Kermit Gosnell Convicted and Asking How Women Afford Abortion


NPR on the Gosnell verdict

Lots o’ lying

Fox covered Gosnell’s arrest the least

Limbaugh is an outrageous liar, as usual

Matt Barber blames sex education for gonorrhea

Gonorrhea rates lowest ever recorded

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be covering the Gosnell verdict and its aftermath. Also, a researcher from Guttmacher comes on to explain to us exactly what kind of obstacles women face when getting funding for abortion.

Angelina Jolie, who is one of those celebrities who seems to rise above normal human concerns, made a very human announcement recently.

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There’s some medical controversy over preventive mastectomies, but Jolie got the expensive genetic testing to confirm she had what she said was an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. Unfortunately, as she noted in her op-ed, most women cannot afford that $3,000 test, even if their doctors think their family history necessitates it.

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To no one’s great surprise, and everyone’s approval, Kermit Gosnell, the sadistic-seeming doctor of Philadelphia who preyed on low income women and performed illegal abortions as well as infanticide, has been convicted of three counts of murder and one of manslaughter. NPR did a report looking at the impact that this case will have on the abortion debate. It was an okay segment, but I think it’s worth offering a few important correctives. To start off with, they interviewed RH Reality Check’s own executive editor, Jodi Jacobson, and she kicked ass, of course.

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I want to agree with everything that Jodi said, but add this: I don’t even really think the “outlier” language is appropriate, because that assumes there’s a scale and he somehow fell on it. That is wholly and completely the wrong way to understand this. The better way is to think of illegal providers as alternatives that desperate women turn to because they had no access to safe, legal help. I believe, and think there’s growing evidence, that there’s a growing black market for abortion in this country. To be perfectly clear, most people selling illegal abortions on the black market aren’t sick, greedy sadists like Kermit Gosnell. In fact, most of the black market seems to be websites that purport to be selling abortion drugs purchased overseas. But there’s no telling what’s in those drugs, and women are clearly turning to black markets for the same reason they turned to Gosnell: Because they didn’t think they had another choice. The more safe, legal clinics are shut down, the more women will turn to black market websites and the higher the chance that there’s another Gosnell out there.

Of course, while Jodi was a good, reputable source, they also, for “balance”, had to talk to an anti-choicer. And there’s really not much you can do there—there aren’t any that are honest sources. So Marjorie Dannenfelser of the slanderously named Susan B. Anthony List went on and claimed to have information about other “rogue” providers doing the same thing. So either she’s not telling the truth, or she has information about serial killers committing infanticide and, for some reason, has not called the police. But she’s so busy trying to exploit this crime to try to take away women’s rights to bother with niceties like reporting a crime she claims she has real information on.

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Lowering the gestation limits wouldn’t have done anything, because Gosnell wasn’t actually performing legal abortions. He was delivering babies after the legal limit and killing them, often lying to the mothers about how far along they were. In fact, none of the restrictions proposed by anti-choicers would do squat to stop someone who is committing already illegal actions. Not waiting limits, not mandatory scripts, not banning pre-viability abortions. All that will do is create more Gosnells, as women who can’t get early, safe, legal abortions turn to illegal, unsafe providers in desperation.

That’s why the conclusion that this will impact the reproductive rights debate seems off to me.

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Anti-choicers might get a popularity boost from making that shift, and they might even get some illegal abortion bans passed from it. But the notion that this changes anything, in terms of public opinion, is completely wrong. Anti-choicers need to convince the public that the vast majority of abortions, where the patient hasn’t started to show at all, are no different than much later abortions. They’ve been trying that for 40 years, and haven’t gotten anywhere. They also have to convince the public that contraception is evil. Basically, the debate is where it’s always been, and as excited and happy as anti-choicers were about Kermit Gosnell, this entire case hasn’t really changed anything about the politics of reproductive rights.
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Insert interview

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Of course, the conviction of Kermit Gosnell meant that right wing media went into overtime telling lies. I thought it would be useful to take some time to debunk some of them. The real lesson here, listening to all this, is that the conservative media does not care one teeny-weeny itty bit about the truth, but will tell any lie, no matter how easily debunked, in order to promote their agenda. Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News kicked off the lying marathon when the news broke of the conviction.

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There are two major lies in that comment, but let’s take the first one: That this should cause anyone to “rethink” abortion. Gallup did polling specifically to gauge if Gosnell changed public opinion on abortion, and found that nope, he did not. What anti-choicers are deliberately being stupid about is this: Gosnell broke the law. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be found guilty. People who break the law don’t say anything about people who follow it. The only lesson learned here is that unnecessary abortion regulations drive patients away from good doctors to illegal, unsafe ones like Gosnell. I’ll quote the grand jury report:

Pennsylvania, like other states, permits legal abortion within a regulatory framework. Physicians must, for example, provide counseling about the nature of the procedure. Minors must have parental or judicial consent. All women must wait 24 hours after first visiting the facility, in order to fully consider their decision. Gosnell’s compliance with such requirements was casual at best. At the Women’s Medical Society, the only question that really mattered was whether you had the cash. Too young? No problem. Didn’t want to wait? Gosnell provided same-day service.

Waiting periods, parental notification laws, and other unnecessary regulations that drive up the cost: All these things worked to give Gosnell patients who would have otherwise gone to Planned Parenthood or other reputable providers.  The only people who need to rethink their position are anti-choicers who support policies that are a godsend to seedy operators like Gosnell.

Now for the second lie:

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The claim that Fox News was covering this story when other news networks were not is a complete, utter and outrageous lie. Media Matters went ahead and looked at the actual minutes given to the Gosnell story when he was first arrested. CNN devoted 33 minutes to the story, MSNBC devoted 9 minutes, and Fox a whopping 6 minutes. Even if they showed up in court when no one else was there, it’s not relevant—it’s rare to see cable news devote those kind of resources to local criminal trials. The fact of the matter is they didn’t see fit to cover this story as much as more reputable organizations, and only started to do so when they thought it could be used to establish a phony narrative about a media cover-up that actually wasn’t happening.

Unsurprisingly, Rush Limbaugh blatantly lied.

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I have in front of me Planned Parenthood’s statement. It reads, “The jury has punished Kermit Gosnell for his appalling crimes. This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again.” I don’t know how you parse that and reach the claim that they wanted an acquittal. Oh, unless you’re lying, which is what he is doing.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, blaming sex education for bacteria edition. Yep, that’s exactly what right wing talk show host Matt Barber did on his program. They were discussing an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea and Barber blamed sex education.

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The fact of the matter is that gonorrhea rates used to be much higher than they are now, but thanks to sex education, people are better both about using condoms and getting tested. The real reason for this antibiotic resistance is….wait for it….evolution. Gonorrhea bacteria are evolving drug resistance. So use condoms and if you get sick, use all your antibiotic rounds as prescribed, to make sure you aren’t becoming a Petri dish for natural selection. But you can keep having sex.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte