Gosnell Primer

If you were following the furor late last week over the “liberal media conspiracy” to deny coverage to the Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania (which, as Ryan Cooper reported Friday, hadn’t gotten much attention from conservative media, either), I recommend Scott Lemieux’s rebuttal at TAP today’s as the most comprehensive. He derives five “lessons” from the brouhaha: (1) Feminists were on it [i.e., the Gosnell story]; (2) Pro-choice policies were not the problem (cf. Katha Pollitt at The Nation on the absurdity of illegal abortions being touted as reason to make more abortions illegal; (3) Improving access to abortion prevents unethical providers; (4) Beware of women’s safety being used as a pretext [for denying them reproductive rights]; and (5) Stigmatizing abortion hurts women.

I’d emphasize one particular argument made by Lemieux that highlights the complete insincerity of the hard-core antichoicers who have been trying to exploit the Gosnell case:

The belated conservative reaction to the Gosnell case is a classic example of the bait-and-switch at the heart of the increasing proliferation of abortion regulations. Anti-choicers talk a great deal about the relatively tiny number of medically unnecessary post-viability abortions—which Roe v. Wade explicitly allows to be banned and are already illegal—in order to pass regulations that apply at every stage of pregnancy. The most common of these regulations—prohibitions on public funding for abortion, waiting periods, parental-involvement laws, mandatory ultrasounds, and the targeted regulation of abortion providers—are not merely irrelevant, but counterproductive. All of these legal burdens make obtaining a safe first-trimester abortion more difficult.

Absolutely. For all the crocodile tears constantly shed by antichoice ultras about late-term abortions, the fact remains that they don’t actually see much difference between Kermit Gosnell and the untold number of physicians who routinely prescribe IUDs. This is precisely the “strategic dishonesty” gambit urged on the Susan B. Anthony List by Paul Ryan just last week: publicizing rare examples of late-term abortion to gradually build support for a “pro-life” movement that actually and stealthily aims at a total ban on abortions and even some popular methods of contraception. They do not come to the Gosnell case with anything like clean hands.

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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.