Vicious Circle of Antichoice Activism

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.