A Philadelphia prosecutor called it a “house of horrors.” But it was no amusement day at Hershey Park for the unsuspecting women who entered the Women’s Medical Society in West Philly for more than 15 years.
In fact, one Black conservative group called the frightening atrocities and crimes that occurred against vulnerable poor women, “Black on Black crime.”
And ghoulish Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was found guilty earlier this week in the gruesome deaths of three babies and the manslaughter of a Woodbridge, Virginia woman, is likely to pay within his life.
When to live, when to die; who chooses? The answer can depend on where you live and your income, particularly in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia.
Predictably each warring camp in the intractable public abortion debate has and will use the Gosnell case for their political purposes. While they fight, women are having abortions daily, probably as a last resort in most cases. However, we would all be better served if we could use the Gosnell case as an opportunity to come to some common ground about abortion procedures.
Redirect the blind passion about the ethics of abortion to a more practical discussion about finding ways of reducing unwanted pregnancy in the first place to reduce the need for an abortion. And make sure authorities are doing their jobs to ensure abortion procedures are safe, affordable and accessible when a woman decides it’s absolutely necessary, no matter what her zip code.
On May 14, a group of Black ministers, featuring Dr. Alveda King, and sponsored by the conservative (CURE) lead by Star Parker, held a press conference at the National Press Club to call on Congress to hold a hearing on the impact of abortion in Black communities. They contend, for example, that Planned Parenthood “targets” African Americans, which the organization denies.
Last week in the District, Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee reintroduced a bill to ban “late term” abortions, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, he said was based on the Gosnell case. This follows a similar bill in the House reintroduced by Republican Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, for the same reason. Their bills would only apply to poor D.C. Women, but Democratic D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and some pro-choice groups like NARAL are vowing to fight it. The National Right to Life Committee, which purports the debatable contention that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, intends to rally around Franks and Lee.
Lee also is trying to pass national legislation, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) to place more restrictions on late term abortions – which account for 1 percent of all abortions -- and on abortion clinics. This measure is similar to the TRAP laws that just passed in Virginia which may force some of the clinics to close. State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, also the 2014 Republican candidate for governor running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, strong armed the state’s medical board to push for the legislation which makes clinics adhere to hospital rules.
In Maryland, the legislature last year passed regulations to increase inspections of abortion clinics and allows them to be fined or face closure for violations. Unfortunately, when the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Roe v. Wade case which legalized abortion, they left it up to each state to regulate the safe but controversial medical procedure. Herein is where the trouble lies.
The Gosnell case illustrates how geographic politics dictates protection or prevention. Whether you are pro-choice or anti-choice you watched the jaw-dropping Gosnell case--with all its gory details of bloodstained blankets, frozen fetuses, overmedicated patients and unfettered cats--in disbelief and came away shaking your head wondering how this “doctor” was allowed to operate his abortion “clinic” for so long in West Philadelphia before being caught?
West Philadelphia may be a “dead giveaway” clue. Worse though, how many more Ghoulish Gosnells in poor minority neighborhoods are there nationwide performing unscrupulous acts without proper oversight? Evidently Gosnell’s clinic had not been inspected for 15 years.
Why do too many women have to cross state lines to even find a reputable clinic? We can be certain these potential victims are likely to be scared, young, and poor and Black or Brown as fewer safe, affordable, accessible options are left open to them by partisan politicians chipping away at their reproductive rights.
Veteran journalist Adrienne Washington writes weekly for the AFRO about relevant issues in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Send correspondence to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.