Political Animal


April 18, 2013 11:26 AM Vicious Circle of Antichoice Activism

By Ed Kilgore

If you want to cut through all the rhetoric (much of it insincere or at least self-interested) about who said what and when about the Kermit Gosnell case in Philadelphia, here’s the ironic bottom line from The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta about the relationship between antichoice activism and the kind of late-term (or even post-birth) procedures Gosnell illegally performed:

New restrictions that decrease the number of providers make it more logistically difficult for women to get first-trimester abortions, which are less expensive, less risky, and less politically charged. This is precisely the outcome anti-abortion advocates want — less access to abortion and less abortion — but it comes with the side effect of pushing more of the least organized and poorest abortion-seeking women further into pregnancy as they chase the fee of a second-trimester abortion (which grows with each passing day of pregnancy) and try to find a place that will perform any kind of procedure. Right now 92 percent of abortions in this country are done in the first trimester, and only 1 percent after 20 weeks of pregnancy, [Dr. Tracy] Weitz said.
But when it comes to the poorest women, those figures are starting to shift into later pregnancy. “We’re moving in the wrong direction, especially for vulnerable women,” she said.

At Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner makes the same case that Gosnell’s shop of horrors “demonstrated what happened in the pre-Roe days of back-alley abortions,” but also “the horrors [that] occur even when abortion is legal, but difficult to afford or access for many women.”

The truth is that serious anti-choicers, for all the crocodile tears about the “horrors” of late-term abortions and the terrible treatment of the women driven by their own attacks on abortion providers to people like Gosnell, think of a regime of safe, affordable early-term abortions as the true “horror”—a Nazi-like American Holocaust in which the slaughter of innocents is hidden from the public eye. So even as ever-escalating legal restrictions and acts of physical intimidation drive up the cost and narrow the availability of early-term abortions (and, if antichoice activists had their way, of “abortifacient” birth control methods like Plan B contraception), the inevitable emergence of late-term and post-birth butcher shops like Gosnell’s is an absolute godsend to anti-choicers, but not because they find anything especially troubling about late-term abortions.

Here’s how one antichoice blogger (a man offering “Christian counseling for women”) put it:

If these Gosnell babies had been violently killed legally while in the womb and in a clean and sterile clinic and disposed of properly, there would be no outcry. Except from the pro-life community.
There is only a six-week difference between the born 30-week old baby Kermit Gosnell illegally murdered and joked about being so big it could walk him to the bus stop and the unborn 24-week old babies he legally aborted.
Kermit Gosnell is being charged with seven counts of first-degree murder for seven babies he is accused of killing illegally, plus one count of third-degree murder for a woman who died in his clinic. What about the thousands of babies he legally killed? Where is the cry for justice for them?

I could cite many other examples of this sort of reaction to the case, which really boil down to the idea that a physician routinely prescribing IUDs is as great a monster as Kermit Gosnell.

So next time you are challenged by an antichoicer to register your own horror at the kind of practices carried on at Gosnell’s facility, be sure to ask how he or she would feel about eliminating the demand for such services by ensuring maximum access to contraception and to early-term abortions. I guarantee you’ll discover exactly how much these folk actually care about “horrors” other than the horror of women having a say over their own reproductive systems.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 18, 2013 11:45 AM:

    Well look, our Conservative religious folk were wrong on supporting King George III (for King and country!)slavery, wrong on women getting the right to vote, wrong on Civil Rights for African-Americans, women, and now gays, so they were running out of things they could productively have spent their moral outrage on, so, instead, they've chosen the 9 month span, from conception, to birth, for that moral outrage.

    So, it's "Zygote's and Fetuses Rights," and "Forced Labor" for women - and who give a flying feck about the woman, the child, the family, or society, after that fetus come out into the world.

    A little bit of logical consistency would also be appreciated - if you want less abortions, then contraceptives should be more widely and cheaply available.
    Then the sluts can enjoy sex, and not be punished for their enjoyment!!!

    EVERY major Western religion (and I'm not sure it's not ALL RELIGIONS) has as its most basic principle, the subjugation of women:
    Keep them barefoot, pregnant, in the home cooking, sewing, and rearing the children (better their mothers, than the Catholic priests 'rearing them').

    And, if they must come out in public, have on long skirts, covered heads, and walk a few step behind their men.

  • Bokonon on April 18, 2013 11:55 AM:

    The thing that really kills me is that the anti-choice activists express horror at the crimes that Gosnell committed ... and then they turn around and leverage it into an attack on birth control. In the very next breath.

    Because clearly, the real lesson here is that CONTRACEPTION IS MURDER!!!

    You should see the extreme, brutal and blood-soaked agitprop that is circulating on places like Facebook right now. It is like being on the business end of a blowtorch. I've had to defriend some people because I just can't stand the assaults any longer.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 18, 2013 12:14 PM:

    To the anti-choicers: The horrors of Gosnell's little establishment are a feature, not a bug, for the anti-choice regime. And I wouldn't be surprised if their opinion of the women who were victims wasn't "She had it coming".

    Decent, average citizens have a right to be horrified at what was going on in his clinic simply because it's the type of thing that happens in pre-modern, pre-women's rights societies. Fortunately, and despite what the anti-choicers want to accept, we live in a society that has the medical technology to prevent Gosnell's kind of butchery. But evidently the anti-choicers just want to roll back time to the biblical era when women sat on rocks to give birth (or something like that).

    At the gut level, I'm willing to posit the gut reaction of many people isn't outrage that late-term abortions were going on but the unhygienic nature of his practice. We have more of history of being outraged at doctors and dentists who have unsafe or unethical practices that can sicken, maim or kill patients. Remember that dentist a few weeks ago suspected of spreading HIV and Hepatitis infections? If the dude had been doing routine sutures with rusty nails we'd be just as much outraged.

    No matter what the procedure, or whether or not we support it, we have a right to expect the doctor doesn't have the bedside manner of Freddy Krueger. I'm no fan of cosmetic surgery, but I'd be equally outraged if some plastic surgeon was hacking up Beverly Hills housewives and porn stars.

  • Mimikatz on April 18, 2013 12:20 PM:

    This is precisely the point I made when you first posted on this, Ed. But it goes beyond widespread access to safe and legal abortion. Not only would ready access to safe early abortions cut down the market for people like Gosnell, ready access to birth control and accurate sex education would reduce the need for abortions.

    But anti-choice activists have not just reduced access to safe abortions, most of them also oppose freely available birth control and accurate sex ed. They are not opposed to abortion so much as sex and the women who have it (at leat with someone other than them). They have a warped kind of Augustinian belief in original sin such that the pre-born, as they call them, are worth far more attention than babies and children. And they believe women are to be controlled lest their evil corrupt some man. They are for the most part twisted, creepy people, and that goes for most of the Catholic hierarchy as well.