can Push Women Toward Unsafe Procedures

American Journal Of Public Health: Access Barriers To Abortion Push Women Toward Unsafe And Unlawful Operations. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health:

Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions. [American Journal of Public Health, April 2009]

Salon's Irin Carmon: “The Abortion Rate Is Higher In Countries Where It's Illegal.” Salon's Irin Carmon wrote that "[t]he abortion rate is higher in countries where it's illegal, and around 47,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions in clinics that likely look a lot like Gosnell's." [Salon, 4/17/13]

Gynuity Health Projects: “Legal Induced Abortion Is Markedly Safer Than Childbirth.” A 2012 study found that women face fewer complications during legal abortion procedures than during childbirth: 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions compared to 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. [Gynuity Health Projects, February 2012]