Abortion case reframes debate
It is revealing that the pro-abortion crowd blames the brutal offenses of abortionist Kermit Gosnell on, of all things, restrictions on that deadly procedure. After the Pennsylvania physician was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies Monday, Nancy Stanwood of the Physicians for Reproductive Health told The Wall Street Journal: “In Pennsylvania and many other states with restrictive laws, women face incredible barriers that affect their ability to obtain quality care. Gosnell preyed on low-income women who had few options to obtain the care they needed. His practice was illegal, unethical and unsafe.” How typical: Abortion activists will do anything to change the conversation from dead babies — the inevitable product of an abortion. Pennsylvania bans abortion on fetuses older than 24 weeks, hardly an excessive limit considering babies born that early may survive. Yet the pro-abortion forces oppose even this limit.Gosnell was convicted of killing three babies — cutting their spinal cords with scissors after they were born alive. He had faced the death penalty but was given life in prison after a deal Tuesday with prosecutors. His lawyers understood their client could expect no sympathy, given the horrifying evidence. One of Gosnell’s victims was a 29-week-old male fetus. A witness said the doctor joked that the baby was big enough to walk to a bus stop. Another child’s neck was sliced after it moved its arm. According to The New York Times, one witness who worked in the clinic told the jurors to touch the backs of their necks to understand what happens with a late-term abortion. “It’s like a beheading,” he said. The jury did not appear to let the gruesome testimony overwhelm their emotions. They were discriminating in their findings. The physician was acquitted of a murder charge in the death of a fourth child where the evidence was not as strong. He also was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 sedation-overdose death of a woman during an abortion. But the trial made clear that Gosnell was a butcher. His clinic was dirty, with blood on the floor and fetal remains stored in containers. Medical equipment was substandard. Also substandard was any appreciation for the lives of infants, who were close to or at the age of viability. Pro-life proponents are using the case to push for stricter restrictions on abortion, particularly a proposed federal law restricting abortions past 20 weeks, a limit that will seem reasonable to Americans who paid attention to the trial. Pro-choice champions counter that what is needed is more medical aid for women, including ready access to abortion, albeit earlier-term. Women’s health and privacy must be part of the abortion debate. We don’t dispute that abortion restrictions are often pushed by male lawmakers who demonstrate little regard for a woman’s rights or circumstances. Many women don’t like abortion but don’t want laws that dictate intimate decisions about their bodies. We doubt Americans would accept an outright ban. But the Gosnell case underscores the reality that abortion champions seek to gloss over: Abortion ends a human life. Once that painful truth is acknowledged, the complexion and gravity of the debate changes dramatically, something this trial may have done for the nation.