Since the film “Gosnell” came out two weekends ago, there have been the predictable reactions. Pro-life groups have rallied behind it for showing a critical look at a notorious late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, while pro-choice groups and mainstream media have all but ignored the film.
The film, like the real-life trial it’s based on, is actually less about abortion than about the ethics of killing live babies after birth and the endangerment of women who sought abortion in Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic in the ‘90s and 2000s. In the clinic, low-income and immigrant patients were infected with non-sterile surgical instruments, sedated by unlicensed staff, and otherwise treated like cattle within a grossly unsanitary environment.
While this took place not long ago—Gosnell was tried and found guilty on 3 counts of first-degree murder in 2013—one media outlet’s response suggested the story offered a glimpse of life before 1973. That is, before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade.
“New pro-life movie vilifies abortion, but shows what a post-Roe world looks like,” reads the headline at NBC News. “Legal abortion is vilified by the pro-life Gosnell movie, which inadvertently shows the dystopia of a post-Roe America,” the article reads.
It was a good political effort to deflect readers’ attention back to a fear of losing abortion access, but it doesn’t make sense. For starters, the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic took place in modern-day America, not a world without Roe. Gosnell doesn’t show what life would be like without Roe; it shows what life was like in a Philadelphia clinic with abortion legal, as recently as 2011. Scary, huh?
No, really. Shouldn’t abortion advocates be scared of this? When the news broke years ago, shouldn’t women’s health leaders have been calling for investigations to make sure activity like this never happens again—and shouldn’t they be publishing guidelines on the topic by now? Shouldn’t even the most left-leaning feminist be gravely concerned about even one abortionist gone rogue who endangers the health of pregnant women?
Do Pro-Choicers Actually Care About Women’s Health?
It certainly would be logical for people who say they care about women’s health, but the strange non-reaction suggests abortion-lobby leaders don’t actually prioritize that. When it comes to abortion providers and supporters, instead of taking a critical look at themselves to wonder how this slipped under their radar, or what caused Gosnell to justify endangering women and killing live babies, abortion supporters like the author at NBC instead prefer to blame anyone who wishes to restrict abortion.
It’s often black and white for abortion supporters. Abortion access without limit, without cost–even without scrutiny.
If abortion supporters really cared about women’s health, they would have been shutting down Gosnell’s clinic before the state of Pennsylvania did. They would have a policy to investigate abortion clinics (as the film portrayed it, the Department of Health representative said, “We had instructions from the governor not to inspect abortion clinics”).
If they prioritized women’s safety, they would be sending investigators routinely to abortion clinics just as they do to health clinics, or at least they’d investigate upon receiving multiple complaints, as Gosnell’s clinic did. Right? If abortion supporters cared about good care for women, wouldn’t there be folks going after ethics violations like these?
But we don’t hear anything like this. Instead, whenever there are ethics violations to consider regarding abortion in America today, we hear either deflection or silence from abortion supporters.
Modern-Day Ethics Issues We Hardly Hear About
Abortion supporters have some glaring ethical blind spots, such as the frequency of pressured or coerced abortions. Anecdotally, we hear stories of women who say they were cornered into aborting by a person who wanted to cover up the pregnancy, but we don’t see any research on how frequently this happens. Planned Parenthood doesn’t seem to want to know.
Nowhere do we hear efforts of abortion providers to expose if an outside party is pressuring a woman to have an abortion, whether it’s a jerk boyfriend or a strict family member. We don’t see any trailblazers for choice rooting out coercion like this, probably because there aren’t any.
Modern women have many problems with abortion today, such as sexual partners or abusers pressuring women to abort; women feeling their reputation, job, or life will be ruined if they have a baby they’d otherwise like to keep; abortion regret appearing later that can make it hard to be around kids; increased risk for breast cancer for women whose breast tissue development stops abruptly with the abortion; women who are prescribed an abortion pill then left at home to experience the painful aftermath alone.
If abortion advocates really cared about women’s health, there would be at least one such advocate pushing for greater transparency on at least one of these issues. Regulations wouldn’t be spun as bad, but as serving women. If they really cared, they wouldn’t be making abortion easier to access with less healthcare involvement, as is happening with the recent move to make abortion pills available by U.S. mail.
What’s Underneath the Fear Of Regulation
The fear of any ounce of transparency or regulation could be because abortion providers are scared to admit any weakness lest it be used against their larger cause or profits. Or it could be because such people who start looking into ethically problematic factors of abortion follow the trail to the core of the issue and become anti-abortion. And abortion supporters have no interest in hearing from those on the anti-abortion side.
Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood director of a Texas clinic who questioned her superiors when they increased their abortion sales goals, was one such person who followed the ethics discussion all the way down to the abortive act itself. She had a change of heart, and now runs pro-woman, pro-life conferences.
There are grim signs ahead for abortion and women’s health, but not for the reasons abortion supporters think. It’s because abortion providers show no signs of slowing down to investigate any of the risks, abuses, and dangers that abortion consumers are experiencing. It’s more access, less scrutiny. Fear of losing access is at an all-time high, with recent Supreme Court shifts, and scrutiny is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, those are the ingredients that enabled Gosnell to mistreat women and children for 30 years.