A Philadelphia physician has been “charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors,” the Associated Press reports. It appears to me this is not a bogus charge concocted by “Right to Life” operatives.
The indictment says Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his mostly unlicensed staff on seven occasions performed “abortions” by inducing labor in women in late stages of pregnancy and killed viable, living babies by severing their spinal chords with scissors. One woman died after being given an overdose of painkiller by an unlicensed staffer.
Dr. Gosnell’s clinic was shut down last year because it was unhygienic and, well, weird. “There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose,” the prosecutor said. He also allowed his unlicensed staff to administer drugs with no supervision; without his even being in the clinic, apparently.
I knew when I saw this story that it would set up much howling and screeching from the Fetus People that abortions should be illegal. What they’re not noticing is that what Dr. Gosnell is accused of already is illegal. That’s, um, why he’s being prosecuted.
Further, if the charges turn out to be true, the argument could be made that women went to Dr. Gosnell for cheap abortions because, under Pennsylvania state law, public funds may not be used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.
Here’s why practices attributed to Dr. Gosnell are illegal already —
First, Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions performed so late in the pregnancy that the fetus might be viable (late second trimester, 23-24 weeks’ gestation), except when the life or health of the mother are seriously threatened by the pregnancy.
In that case, such abortions must be performed in a hospital, not a clinic; and by a physician, not a high-school graduate with some on-the-job training. In fact one of the staffers administering drugs was still in high school.
[Update: According to NARAL, post-viabiity abortions can't be performed legally in Pennsylvania unless two physicians agree in writing that continuing the pregnancy could take the woman's life or cause a "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." Under most circumstances the physician must use the procedure most likely to allow the newborn to survive. A second physician must attend the procedure. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3211).]
FYI, Pennsylvania law also provides that women must receive “counseling” to discourage them from having abortions and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is performed. Minors must have parental consent.
And killing or causing the death of a living newborn is homicide in all 50 states, the many apocryphal stories of newborn murder concocted by anti-abortion activists to the contrary. Most states have laws on the books that make causing the death of a viable fetus a criminal act, for that matter. Pennsylvania law makes killing an “unborn child” a criminal act, but I take it this law has been under constitutional challenge and I don’t know if the viability issue has been clarified.
More from the Associated Press report —
Gosnell didn’t advertise, but word got around. Women came from across the city, state and region for illegal late-term abortions, authorities said. They paid $325 for first-trimester abortions and $1,600 to $3,000 for abortions up to 30 weeks. The clinic took in $10,000 to $15,000 a day, authorities said.
“People knew near and far that if you needed a late-term abortion you could go see Dr. Gosnell,” Williams said.
White women from the suburbs were ushered into a separate, slightly cleaner area because Gosnell believed they were more likely to file complaints, Williams said.
Few if any of the unconscious patients knew their babies had been born alive and then killed, prosecutors said. Many were first-time mothers who were told they were 24 weeks pregnant, even if they were much further along, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Gosnell falsified the ultrasound examinations that determine how far along a pregnancy is, teaching his staff to hold the probe in such a way that the fetus would look smaller.
So what Dr. Gosnell is accused of doing already was illegal. He and some of his staff are under indictment and awaiting trial. This is the system working. If abortion is criminalized, thousands of clinics like this will spring up like mushrooms, operating underground, out of sight of the law.