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January 21, 2011

Feminists: What Gosnell Did Says Absolutely Nothing About Abortion Because It Wasn't Abortion

One of the joys of being a lefty blogger is being permitted to write glib, insensible things without high risk of contradiction, so long as the glib nonsense you're writing is the sort of thing your readers want to read.

Here's Jill from Feministing simply making shit up:

What Kermit Gosnell tells us about late-term abortion

Absolutely nothing.

No, really. Contrary to what Great Moral Authority On Abortion William Saletan has to say about the matter, I think we’re all pretty well agreed that if the charges against Kermit Gosnell are true, then dude is a criminal and needs to go to jail. Killing a baby after it’s born and has taken breaths? Is not abortion. It should be, and is, a crime punishable by law. And Kermit Gosnell is being criminally prosecuted.

Ah, but Jill, you really should read before you write. Because delivering the baby, and then murdering it, was not Gosnell's only method of abortion. (Which Jill defines, Humpty-Dumpty like (words mean what I say and nothing more), as not including this nasty method.)

It wasn't his only method; it was just his favored method for killing very large, very late term babies. (He joked about one especially large infant that the kid was big enough "to walk me to the bus stop.")

He also employed traditional in-the-womb illegal abortions -- which Jill would know if she read about all the women hospitalized for perforated colons and uteruses and the like. He had his very clumsy (and unsterilized) forceps and probes in a lot of women.

Also, the charges against him are not limited to the seven babies we know (based on his deliberately incomplete records and the bodies found at the site) he murdered. He is also charged with 33 illegal late term abortions, that is, cases in which he did not deliver a live baby and then kill it, but killed the baby in utero, the way Jill prefers it (and accepts as a genuine abortion).

And, just to note the scale of this endeavor: He killed hundreds in this fashion, so many that the plumbing was choked with rotting body-parts; the counts of murder are based only on those bodies left in good enough condition to perform autopsies on and determine cause of death (in this case, scissors to the spine by the head).

So, um... very glib, very semantic, but, even granting the Humpty Dumpty power to just say "these were not abortions" despite the fact that the women showed up for abortions at a place known for late-term illegal abortions and the doctor performed what he called an abortion, in fact 33 counts are about illegal abortions. The eight murder charges are just about the babies he decided it would be easier to deliver and kill.

Jill's distinction places an awful lot of emphasis on whether the baby was delivered or just killed in utero, too. Partial birth abortion -- a technique I assume she supports -- consists of delivering just the body of the infant (and all limbs), then scissoring the head that remains in utero and collapsing the skull by use of powerful vacuum and then finally pulling the baby out the remaining four or five inches; I'm a bit mystified at how that technique is a super-duper legal one and the doctor's "let's cut out the middleman" version of it is illegal, and murder, and not really an abortion.

This is the very stupid meme that's seized upon and repeated at Feministing, by one "Vanessa."

We can’t be surprised that William Saletan jumped on this to propagate his anti-choice bullshit, but it doesn’t make it any less infuriating.

What we do know: A Philadelphia abortion provider is being charged with 8 counts of murder, including the death of a patient and allegedly seven infants. They’re pretty horrible charges, and if true, they’re pretty heinous crimes. But the first thing I thought when I read this story was what Jill at Feministe said: If this doctor delivered these infants, live infants that were breathing and then killed them? Let’s make something clear: That is not abortion.

Again: 33 counts of felony abortion, too. They're just not charging him for murder in those cases.

So, yeah, it does say something about abortion, and pro-choice absolutism, as William Saletan of Slate notices.

The absolutists have been up in arms since October, when pro-choice moderates met with pro-lifers at Princeton University to discuss their differences and possible areas of collaboration. What irks the absolutists most is the notion of restricting second-trimester abortions. But their commitment to reproductive autonomy doesn't end at the second trimester. Implicitly and often explicitly, it extends to the third.

[cataloging of absolutist we-can-kill-it-whenever-we-like position omitted as repetitive]

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, goes further. "Is there anything qualitatively different about a fetus at, say, 28 weeks that gives it a morally different status to a fetus at 18 weeks or even eight weeks?" she asks. "Why should we assume later abortions are 'bad'—or, at least, 'more wrong' than early ones?" Furedi rejects this assumption and concludes that "in later pregnancy, too, I believe that the decision, and the responsibility that comes with it, should rest with the pregnant woman. … We either support women's moral agency or we do not. … There is no middle ground to straddle."

Among other things, this means no time limits. Furedi argues that "women should have access to abortion as early as possible and as late as necessary." In her current essay, she writes: "To argue that a woman should no longer be able to make a moral decision about the future of her pregnancy, because 20 or 18 or 16 weeks have passed, assaults [moral autonomy] and, in doing so, assaults the tradition of freedom of conscience…" In fact, "the delivery of an abortion procedure in the second (and even third) trimester is preferable to its denial."

These essays vary, but together, they capture the absolutist worldview. There's no moral difference between eight, 18, and 28 weeks. No one has the right to judge another person's abortion decision, regardless of her stage of pregnancy. Each woman is entitled to decide not only whether to have an abortion, but how long she can wait to make that choice.

It's one thing to preach these ideas in the lefty blogosphere. It's quite another to see them in practice. That's where Kermit Gosnell, the doctor at the center of the Philadelphia scandal, comes in.

Saletan has a suggestion for such absolutists:

The question for Furedi, Berer, Yanow, Herold, and anyone else who asserts an indefinite right to choose is whether this part of the indictment should be dropped. You can argue that what Gosnell did wasn't conventional abortion—he routinely delivered the babies before slitting their necks—but the 33 proposed charges involving the Abortion Control Act have nothing to do with that. Those charges pertain strictly to a time limit: performing abortions beyond 24 weeks. Should Gosnell be prosecuted for violating that limit? Is it OK to outlaw abortions at 28, 30, or 32 weeks? Or is drawing such a line an unacceptable breach of women's autonomy?

Jill? What say you? You ignore this question, you duck it; you only discuss the eight counts of murder, and pretend the 33 counts of illegal abortion don't exist.

But they do exist. So are you going to agitate for these charges to be dropped? Based upon your writings, it seems you are philosophically committed to this stance; so are you going to have the courage of your convictions, or are you going to continue to live in Pretendistan (Population: You)?

The media continues embargoing this story, over all, though there are begrudging mentions here and there. AP writes a story about it, which MSNBC puts on its Health page yet again (as we saw Time do), pretending this is a story only about the disgusting and dangerous conditions of the abortion mill, and not, as it actually is, about murder, absolutist pro-choice abortion fever, and high-ranking officials in Pennsylvania taking the fifth amendment rather than give testimony against themselves.

Just a health story. That's all it is.

Odds the MFM will cover this except in the briefest way possible, and always focusing on the "one bad actor" Narrative: bumped from 3% to 5% now that a liberal at a webzine writes upon it.

Let's See The Evidence: Jill also postulates, evidence-free, that almost all of these late-term abortions were medically justified.

Also, women don’t get late-term abortions for fun. Seriously. No one is like, “I think I will continue this pregnancy for as long as legally possible before I undergo an invasive medical procedure that is rendered longer, more expensive, and more complicated because I waited six months to have it.” No. It’s actually more like, “I really wanted this baby but now it turns out that there’s a fetal abnormality incompatible with life, and if I continue this pregnancy I risk my own health and/or life to give birth to a baby that either will not live or will only live in extreme pain for a very short while.” Fun stuff like that.

Well, if that's so, I'm sure the good doctor's records will contain all those diagnoses in these women's medical files stating that they had received pre-natal advice that their babies could kill them or that they'd be born dead or such.

Does Jill believe that? Does Jill believe hundreds of poor women received such sophisticated diagnoses of potential future complications and risks? That genuine doctors advised all of them (or even most of them) that their babies were dying on the vine, or that they faced serious consequences some number of months down the road?

See, I don't believe that, because the poor and uninsured tend to show up in emergency rooms when they have present, immediate medical emergencies; as a group, they tend to not receive long-term predictive diagnoses.

If these women did in fact have the long-term predictive diagnoses of future calamity that Jill insists that almost all women seeking late-term abortions receive, the grand jury must have missed that, because I didn't see reference to that.

Did Jill? Does Jill have a scoop she's sitting on? Does she somehow have access to these medical records?

No, I don't think she does; I think she's just making this up, or not making it up, since it's a long-standing claim; she's repeating a received dogma.

Well, we now have an important source of data by which this claim can either be supported or undermined, proved or disproved.

Which way does Jill really expect it to go?

Because I think that almost all of the women in question just showed up for a late-term abortion because they decided they wanted a late-term abortion. I do not believe literally hundreds of women all received the rather rare diagnosis of your-life-is-in-danger-if-you-carry-to-term. In fact, I would hazard a guess that exactly none of them did.

By the way: The Supreme Court has ruled that no abortion law can prohibit an abortion, even a late-term one, if it is necessary for the health or life of the mother. So if these women received such a diagnosis, they wouldn't have had to go to Gosnell's Shop of Little Horrors.

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posted by Ace at 01:41 PM

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