In Philadelphia abortion clinic murders, liberals blame stingy American taxpayers 

It's amazing what cognitive dissonance can do: Liberals reacting to the news of the Philadelphia Horror with hairsplitting about what was actually so horrible about Kermit Gosnell's abortion "clinic." Some say it's horrifying that Gosnell ran such a "crappy clinic." Or that it's awful so many had to rely on it because of poor "access," referring critically to the Hyde Amendment which prohibits taxpayer funding for abortions.

But the federal government already funnels money for that purpose. Planned Parenthood performs 62 abortions (305,310 abortions in 2008) for each adoption it facilitates, and from 2007 to 2008, $350 million in "government grants and contracts" went to its general fund. Taxpayers may not be paying for the service, but they're helping to keep the lights on, which is hardly the desert of reproductive freedom in which feminists we live.

The access explanation fails to address the actual disregard for human life that transpired in the Philadelphia clinic, either. Gosnell knew he could operate a clinic largely at his discretion. Authorities were aware of his problematic history, but did nothing.

And yet here's a brief tour of the mealymouthed reactions, pinning it on the taxpayer, or dodging the part of the story about real human loss.

Carol King in Ms. Magazine sees visions of the pre-Roe v. Wade world:

"This is the kind of story we’d hear about in the days before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Stories of women exploited by untrained, ill-equipped abortion providers, who may or may not have any training, let alone concern for their safety or well being; criminal enterprises setting up shop to make a quick buck off poor women; desperate women who didn’t have access to safe, legal abortions because they lived in the wrong state or county."

Vanessa Valenti from Feministing writes,  "If this doctor delivered these infants, live infants that were breathing and then killed them? Let’s make something clear: That is not abortion." That's a lot to unpack: What do you mean "deliver"? Does the fetus have to be breathing outside the womb, or capable of breathing? (A fetus can be viable in the second trimester.) It also happens to look very similar to abortion but is not the conventional means, no. So what?

William Saletan (whom Valenti calls a "dickweed") refers to the event as an "abortion scandal," while also nodding toward the fact that no, these are not "conventional abortions." On the other hand, Saletan is aware enough to say that Gosnell was known as a doctor who would perform abortions at any stage, including "killing viable babies," calling this an atrocity, and asking whether what's offensive is disobeying the time limit or is it the manner in which the procedures were done?

Anna North at Jezebel: "One thing's becoming increasingly clear — the fact that women felt they had to go to Gosnell's clinic means something is deeply wrong with abortion care in America." I'm a little struck by the term "abortion care." And what about that women felt they had to go to a clinic at all? North continues to note other things that are clear, such as "This is clearly about money..."

Though [poor women] were able to fund their abortions with help from the WMF, not all women are able to get that assistance from nonprofits, and, says Schewel, many suffer from "the unconscionable public policy that says if you are poor, pregnant and don't want to be, you are out of luck and on your own." On the solution to this, she doesn't mince words: "What will solve the problem is lifting the ban on public funding for abortion."

Outlaw abortions and only outlaws will perform them, the reasoning goes.

Amanda Marcotte at XX Factor warns against heeding the charge of using scissors to snip a spinal cord because this could be mere "anti-choice" hysteria:

Until more information is available, I would advise caution on jumping to conclusions about the charges of murder on the seven babies.  The accusation that the babies were delivered and then killed with scissors resemble a fairly routine accusation leveled by anti-choicers at doctors who perform late term abortions.  The anti-abortion, anti-contraception activist Jill Stanek rose to prominence accusing a hospital in Chicago of doing this; they were cleared of the charges.  She has since accused many people, including Barack Obama, of supporting infanticide as a form of birth control.  In other words, it's possible that Gosnell is guilty of the charges, but one should take the history of this particular claim into account before jumping to conclusions.

Marcotte doesn't mention why this description comes up so frequently, and that's because it's a rendition of what actually happens in partial-birth abortions, which have a description more awful than the mere "snip" language. Whatever the case, Marcotte too walks down the neat path of arguing that it was taxpayers and their confounded refusal to spare a few bucks for abortion.

What many of these accounts focus on is the economic desperation of the clientele. None of this would have happened, the argument goes, had there been providers better suited and more affordable.

It's an interesting argument because to stop future Gosnells:

(1.) all abortions at any stage should be legal;

(2.) they should be funded by taxpayers for those without the funding.

But that's just it. This wouldn't have stopped Gosnell. Evidence for the charges against him weren't discovered by a routine inspection but by a raid. This happened in a world where pro-choice activists suggest we are making abortion safe and legal.

I can understand why pro-choice activists are so insistent that this is how things would look if we banned abortion outright: They've been saying all along, for years, that this is what it looked like. It's reminiscent, it feels right. But the circumstances don't validate their solution to the problem.

For over 15 years, a fraudulent, horrific, illegal "clinic" was operational, one we were told would certainly exist without access. Forget what happens if abortion is made illegal: It's happening, and we only found out about one because someone snitched. There's nothing alarmist about saying: If it's just this one, who else? Where else? Assuming we go whole hog with fully legalized and available abortion and there's a breakdown in a regulatory regime, what then? This? How does "safe and legal" have oversight over someone who doesn't care?

You don't have to believe that Gosnell is the norm, by the way, but even in the minority, how this can happen staggers the mind.

As for caring, that brings us to another disconnect: Part of the furor is over the callous disregard for human life, isn't it? But when we say "human life," is it just the specific babies that may have been born alive? Or do we draw the line there? Is concern for the mother the only reason why we're horrified to learn the number of late-term abortions conducted in Gosnell's clinic? Or is it because of something else? Is it just that he ate in the procedure rooms? That two unclean cats wandered the halls?

In other words: Are those who favor legal, safe abortions willing to step out on a limb to say that among Gosnell's victims were also babies in the womb? Or are we going to simply lament the loss of potential human life? And is this really the legacy of a woman's "right to privacy"?

About The Author

J.P. Freire

J.P. Freire is the associate editor of commentary. Previously he was the managing editor of the American Spectator. Freire was named journalist of the year for 2009 by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can follow him on Twitter here. Besides the Spectator, Freire's work has appeared in... more
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