Abortion House of Horrors: Why a Draw?

It's not so baffling that poor women saw convicted murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell when you know the law.

Kermit Gosnell (AP)

Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund of Philadelphia, an abortion provider, said that everyone in the area’s reproductive-health care community was shocked by findings in Gosnell’s clinic.

“We have excellent, high-quality health care for women seeking abortions in our area,” she told The Root. “The clinics are now heavily regulated by the state to make sure they are providing safe care. The reason he was able to allegedly operate in that manner was because the state was not performing inspections at that time.”

Schewel went on to explain that abortion practices in Pennsylvania face extra regulations because of extensive opposition to the procedure by lawmakers. By and large, she explained, legislators have never viewed an abortion as a medical procedure, and the state leads the nation with some of the most imposing restrictions on abortion.

“The Gosnell espisode strengthens our resolve to make sure that women can have comprehensive coverage for pregnancy-related care,” Schewel said. “When women do not have that, they are vulnerable to substandard providers like Gosnell. What we know now about women throughout history and around the globe is, they will find a way not to have a child. Legal and accessible abortion makes it safe. Making it less accessible does not decrease the number of abortions; it just increases the dangers for women. It’s access to contraception that decreases the need for abortion.”

What Can Be Done to Prevent More Houses of Horror?

Jan. 22, 2013, marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion throughout the nation. The decision has had a dramatic impact on women’s reproductive health but still ignites strong debate that often cuts along racial lines. Reproductive health played a major role in the presidential election, with African-American women coming under heavy criticism.

Black women obtained 40.2 percent of all pregnancy terminations in the United States in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest statistics available. That percentage is disproportionately higher than those of white and Hispanic women, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population.

And while agencies such as the Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood attribute the higher abortion rate among blacks to a higher incidence of unintended pregnancies — pointing to a need for better access to family planning education and resources — pro-lifers argue that the rate is tied to access to the procedure. Some of those advocates include Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and activist Day Gardner, both of whom are members of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition.

“Abortion is never OK, under any circumstance,” Gardner told The Root. “It kills children and maims women. But what Gosnell is alleged to have done is especially gruesome and grotesque. Each child that was born and delivered was allowed to be free, to breathe air, to see light, and then died brutally in the hands of their executioner. I hope and pray that the jury will see him for who he is.”

At least for now, pro-choice and pro-life groups have a common enemy: Kermit Gosnell, and both sides are assiduously watching for the outcome of the trial.

Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root, editor of Diversity MBA Magazine and a contributor at NewsOne.