Commentary

Gosnell: A Reminder of Our Nation’s Failure to Protect Women and Unborn Children

By Sarah Torre | May 13, 2015 | 4:51pm EDT
Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia, March 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News/Yong Kim)

Today marks the second anniversary of the conviction of Kermit Gosnell, the late-term abortionist who brutalized women and routinely killed living, breathing infants in his rundown West Philadelphia clinic.

Later today the House is scheduled to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, which would limit late-term abortions after 20 weeks, include stronger informed consent requirements and additional protections for children born alive after failed abortions.

Late-term abortion ends the lives of some 15,000 unborn children every year.

Protecting the safety of women and the lives of unborn children who are so close to being able to live outside the womb from late-term abortion is a policy the American people overwhelming support and our collective conscience demands.

Gosnell is currently serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants who were born alive after botched abortions. Among more than 200 other criminal counts, he was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old woman who died from an overdose of anesthetic drugs during an abortion procedure.

The details of the Gosnell’s six-week murder trial were grisly. The pictures submitted as evidence are almost unbearable. According to the almost 300-page grand jury report, the murder of newborn infants after failed abortions was a regular occurrence during the 40 years Gosnell ran the clinic. One clinic worker estimated nearly 100 living babies were killed just moments after birth. Many of those murders followed failed, illegal abortions, attempted after Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit.

Gosnell’s disregard for the dignity of human life extended to the vulnerable mothers of the infants he was charged with murdering. Prosecutors and former clinic workers testified to the decaying, dangerous operating rooms, stocked with “filthy, corroded” instruments and outdated machines. Despite reports of death, injury, and dangerous conditions, Gosnell’s clinic went uninspected by the state for almost two decades.

In the wake of the Gosnell trial’s disturbing revelations, many are left questioning how the oft-repeated slogan of “safe, legal, and rare” abortions can continue to encompass late-term procedures. After all, just a few weeks earlier or a few inches within the womb, Gosnell would have been well within the law to take the lives of those near-viable infants.

There is broad consensus that late-term abortions shouldn’t take place—either within the filthy walls of 3801 Lancaster Ave. or the more sterile facilities of other providers.

The vast majority of Americans—including nearly 60 percent of women—support limits on dangerous and gruesome late-term abortions performed after 20 weeks. That’s five months, or halfway through pregnancy, when unborn children can feel pain and women are at increased risk for the negative effects of abortion.

National leaders’ failure to protect women and unborn children from late-term abortion has made United States’ policy on abortion extreme among developed nations. The U.S. is currently one of only seven countries in the world—in the company of North Korea and China—in which elective, late-term abortion after 20 weeks is allowed.

Which is why protecting women and children from the harms of late-term abortion is a good and long overdue step to restoring respect for the dignity of every life in law. But it cannot be the last.

Gosnell’s clinic, though one of the more horrific, is not an outlier in the abortion industry. Dozens of other abortion clinics across the country have faced investigations and criminal charges. Many continue their dangerous and life-ending work with little to no oversight or inspection.

Pro-abortion rights supporters chant at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday July 2, 2013. Gov. Rick Perry has called lawmakers back for another special session with abortion on the top of the agenda. (AP Photo)

Planned Parenthood, the leader in the lucrative abortion industry, performs over 300,000 abortions every year, while receiving over half a billion dollars in annual taxpayer funding. Yet, this is the same organization that allegedly turned a blind eye to the safety of women in at least two of its clinics, has been repeatedly accused of fraud, and opposes commonsense legislation that would protect infants born alive after failed abortions.

In light of the brutality that became commonplace at the infamous West Philadelphia clinic and has appeared elsewhere, both state and federal policymakers should also strengthen safety regulations on abortion clinics and end continued financial support for an industry that creates and supports the likes of Gosnell.

3801 Lancaster Ave. stands vacant today; its murderous owner justly behind bars. The victims of Gosnell’s “House of Horrors,” many of whom remain unnamed and unknown, can be remembered and honored by the protection of other women and children from the dangers of late-term abortion and recklessness of the abortion industry.

Sarah Torre focuses on policy issues related to religious liberty, marriage and family as policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.

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