Kermit Gosnell: Make Abortion Safe and Legal to Prevent Similar Cases

What happened under Kermit Gosnell's watch is stomach-churning. The doctor (who wasn't a gynecologist or obstetrician) ran a slaughterhouse that was disguised as an abortion clinic. 

"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," says Katie J.M. Baker on Jezebel

"The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again," said the report from the Women's Medical Society.

The pure horror one feels after reading this cannot be described as partisan, it's simply human. Despite this unanimous feeling of disgust, some have alleged that evil baby-hating feminists have tried to keep the story under wraps for their own benefit. There is no pro-choice conspiracy to cover up Gosnell's house of horrors because his practice illustrates precisely what feminists have been demanding for decades: legal, accessible and safe abortion. 

"Kermit Gosnell simply could not operate in a country with solidly pro-choice laws. When abortion is illegal and underground, it is more dangerous— and unregualted [...] Want to prevent more Gosnells? Make sure abortion is safe, legal and accessible," argues Jill Filipovic from Al Jazeera

In addition to demonstrating why we need safer access to abortion, Goswell's house of horrors also highlights the problematic persistence of segregation in the American health care system, something that many feminists have already pointed out. A disproportionate amount of the madman's patients were women of color who resorted to the notoriously decrepit clinic because they didn't have access to any other health care facility. White patients were also put in cleaner waiting rooms.

"Gosnell allegedly treated white patients better, since he thought they were more likely to file complaints. And many of the women butchered by Gosnell were there entirely because of conservative laws that made it impossible for them to access abortion care earlier in their pregnancies," adds Filipovic.

The Gosnell case also points to the severe level of clinic harassment in the United States. Even when patients have the means to travel to a safe abortion clinic, they are limited by anti-choice protesters who often attack them with megaphones and horrific signs. One of Gosnell's patients, Davida Johnson first visited a Planned Parenthood but was scared off by the aggressive anti-choicers parked outside circling the clinic. 

"The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death," she told the AP.

When she confided to a friend she suggested she go to Gosnell's clinic in West Philadelphia. She now suffers from a lifelong venereal disease due to the clinic's abusive practices. 

Anti-choice crusaders aren't only harassing innocent women seeking treatment, they're also shutting down clinics.

"In Pennsylvania, there are zero abortion clinics in the hundreds of miles between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg," notes Baker. 

"There used to be 50 clinics in Pennsylvania. Thanks to anti-abortion activists, there are now 13 [...] Gosnell is a warning sign to the atrocities women subject themselves to when they have no other choices," said  Fox Contributor Sally Kohn At the Fourth Annual Inter generational Brunch organized by Naral weekend. No wonder women were getting treated by Gosnell despite the horrific and salubrious conditions of the clinic. They had nowhere else to go.

Anti-choice lobbying drove innocent women to a slaughterhouse. That's how profoundly primitive and draconian the status of women's reproductive health is in this country. Women shoulnd't have to risk their own lives to get a legal procedure. If it's legal, it should be accessible. Pure and simple. The fact that Gosnell atrocities weren't reported sooner is a testament to the sexism ingrained in our health care system.

"The problem with the entire Gosnell case and the media storm around it comes down to sexism: sexism in health care access and sexism in whose voices are heard in the media. If women's bodies were not so intensely politicised — if we did not live a culture that believes women should be punished for having sex, and are not entitled to control our own reproductive capacities - abortion would be treated like any other medical procedure. Bad clinics would be shut down, because there would not be shame in reporting them," explained Filipovic.

By the same token, the "leftist media black-out conspiracy" demonstrates just how much sexism goes into media analysis. Despite many female writers covering the case from The Nation to Salon, they seem to be invisible to those who claim that the case wasn't covered. 

"The current media narrative that "no one covered this case" would not exist in a universe where male journalists treated women's health issues as simply health issues, and read their female colleagues' health care writing. Assuming that if you did not see it, it must not exist is not good journalism," argues Filipovic.

Maybe if anti-choicers weren't so busy crying wolf, they could see that the real issue here is safe access to abortion. Gosnell's house of horrors didn't happen because of abortion is legal, it happened because abortion isn't accessible.  Since we all agree that this sociopath should be put behind bars, can we begin having a productive conversation that can help us prevent this from ever happening to any woman ever again? 

How do you think we can make abortion safer and more accessible? Let me know on Twitter: @feministabulous

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Elizabeth Plank

Elizabeth is a Senior Correspondent at Mic and the host of Flip the Script.

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