Gosnell Case a Reminder of Why Restrictive Abortion Laws Must Be Overturned

The case against Kermit Gosnell in the state of Pennsylvania, USA is an important reminder that restrictive abortion laws open the door for people to prey on desperate women and lead to medical negligence. On Monday, Gosnell was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of manslaughter in relation to his illegal abortion clinic. What has come to light, both in the grand jury report in 2011 and media reports of the trial, is how Gosnell took advantage of Pennsylvania’s lax monitoring of abortion clinics to operate outside the confines of the law and safe medical practice to perform abortions on some of the most oppressed and desperate women.

The majority of his clients were women of colour and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds unable to afford an abortion at a safe, registered clinic. This highlights the racial and class element to the politics of abortion, which all to often means that the most marginalized in society are those most at risk of unsafe abortions when access and availability is restricted.

Echoing the sentiments of Ilsye G. Hogue, president NARAL Pro-Choice America, ALRANZ believes justice was served by the jury’s verdict against Gosnell. However, this should not be all that comes out of the Gosnell case. In a powerful statement, Hogue said:

“From the lack of funding available for low-income women to access abortion services, to the sharp decline of reputable providers in Pennsylvania, to the gross negligence of authorities to enforce the law after complaints were filed against Gosnell, each aspect of this case must be a teachable moment for lawmakers: until we reject the politicization of women’s medical care and leave these decisions where they belong—between a woman and her family and her doctor—women will never be safe. The horrifying story of Kermit Gosnell is a peek into the world before Roe v. Wade made legal a woman’s right to make her own choices”.

Countering the stories told by the anti-choice contingent, further restrictions on abortion will not lead to fewer Gosnell cases, but more. Looking to our own abortion laws in New Zealand and the continued criminalization of women, it is a stark reminder that safe and legal abortion cannot be assured until it is a choice made freely by the pregnant person with free and easy access to all reproductive health services.

For more information and  analysis on the Gosnell case, see:

Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-choice America’s full statement.

RH Reality Check:

A Gosnell Amendment: Jennifer Rubin Plays Doctor and Legislator, and Fails” by Jodi Jacobson.

Gosnell Found Guilty on Three First-Degree Murder Charges” by Jennifer Mason Pieklo.

Separating Truth From Lies Around the Kermit Gosnell Case” by Amanda Marcotte 

Salon: “Megan McCardle Doesn’t Understand the Kermit Gosnell Case” by Tara Murtha